Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I've been revisiting my Nicholas Simmons DVD from Creative Catalyst called Innovative Water Media, it is my second introduction to Nick's "batik watercolor" technique using fluid acrylics (although, at this point, he hadn't worked with Da Vinci to come up with all the fluid acrylic colors and had to use thicker bodied acrylics watered down for some colors).

I watch a bit of the DVD and then copy the technique, trying to get some of the same great looks Nick gets. I haven't been very successful yet. That technique of waiting until the paper is dry except for the valleys where paint is still wet and then spraying off the paint in a forceful spray isn't quite working for me - it's all in the timing and I either get impatient and do it too soon, or forget about it for over and hour and it's too late.

If you've never tried the fluid acrylics, I think this DVD will take some of the fear out of them for watercolorists who like to know something "bad" can be lifted off. I am enjoying the fluid acrylics now - not being too keen on them my first few experiences - and am looking forward to the Nick Simmons workshop I'll be attending in the Dayton, OH area next week!

Anyway, here's where I am so far while waiting for another layer to dry completely before moving on and taking another photo.

1. I masked off the edges, running a thin bead of masking fluid (Pebeo Drawing Gum) around the edge of the tape where it meets the paper. Nick says this keeps the paint from running under the taped edges, leaving you a nice, clean edge.

2. I drew my koi (using photos taken on a visit to St. Louis) and seaweed/leaves on the paper.

3. I wet the back and front of the paper until it was soaking and then began by pouring Raw Sienna mixed with water in a cup onto the paper, tilting and moving it around on it's own (no brush touches the paper yet).

4. While the paper is still wet wet wet, I poured on Phthalo Blue mixed with water in a cup onto the paper at the bottom edge, tilting and moving it around and letting the colors blend.

This is the way Nick begins but he's using thicker bodied acrylics at this point so his colors are darker - and I may have thinned my fluid acrylics down too much but it's better to be lighter than too dark at this point.

So...two pours of two different colors.

5. While the paper is still wet (it's wet almost all the time you're working it), I poured a bit of Quinacridone Gold mixed with just a bit of water in a cup onto the top portion, letting it run and tilting the paper to blend it.

6. When this was almost dry, I put in touches of Quin Gold or Raw Sienna here and there and spritzed it out so no hard edges.

I'm just following the DVD as Nick does it. But his looks so much better at this stage than mine! Guess that's why he's giving the workshop - not me?!?

It's a messy process so I have a large pan at my feet that catches the drips as I tilt the paper and let the paint run off - and I have a nice towel to wipe up all the extra (except the part that gets on the backs my forearms! ha ha)

When this stage is almost dry - about 75% dry, according to Nick - which means it's dry except for some of the areas that were puddles when you put the paper down - then you create blossoms by dropping in clean water. It works pretty well if you catch it when it's not too dry and doesn't have a sheen on the paper (meaning it's still wet). Working this wet-in-wet over and over again really saturates your paper and it's a damp, rainy day here so gauging the drying time is a bit tricky. And once the water drops have dried a bit - but not 100% - you take a strong spray bottle and spritz off some of the paint that hasn't dried, creating that "batik" look of the thing. This is the hardest part for me to get right and so far, I haven't done it right. But that's what practice is all about.


Christiane Kingsley said...

You are so lucky to be attending a workshop given by Nicholas Simmons! I have watched his dvd several times, but have not tried to "paint along". You are off to an excellent start and by the time you attend the workshop you will know exactly where you need more practice or what questions you still need Nick to answer.
I am looking forward to the next progress pictures.

Thank you so much for sharing.

Anonymous said...


Looking pretty good so far, enjoy the Nicholas Simmons work shop, he has a wealth of information and has the pulse of the watercolor world:0)!

Like to see how this turns out, keep us posted on the progress, one other thing, your latest pieces are showing a nice progression in your abilities not that you are a slouch, yet you are moving forward in your paintings very nicely.Hope that comes across properly I meant it as a compliment


RHCarpenter said...

Yes, I am lucky to be able to attend workshops close to home :) Dayton is only an hour's drive away. I know I'll learn more from Nick at the workshop about this technique and several others he shares.
Paul, thanks, I did take this as a compliment :) I am glad you can see progression and growth in my painting - that's what I'm aiming for, feeling like I need to take a big leap now to get better. Look out below......!!!

Carol King said...

Hi Rhonda, Love hearing about these new techniques your trying. I've never used acrylic, and don't know what "fluid acrylics" are.

Can't wait to see more of this technique and to hear all about the workshop.

Mary Sonya Conti said...

OH MY GOODNESS, am enrolled in the same class Rhonda. Like a kid at christmas waiting to open the best gift ever. Looking forward to meeting you!

RHCarpenter said...

Carol, thanks! Fluid acrylics are acrylics without any additional stuff to make them thick - so they flow on the paper like watercolors and can be mixed with water for an even more fluid effect. They dry like regular acrylics. Da Vinci and Golden both carry them.
Sonya!!! How cool is this?? Looking forward to meeting you - I'll be there with Deb Ward (check out her site on my blogroll).

Mary Sonya Conti said...

Rhonda, very familiar with the lovely DEB! She sponsored Stephen Black in Cincy and was able to attend the workshop. Rubbing elbows with Deb is a fond memory while we exchanged conversation while working on peonies and more!

Liana Yarckin said...

this looks fun! i am inspired to try this with watercolor.

RHCarpenter said...

Hi, Liana, and thanks for visiting and posting! I got a minute to browse your blog and you are doing lovely things with watercolor - I'll return to visit more when I have a bit more time :) I think you could do everything with watercolor that Nick does with fluid acrylic except the batik look of spraying away the paint (because the technique requires that some paint is dried, some is wet and the wet comes off). I've tried it with watercolor but I just got a lot of color coming off with that - but try it, you might find a better way - then share it with me :)