Saturday, September 26, 2009

It's a Jungle Out There

A musician first learns the notes, then the scales, and then more complex principles of music. For watercolor, I think, I am beginning to learn the scales. I want to learn techniques that I can employ at will, and then by instinct.

So yesterday and today I have tried a few new things, including painting and scraping in watercolor with a palette knife and consciously lifting color. I practiced at home and then decided to set myself outside at a picnic table and paint en plein air while humming these new scales. I took the palette knife and even some brushes beyond my Koi waterbrush. I have gotten a bit too used to using the Koi rather than regular brushes. I also decided to use a strip of my Fabriani rough watercolor paper rather than the Moleskine. I had about an hour and a fifteen minutes to paint, and I felt rushed. In the end, the result was about what you'd expect. But that's okay. That is how we learn, right?

So I got home and stared at it for a while. I had only one choice, really, and that was to ink it. So I did something else that is new for me, and that is apply the ink after the watercolor, which is of course a perfectly legitimate thing to do. And it looked better after that.

So I've embarked for parts unknown - it's my paint safari through the jungle (city). I have my shotgun (paint brush), my machete (palette knife), my mosquito net (paper), my camouflage (paints), my binoculars (eyes), and my tour guide (new books on watercolor technique and on color).

What wild, hairy animals might we see? Who knows?

If you come along, be careful. It's a jungle out there.


  1. Fabulous results! I saw somewhere on flickr where someone used a palette knife for watercolor. Had never thought of that before! Anyway, I think the ink in this case did help bring out the textures. I think your paintings look more "painterly" than mine. I always feel like I'm just coloring in a coloring book, like in grade school. Good job!

    And, how funny, I gave the same advice to Arte Velarde re: the moleskine rebinding! I even got it from trumpetvine! And that is still a possibility, although I confess to thinking it all a bit tedious! I taught a short lesson on keeping visual journals to a friend's class one time. The school was poor, so we bound all of our own journals...made from file folders and cheap paper! (pamphlet style) I pulled out nails, hammers, string...the whole works! I think that is what they liked the best out of the whole lesson! Unfortunately, what I learned is how much I don't have the patience for it!

    PS Have you checked out any of the Charles Reid books yet?

  2. I had never thought of a palette knife for watercolor either - the power of books, such a simple crossover. Even so, easier said than done. I looked for books by Charles Reid and couldn't find any - bought two others instead. And although I shared trumpetvine, there is no way I would have the patience for binding a Molekine either but reading about the process was fascinating (and impressive) and I know that someone out there does it.

  3. Right on! I like seeing people make progress - it's so inspiring to me as I attempt to learn to draw myself. I like the look you've created with the pen over the watercolor. It's working.

  4. DUCKS! ^^ I am still reluctant to do any water color paintings at the moment, because I have to constantly reminding myself that I am moving soon, I can't bring "big things" with me. But it's a very interesting technique with the palette knife, never tried it, will try it someday!
    I'd like to count the layers of colors used in this one, but I know that's impossible to do so. But more importantly, it's brought out the true color of nature...because when I go into a jungle, that's exactly I would feel as I saw your drawing.
    Oh by the way Dan, thanks a bunch for your comments. As for the kneadable eraser, I didn't know there was a contest ^^ I just thought it's fun and I wanted to play too that's all. Thanks for the credits!

  5. This is a fabulous result!
    Puts me in mind of the illustrators technique.
    Edmund Dulac, Arthur Rackham.

  6. Hi Dan.

    What a beautiful inked/watercolor
    you've created. Those colors;
    that mood, so tranquil
    and meditative.

    And what thought-provoking ideas
    this "embarking into the unknown"-
    going on safari.

    Ever since a kid I've loved jungle
    environments, those primeval tones
    and magical moments that this artwork
    brings to mind.

    Enjoy the safari.

    Cheers, Doug

  7. This is really wonderful! I'm with you -- I really like to splash the watercolor on very loosely and add the ink LAST -- that way it doesn't look so much like a coloring book. Now, off to find a palette knife and see how that works with watercolor...

  8. Dan Can feel the humidity here. Nice. The guy who sells art in Sapri insisted ink only after watercolor - shows what he knows! What you did here is really effective. Have you heard of Transparent Watercolor by Kosvanec (video and or book at Cheap Joe's). His analysis of mixing transparent, non-staining vs staining, opaques is very helpful in preventing "mud". He also discusses loading techniques, etc. Excellent.
    Meanwhile, it's great to watch you fearlessly pursue your art.

  9. This is a great post! I love your way with words!!! I like to ink after I paint also! Continue to have fun! :)

  10. Dan, did you see that we have a new member to the group that lives in southern Florida? Name is Karen, but she didn't leave a link on her intro!

  11. Where in south Florida? I was in Homestead for 2 years 100 years ago. The first watercolors that I remember doing was way back in school, by adding the pen and ink after the washes and I never forgot that experience. Your piece reminded me of how much I was thrilled with the process - looks like I'm going to get some ink! Thank you.

  12. good work... the density of the jungle is so real in this drawing. Loved it

  13. The tropical feel is clear in your painting, love the variety of colors in the scene, where you least expect them. Good job, Dan. Keep scraping and layeing and inking!

  14. Wow. Your comments are so valuable to me: Leslie - I looked up the illustrators you mentioned and they are my next lifetime, perhaps. :) And Phyllis, thanks for the reference to Kosvanec. I can't believe I got to learn about 3 new artists from the comments on this post. Gary: I didn't know you were that old! Raena, I did notice - maybe I'll have a sketchcrawl (my first ever) down here in S. FL yet! You are all so very supportive - thank you. I really have my ups and downs (sometimes within the span of a day) and your encouragement is so greatly appreciated.

  15. I like how you think, gearing up for the jungle... Lots of freeness, looseness, movement - hey, you're right, it's a jungle out there!

  16. Oh, Gary, sorry - I'm in Miami Shores!

  17. The idea of paint safari is so innovative. Great one. Love your blog!

    Pencil Sketch: Rajasthani Man playing flute

  18. Have been looking at your posts for a while and I like what you have done. The jungle watercolor is excelent. Keep up the good work.