Watercolor Doodles

7 Mar

Did you ever sit in class and doodle drawings around some flaw or pencil mark in your notebook? I did. It’s surprising what can grow out of a pencil smudge when the teacher is lecturing on some fascinating aspect of the migration of the Huns or whatnot. This post is about taking the pencil smudge doodle to another level.

Spring Bouquet

This little 5″ x 7″ painting began as a bit of fun with some new painting tools. I found water brushes for cheap at Dick Blick and ordered several sets of three. In the past I’ve only used a water brush to apply water to watercolor pencils or to paint outdoors (to keep from having to dip in water all the time). They tend to be expensive, so I didn’t want to buy a handful. These aren’t as good as the expensive ones, but they don’t cost $10 each, either. I squeezed a bit of watercolor paint into the water chamber (tough to do without making a mess!) and then squirted water in to not-quite-fill. Shake well until the paint is dissolved and see if the color is strong enough. You can always add more.

Anyway . . . I took my Strathmore 140 lb cold press paper and sprayed it down with clean water. I stuck it to a piece of plate glass, but any non-porous surface will work and a non breakable one would be a better idea. It’s just that glass was what I had. Sticking the paper down to the glass keeps it from buckling and you don’t have to stretch it. Brush more water over it if necessary using a wide brush — or just spread the water you do have around. There shouldn’t be any standing water, but it does need to be quite wet.

Using the water brush (or just a regular brush), drop paint here and there on the paper. It’s fun to watch the colors mix. I used lemon yellow, quinacridone rose, cadmium red medium, ultramarine blue and cerulean blue, plus hooker’s green from my pallet with a little red mixed in to dull it down. I wasn’t trying to paint flowers necessarily, at least at first, but it began to look like flowers, so then I started adding lemon yellow centers to some of them. Lemon yellow and most yellows are heavy paints and will tend to push other watercolor pigments out of the way when you drop them onto wet paper. The leaves and stems I put in last as more of an afterthought than a plan.

After the whole thing had dried a little bit, I decided it needed more color in the background, so I added the blue all around. You can’t let the paper dry on the glass or it might stick, so I peeled it off and laid it on an old acrylic painting that didn’t work out. Since I liked the way the paint looked at this point and didn’t want it to spread any more, I dried it with the hair dryer.

Now comes the fun part — well, the other fun part. I used a Faber-Castell super-fine point pen. These are waterproof when dry, which can be handy, especially if you want to take off or move some of the watercolor later on, but of course you can use any fine-point pen. From here, you simply start doodling. See a blotch that looks like a chrysanthemum? Go for it! It doesn’t have to be flowers, but I’ve been longing for flowers and not snow, so it’s not surprising that’s what I saw. The ink drawing brings order out of what was just a pretty bit of chaos, and you can do this part while watching a movie or even conversing with the family. It doesn’t take a lot of concentration and it’s non-messy!

Since you’ll have to peel the paper off the glass before it’s dry, it will curl a bit. I unbent it gently by curving the opposite direction and then when I was finished with the ink work, stacked a pile of books on it overnight. Voila`! A nice, flat painting. I hope you’ll give this a try — lots of fun and no particular talent required. If you can doodle, this is the project for you.

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