|11/11/20 Maple Leaf neighborhood|
The aggravation with all of the above is among the many reasons I switched from watercolor paints to watercolor pencils – and I’ve never looked back. And yet every now and then I am reminded that even relatively forgiving watercolor pencils depend on their interaction with water and paper, and that interaction can still be unpredictable.
Last week during my walk, I noticed that the sky behind downtown Seattle looked like it was still tinted with sunrise – at 10:30 a.m. Wanting to capture the strange colors, I spritzed a Stillman & Birn Beta page with water and used my “licking” method to apply color to the wet paper. It was 40 degrees, and the air felt damp and heavy (brrrr!), so I knew it would take a while to dry. I walked around the block while waving the book around, hoping to accelerate drying time.
Wet paper with a wash of color
When I came back around to my sketching spot, the paper felt cold – a hint that it wasn’t dry yet – but I thought it was “dry enough.” (Famous last words.) If I were painting, I think that degree of “dry enough” might have been acceptable for applying more paint without problems (or not; I quit painting, so what do I know?).
Watercolor pencils, however, have their own issues: When applied to a generous, newly wet surface, watercolor pencil pigments can be spread into beautifully intense, organic-looking marks. And of course, those same pigments apply nicely and predictably to completely dry paper. But if the paper is slightly damp – that vast gray area between “wet” and “dry” – the result is almost always undesirable. Instead of rubbing onto the paper’s tooth (now temporarily softened by water), the pencils skid unpleasantly, leaving little on the surface except scratch marks. If applied with greater pressure with the hope of getting more pigment on the page, the pencil point could damage the paper.
|Before adding more color at home.|
Sketching on location in cold weather is a dangerous mission, but someone has to do it.
|A strange sky, 10:30 a.m.|