Sunday, January 27, 2013

Tossing Out My Coloring Book

1/26/13 Winsor & Newton watercolor, Strathmore 140 lb. paper
Although I’ve been dabbling in watercolors since I first started sketching and went to a few drop-in classes back then, I hadn’t taken any formal lessons. After more than a year of winging it, I’m now taking a six-week course at North Seattle Community College with Susan Schneider to learn the (correct) basics of watercolor painting.
My uneducated watercolor “technique” (so to speak) so far has been the coloring book method: sketching an outline with waterproof ink and then coloring (mostly) inside the lines with paint. While other sketchers use this popular method to beautiful effect, my results have been mixed and generally mediocre.
In taking Susan’s class, my objective is to skip the pen or pencil outline and sketch directly with paint, going more for shapes and expression than for “coloring” as has been my habit. Happily, Susan has been very supportive of whatever style students want to pursue.
1/26/13 watercolor, Stillman & Birn Delta sketchbook
With my previous method in the field, I’d used 16 Daniel Smith watercolor sticks in my portable mint tin sketch kit, which served me well. But Susan’s class supply list recommended Winsor & Newton artist-quality tube paints in only eight colors,* so I decided that this class is my opportunity to give time-honored WN paints a try as well as step up to the challenge of a limited palette.
Mint tin sketch kit with WN paints.
Of course, my ultimate goal is to be able to make paint-only sketches out in the urban landscape. I’ve done a little of this kind of painting in my studio, but not in the field. Let’s call these two sketches from yesterday’s class my baseline. Maybe with indoor practice between now and June, I’ll be ready to take my paints outside by summer. (I’ve already made a second version of the mint tin kit with Winsor & Newton paints, so I’m ready to go! Hear that, Summer?)

* Cadmium Red, Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Yellow, Lemon Yellow, Sap Green, Viridian Green, French Ultramarine, Cobalt Blue.

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