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To Watercolor or Not to Watercolor?

Updated: Dec 30, 2019



Lots of folks still think that a watercolor painting is lightweight art - something studied and practiced by teenage Regency and Victorian peeresses under the tutelage of their private governesses, along with dancing, singing, elegant manners, and running a manor. Not so fast! Like pencil work, this medium balances on a 100 foot high tightrope between soaring beauty and power - and dingy failure. Ask the ancient Romans, the Chinese and the Japanese. They walked that tightrope with utter confidence and spontaneity because it took a lifetime of practice. Their works were masterpieces of minimalism! With a great watercolor painting less is more. Only at the final stage of the work (and only a great pro artist knows when that time arrives) can the brush be allowed to run wild to create vivid darks and highlights.


I have taken watercolor portraits to another level - by adding pen as the base medium. That gives a sort of structural support to the work that allows me to use less pigment to the paper since I already have a detailed pen base. Then I can work more quickly and confidently, sure that the combination is still light and airy, but with an added dimension. I work on hot press watercolor paper that's basically smooth with a slight texture to allow my pen to move smoothly over the surface; yet the watercolors still spread in a controlled way and can be washed out in certain places without causing damage. I always have paper towels handy to blot up the excess water. For highlighting I unabashedly use whiteout in pen form, plus poster color. It doesn't ruin the work - especially when I've been commissioned to create 120 plus celebrity watercolor portraits, and have to work at mach speed!

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