I love playing with watercolor washes in a limited palette. It is fun to see how two or three colors interact with each other when mixed and also when layered. With this technique, based on overlapping layers or washes, it is imperative to wait until one layer is completely dry before starting the next. I usually spend the drying time doing other things—reading, having a cup of tea, writing, etc. But if you do not want to wait, the hair dryer is your friend: keep it on a low setting and move it back and forth over your painting until the paper is fully dry.
MATERIALS FOR WATERCOLOR TUTORIAL
PAPER: Arches #140 natural white, or any artist-quality watercolor paper; I like to work small and for this project I cut my paper into 5×7
BRUSH: Princeton Neptune Round #10 or any medium round brush
WATERCOLORS: Raw Sienna (Sennelier), or any light earth color, such as Yellow Ochre; Marine Blue (Holbein), or any dark transparent blue, such as Prussian Blue
1. After attaching your paper to a stiff board with masking tape, lay a flat wash with watered-down Raw Sienna. Let dry.
2. Without drawing and using Marine Blue lay a very watery wash shaped like a mountain ridge at the top, adding water as you go down the page and leaving a few slivers of the first wash showing. Let dry.
3. Again with your blue, start another mountain ridge below the first one and once again bring your wash down to the bottom of the page, leaving gaps here and there that show the previous wash. Let dry.
4. Decide where your shoreline is going to be and paint a straight line across it with a thicker wash of blue. Soften some of its top edges with clean water. Let dry.
5. Still using just blue, paint some shadows on the most distant row of mountains, and intensify the shore vegetation; on the water, describe some waves, which should become thicker and darker as you go down the page. Let dry.
6. Continue with another layer of waves, again keeping your lines thinner and lighter towards the distant shore and thicker and darker as you go down the page. Let dry, sign, remove the masking tape, and enjoy your little landscape in two colors.
You can use this technique for other shapes as well; in the watercolor below, for example, I removed the water and intensified the sky.
I have a narrated video of a similar project, done using Yellow Ochre and Prussian Blue, on my YouTube channel, if you are interested:
Cristina Mazzoni divides her time between Vermont, where she has lived since 1993, and her native Italy, and draws inspiration for her work from the colors and shapes of her two beloved lands—and their winged creatures especially. When not painting, she writes about and teaches Italian Studies at the University of Vermont. She signs her watercolors with the initials of her full name, MCM.