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September 2013



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If at first you don't succeed...

...try again, just like the old saw says!

This subject has captured my imagination ever since kateslover and I spent a few days camping at Promised Land State Park in Pennsylvania, and since I'm now working on the new North Light book, I've been digging out sketches and photos from our travels that inspire me. This was one of my favorites--dusk at the lake, on our way home.

The first try just missed--sometimes it does. We all fall short of what we're aiming for, but there's no law that says you can't give it another shot!

This was my first try:


The technique I was attempting just didn't work, though it had on the small samples. I was using wax paper as a resist, placing a sheet on the watercolor paper and drawing through it to deposit fine lines of wax--I used it in the trees and in the water, and it just filled right in!

It worked fine on the portrait of Rachel that I shared on my blog on October 10...go figure!

I also just missed on the color, it was much more subdued than I had hoped--so I decided to call this one a sketch and try again!

This time it all came together. I used Winsor & Newton's Lifting Preparation in the water, to allow me to lift out reflections and the shine on the ripples...

It's very subtle, but it worked...

I tried the waxed paper trick in the trees again, and added a spatter of liquid mask as a backup...

Once everything was dry and I removed the maskoid, I flooded in some of the same color I'd used in the sky for unity.  You can see the glow of the sunset lake and the distant shoreline beyond--I painted them first and allowed them to dry before painting the dark trees. 

The trunks were done with a #6 round brush, and while they were still wet, I dragged out the fine limbs with the tip of a mechanical pencil--that's a trick I use often!

A mixture of Indanthrene blue and burnt sienna, mostly, made this wonderful, rich dark-dark.

The lacy foliage was done with an old moth-eaten round watercolor brush, fully loaded with my dark wash and then applied in a pouncing motion, but a round bristle brush or a small piece of natural sponge would work as well. 

Against the glowing sky, the effect was dramatic!

This is the kind of tip I like to include in my books and in my tutorial CDs, available on my website and in my CafePress store (the link is at left!).  I'm working on a new CD now, compiling how-to photos.  This sequence will probably be in both, but this gives you a free taste of the kind of inspiration I like to share. 

If you have any questions or suggestions, I'm always willing to answer as best I can...




Such a captivating painting, KathyKate, that I keep going back to study it. It will really add to the update on that Technique book as will the painting of Rachel.

The two shades of the dark trees are so beautiful. Since watercolor grows lighter as it dries,it seems a wonder that you got such great contrasting shades without having to go over and over them. I LOVE that look.
Thank you, Annie, you're a sweetie. I was really pleased with that rich dark, too...it IS hard to get one that stays as dark as you want. It sort of involves mixing up enough, rich enough, to start, too...
Thank you, Susan!
Beautiful, and very interesting! Love the light coming through the trees. I think I'll add your book to my (long) wish list, it seems great.