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Inspiration

Layering with Watercolors

If you have ever painted with watercolors, you might be familiar with the translucent pigments and a more traditional approach. There are actually a lot of ways to use watercolor that transcend the limited ways that they are typically used. I’ve been discovering that with a bit of ingenuity you can use watercolor in some pretty stepped out ways to produce compelling artwork that mimics the mixed media paintings of today.

First of all, there are some different kinds of watercolor paints to be aware of. Translucent paints are what you might normally think of because they are the industry standard. With those paints you have to begin with the light colors and then gradually add in the darker tones, because the lighter colors do not show up on top of darks. Cheaper sets of pan paints are great for a translucent layer, and if you are going to be layering over the top any set will do.

Then there are opaque watercolors, which are typically thicker than the translucent paints but still fail to totally cover light over dark. Oftentimes these paints are thick and cumbersome to apply, and it can be challenging to get the same airy quality with pure color tones as you do with translucent paints. Some opaque watercolors also crack if you layer them too thick, which is something to be aware of. I’ve tried Pelikans with great success, and also Cretacolor Aqua Briques.

Japanese watercolors offer the best of both worlds and fall on the higher end of the opacity scale. With Japanese watercolors you can layer a couple times over to produce a more saturated color with lights going over darks. You can thin them out with water to get a more transparent layer, or apply them thicker to achieve a thicker layer of opacity. I’m still loving my MozArt Japanese Watercolors in pans.

Enter in GOUACHE! I’ve recently discovered gouache paints, and they are really opening up my watercolor practice. Gouache paints are totally opaque, so with these wonder paints the sky is the limit! Gouache can still be thinned out to varying degrees of translucence, but straight out of the tube they cover consistently and the color stays true. I’m really loving Reeves Gouache in tubes, they are affordable and offered in lots of different colors.

I’ve been smitten with the mixed media practice of layering for some time. But I cannot seem to find an acrylic paint or media that does not make my asthma act up. I always try mixed media but leave with my tail between my legs, and go straight back to watercolor. Online classes mostly call for use of acrylic paints. I’ve been using watercolors instead and am getting the most intensely satisfying results! I like to begin with a somewhat translucent abstract layer first, and then build layers on top with varying levels of opacity. Knowing that gouache can fully cover those layers gives me the ability to do so many things I could not do with traditional watercolor. I’m getting such cool results layering the different paints. And the works may not look the same as acrylic but I feel that they have a luminescence all their own.

The first layer was Japanese watercolor painted wet on wet, and then left to dry. I drew over the top and then added iridescent paint from the MozArt set

The first layer was Japanese watercolor painted wet on wet, and then left to dry. I drew over the top and then added iridescent paint from the MozArt set

The first layer is translucent, then layered additional elements with gouache and ink/marker

The first layer is translucent, then layered additional elements with gouache and ink/marker

First layer was transparent watercolor and gouache, with paper towel texture. Then I layered all additional elements in gouache, added text in marker and outlined text with a white gelly roll pen.

First layer was transparent watercolor and gouache, with paper towel texture. Then I layered all additional elements in gouache, added text in marker and outlined text with a white gelly roll pen.