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Digital Subscriptions > The Artist > May-17 > Layers and brushstrokes

Layers and brushstrokes

In his second article, Jake Winkle aims to build your knowledge of watercolour applications with advice on washes, the layered and one-touch approach, dry brush and wet-in-wet techniques


Watercolour can be unforgiving if not applied correctly so this month I’m concentrating on the different applications of watercolour, and the technical knowledge required to implement them.

Traditionally, watercolour was applied from light to dark, building up tone and detail with thin transparent glazes or layers of colour one on top of another to create subtle effects of light and dimension. Some watercolour papers allow you to build up layers of colour whilst maintaining a degree of freshness. For instance, a paper like Arches 140lb (300gsm) or heavier absorbs paint deep into its fibre and is well suited to layering, whereas a thinner or less absorbent paper such as Bockingford tends to result in a second layer lifting and ‘dirtying‘ the first and the more layers you apply, the worse it becomes. The choice of pigment is also a factor. To layer you need to be aware of which colours are transparent and which are opaque and, more importantly, which are staining and which are not. A staining colour will migrate when water comes into contact with it, even when applied to the paper hours earlier and is bone dry. In other words a second layer will always lift a staining colour and, if you are layering over a dark passage of staining colour, the smudging is really very pronounced.

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About The Artist

Follow cover artist Henrietta Graham's example and set yourself a challenging project to create a series of paintings on a particular subject matter, or why not try something different from your usual practice to keep your creativity flowing? Our professional artist/tutors offer plenty of ideas this month, from how to paint loose watercolour landscapes by Lea Nixon, unusual compositions from a high viewpoint by Jo Quigley, and how to use pattern to dramatic effect in your still lifes by Penny German. Hazel Soan demonstrates how to paint a lively self-portrait in watercolour, Glyn Macey shows what you can discover by studying Rauschenberg's work and techniques plus we include articles on understanding the structure of the head and how to measure and see more objectively to help improve your figure work. Oil painters will love Martin Kinnear's new series on oil techniques, starting with the importance of value and chiaroscuro, while Charles Williams takes a thought-provoking look at the age-old issue of 'when is a painting finished?' With more besides, you won't be short of inspiration and helpful advice in this month's issue!