Alright fam, buckle up, because it’s time for lesson one…
Making a Mark!
So, what precisely is this lesson about? What do I mean by making a mark? Well…
When you’re first working with watercolors, it can be scary. Even for folks that have some level of experience, or who are confident in their rendering abilities, it can be easy to get boxed in, to not feel comfortable takings risks. This lesson is about letting go. The best advice I can give you in doing this is to go in with an open mind, and let go of your fear of failing. You won’t fail, you’ve already succeeded just by giving it your best effort.
The awesome thing about this project is, if you’re not as confident in your skill, the abstractness will seem intentional rather than an error. You shouldn’t feel bad if your anatomy isn’t perfect because it’s not necessarily supposed to be. This is a good way to start feeling okay about the work that you’re doing. And if you’re strong in your skills, this will challenge you to do complex poses and compositions, to think more subconsciously.
So, making a mark is quite literally what it sounds like. You take a blank sheet of paper, put down some random marks, wait for it to dry, and then try to create a coherent piece using the shapes you put down in that initial stage. There are two parts to this, so I’ll break them down as such:
Part One: Making the Mark
- Step one: Set up your palette, fill it with a variety of colors you think you might use. Get a blank sheet of watercolor paper. I recommend something a bit larger, at least 9 x 12in, so you have room to work.
- Step two: Empty your mind. Relax. Try to let your subconscious mind take over.
- Step three: Wet the paper a bit. Don’t drown it, but if you have a spray bottle, just get it moist. Or use a mop brush to wet the paper a bit.
- Step four: Take your brush, pick a color, and make a random mark on the page. Do whatever feels right to you. Repeat this as many times as needed, but try not to go off the page, or to fill the entire page up with paint. You want to make a sort of random shape that you can work out of.
- Additional step: You don’t need to do this, but if you want to add more texture, you can do a few things. One option is to put salt on the painting, and let it sit for several hours. You can also put some plastic cling wrap in the painting, set something heavy over it (like a textbook) and let it dry overnight.
Part Two: Interpreting the Mark
So, you have your mark. If all went well, it should be pretty abstract now, right? So, what's next? You need to interpret it, find meaning. Think of it kind of like a Rorschach test.
Take your painting and look at it from a distance. If you can pin it up on a wall, that would be good (just make sure not to put holes in your painting). Now, look at it up close. Look at it from all sides. See if you see anything. A wizard, a pot of gold, a two headed cow. Maybe ask a friend. It may also help to get some tracing paper, go over the painting, and draw what you see from the marks. That way, if it doesn’t work out, you don’t mark up the painting, just the little sheet of tracing paper.
Once you have an idea of what you want, it’s time to manifest. If you want to, you can lightly sketch over your painting, putting lines where the form of your image is. Now you paint. Develop the form of your idea, create shadows and highlights. Add new colors to clarify what you see.
To give you an idea what we’re going for, here is a link to some work I did last semester using this technique.
I’m not gonna put a deadline on this, but I’ll be posting another lesson in about two weeks or so. For now, I’d love for you guys to try this out. Have fun. Play. I know it might seem kind of odd, but humor me on this one.