"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Act as though it were impossible to fail." Dorothea Brandt

Demo: Creating a Glow with Watercolor
© 2002 Nita Leland

Here's an easy step-by-step demo on painting a wet-into-wet glow in watercolor. The trick is to keep the paper wet with light spritzes from a water spray-bottle, picking up the paper and tilting it to help move the paint around.
Step 1: I begin by spraying the area of my paper where I want the glow to start. I flow some Winsor Lemon watercolor into the center of the area, surround it with Winsor Red, and spray again. Then, I lift the paper up and tilt it different directions to help the colors blend. You can make the red completely glaze over the yellow for a beautiful peach color or allow the yellow to remain at the center. The trick is to use enough water to keep the colors moving, but not so much that it all runs off the page.

painting glow step 1
Step 2: Next, I enhance the colors around the glow with a little more red and add ultramarine blue to move the color toward violet. I continue adding more blue as I begin to fill in the sky area around the glow. For a light mood you can add more water to the paint mixture; for a dramatic mood add heavier pigment to the damp paper. Be careful about spraying too much, as the colors may dry too light and blossom more than you want them to. Make the transitions between colors gradual from the glow to the areas of darkness.

painting glow step 2
Step 3: Continuing with the deep violet color mixtures, I carry the color to the edges of the paper. I plan to have water at the lower edge of the landscape, so I don't touch that area yet. I indicate some trees with broad strokes of heavier pigment on the wet paper. I felt the trees put in at the left were too prominent, so I sprayed the area (not shown here) to lighten the trees and make them blend into the background. I can always go back and enhance those trees later if I want them in there.

painting glow step 3
Step 4: In this step I have painted the water below the glow using the colors at the top of the painting. Directly below the glow I put the yellow and red, keeping the paper wet so the colors will move and using a horizontal brush stroke to suggest the flatness of calm water. I used the warmer colors below the glow and the cooler violets to the left, below the tree area. In this photo I am using a pocket-knife to score lines representing small trees in the background. I add some lines as reflections below the water line.

painting glow step 4
Step 5: I used the flat edge of the knife in a broad stroke across the paper at the water line to emphasize the edge of the pond. At this point I'm no longer spraying the paper. As the paint sets up, I wait until until the paper feels slightly damp (cool to the touch). I touch a wet, round brush to the damp paper above the water line at left, keeping the paper flat so the water will spread into tree shapes. Judging how damp the paper is and how much water to use in the brush is a tricky balancing act that takes practice.

painting glow step 5
Step 6: I continue to develop the water with horizontal strokes, repeating the colors above. I have enriched the color at the lower edge of the page, leaving areas of light across the water. The painting is now ready for detailed development of the subject. You can paint trees, a cabin or small figures in the background and add rocks, weeds and other foreground interest to make an interesting composition. Every time you use this technique the result will be different, so be creative as you develop the finished picture.

painting glow step 6
The finished painting for the demo is no longer available. This painting of geese in snow was done using the same techniques. I chose to blend the colors at the center of the glow and leave the sky light. Notice the reflected colors of the glow and the trees in the melting ice on the pond. The trees were layered after the background was partially dry and the rocks and geese were painted when the paper was totally dry to permit sharper detail in the foreground. This painting is available in a reproduction. painting glow in watercolor

For more on glowing color see Exploring Color Revised p. 109.

Nita's Art Blog

Subscribe with Bloglines


Return to Top

email:Nita Leland © 1998-2012 Nita Leland All Rights Reserved. Webmaster:Amy Elieff Brown