5-2-4 Exercise: Using resists experimentally

Try out a few experiments in your sketchbook or on a spare piece of paper.  Choose any subject, use A3 or larger sheets of watercolour paper placed over newspaper (to avoid mess). Have your watercolours to hand and a range of other media. Using one of your resist media draw your subject in any way you like.  Mix up some washes or just one and apply lightly across your work.

Now use any media you like to develop pictorial interest.

You could build on identifiable shapes or subject matter or you could work freely and intuitively building purely abstract effects.

Make an assessment of this exercise in your learning log:

  • Describe your experience of working ‘invisibly’.

  • What have you learned in this exercise about new approaches?

  • Can you see how you could apply what you have learned in future?

  • What is your assessment of what you have produced?

5-2-4-01As a warm up for this exercise I started with two blank sheets of A3 watercolour paper.  Onto these I streamed a random squirt and trials of PVA glue.  This was allowed to dry settling into slight ridges across and around the sheet of paper.  I then used a variety of media such as crayon and oil pastel as well as wax candle to make random marks.  These marks were then partially over-washed with washes in the three primary colours.

Similar processes were carried out on the two sheets though quite different results were obtained due to the random nature of the mark-making etc.

There is no correct way to orient these images and they can be rotated to suit your mood and inclination.  There was a variety of effects obtained on the sheets – some deliberate and some random accidental.

The overlaying of colours has resulted in new colours and tones being produced and the use of resists both coloured in the form of crayon and white /clear in the form of wax candle has kept areas of the ground clear from paint and either shows a dappled effect from the hit and miss of the media across the surface due to the paper grain and roughness or is else clear leaving patches of the ground to shine through and create light and movement in the image.

5-2-4-02Moving onto the exercise – I selected a dandelion plant photo as a reference point, though this was used more for general shape and structure than detail etc.

The leaves, flowers and seed heads are depicted quite differently my image than the photo.  I also used a few weeds from the grass verge as reference.

Using a white oil pastel and wax candle I drew the main shape of the seed heads and leaves using both media as resists.  The main leaf and stem shapes were also drawn with the wax candle.  Further drawing was then done using a yellow crayon for both the leaves and flowers.    The background was then painted using a series of washes allowing them to intermingle on the paper.  The background was kept deliberately dark to act as a contrast to the seed heads and flowers of the dandelion.

Further washes were done on the ground earth area and across the leaves allowing the washes to run and intermingle.  This mixing of the washes resulted in a wide variety of colours, tones and shade as well as mixing up the shape in the centre of the plant.  This jumble in the middle of the plant is how my eye perceives the plant due to the profusion of leaves, stems and ground etc.

Not quite getting the effects and over crayoning / resisting the leafs I did another version of the dandelion painting.  This is more successful due to the greater contrast between background and seed heads, the deeper green of the leaves and the definition of the leaves in certain areas of the image.  Both images were completed by deploying the use of oil pastel and crayon onto certain areas of the image to strengthen and define some parts.

5-2-4-03Once the dandelions paintings were complete I mowed onto a new subject using a small collection of shells picked from the beach on holiday a few weeks ago.

The drawing of the shapes of the shells was done using a wax candle.  Further marks of candle were used on the background to hold the ground colour in certain areas to define where the light is coming from.  It was also used across the foreground to ensure some light notes were reserved where the light was falling.  I then used a series of intermingling washes to paint the foreground and backgrounds.  I also painted the shells at this time to allow some bleeding and merging of washes between the various elements in the picture.

The shell shapes and structure within them was further defined by the use of oil pastel.  This was also used to introduce the shading on the shells and the table top.

This last image is my preferred one of this series of three painting.  The loose interpretation and liveliness in the mark-making and application of paint result in a painting with lots of vitality.   The contrast between the warm and cold washes across the background and shells also introduce a pleasing contrast.  The arrangement and composition of the shells also leads the eye around the image.  The eye has chances to rest on quieter passage in the painting before moving onto more detailed and busier sections within the painting.  This introduces a rhythm and structure again adding to the paintings success.

The remit for this exercise noted some points to address in the self-assessment for this exercise:

Describe your experience of working ‘invisibly’.

Working invisibly by its very nature suggests drawbacks, however, if also liberates in a sense that achieving anything is a success.  Using both wax candle and white oil pastel on the white ground made the drawn mark difficult to see, however, tilting the sheet it was possible to see roughly where you had marked and thus continue.  Working in this manner also means you must work and draw more intuitively than if working with a more obvious media.  Once you have finished marking the surface with the resist the wonder and joy at seeing your image emerge from under an applied wash.  It reminds me of the wonder at seeing a black and white image emerge from the developing tray in my old darkroom years ago.

What have you learned in this exercise about new approaches?

These exercises have shown me two differing approaches to working with the media I have chosen, in this case – wax based materials. Oil pastel and wax crayon were used both as a resist and as a drawing marking medium.  The different approaches essentially come down to what stage you apply the wax material to the paper surface.

5-2-4-04Wax on first to act as a resist and frame for the washes.  In this method the clear wax acts as a resist and keeps the ground colour intact from the washes that will be overlaid around it etc.  The white oil pastel also has the same effect, differing in that it is white and will thus colour a coloured ground whilst the wax will reserve the original ground colour.  The coloured crayon does a twofold job by acting as a resist as well as introducing a colour line or block of colour to the image.  The crayon and wax will not always cover entirely (this is dependent upon the roughness of the paper, smoother paper gets more coverage), this results in the overlaid washes settling into the bare hallows in the paper resulting in a dappled or broken colour effect.

Wax on after washes to strengthen and develop the underlying washes.  The crayon and pastel added after the initial washes can be used to further strengthen and linear passages in the image or to further define areas of the image.

Can you see how you could apply what you have learned in future?

Moving away from pure watercolour there is plenty of options to include additional media into your painting.  The dappled / broken colour effect is a useful effect to depict the shimmering and reflections from water.  Using clear wax the highlights to an object can be reserved.  The roughness of the paper can be used to support and enhance this effect as for instance a painted orange will have the dimpled broken effect that the paper will give in its highlights with the shine of the highlight broken by the colour and shadow within the orange skin!

What is your assessment of what you have produced?

Loose, expressive and interesting!  Being critical of myself I feel that pure watercolour may never be my forte!  But using water colour with other media I find not just more enjoyable but also more successful, at least in my eyes.

The work produced in this exercise has given me more enthusiasm to push on further both with watercolour and the course in general.  The use of the oil paste, wax candle and crayon has produced effects that make my work more lively and interesting to view.  This is due to the reserving of the ground, allowing quitter passages to remain in my work and to re-introduce a linear effect that may be missing or lost as the painting progresses.  Much of the time my drawings are loose in a way that my watercolours are not!, however, by combining different media with the watercolour my work is lifted to a higher level.