Watercolor, my preferred medium, likes to be free.
And so, I’m always looking for new ways to loosen up, stay fresh and become more intuitive in my painting, Recently, I’ve been playing around with a technique I discovered in a terrific book, Experimental Landscapes in Watercolour by British artist and author Ann Blockley (http://annblockley.com/).
The basic technique is quite simple: Find some interesting leaves, twigs or other plant material. Place a piece of watercolor paper on a bed of paper towels. Spread some rich, juicy paint on the paper (all over, or just in particular areas). Press the plant material into the wet paint. Top with a sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper (crinkled up, if you like). Top with a piece of Plexiglas. Put something on top – like heavy books – to press it down. Wait for a few hours (the paper doesn’t have to be completely dry).
When you lift everything off, the paper will hold some interesting textures and impressions. It’s really impossible to predict – or control – exactly what you’ll get. I love that!
After the paint has dried completely, you decide how to proceed. This is where you put your imagination to work. What do you see? Where can this go? You could draw and paint a composition, or complete the painting freehand, finding shapes as you go. It could move in a completely abstract direction, or you could find a landscape, a still life, maybe even a portrait. I don’t want to try to be too literal, though. I love the fantastical, impressionistic feeling this method offers.
As for what to use, here’s a tip: Sturdy, waxy leaves work really well. Small twigs, stems and seeds are good. In the accompanying paintings, you’ll see ferns, which are wonderful. The foreground leaves in In the Pink are sweet woodruff, (my favorite ground cover). The background textures in all three paintings comes from crinkled wax paper and plastic wrap. You can also try cheesecloth, net, gauze, lace, etc.
Now, when I’m out in the garden or off on a hike, I’m looking for textures and shapes that I can try in a painting.
I’m seeing the world in new and wonderful ways. And that is the great gift that art brings to us all, always.
– Kathy Lindsley