Using randomness in watercolor painting.

Following are a number of techniques artists have employed in watercolor painting with success.  All have one thing in common.

1. Place tissue paper over the paper and paint large random patterns, then lift the tissue and do a painting on the muted passages left by the tissue. Even colored tissue can be used.

2. Paint plastic wrap and then before it has a chance to dry,dab the painted plastic on the painting. Interesting textures will result.

3. Wet the entire surface and pour liquid color on, tilting the board to allow it to run in different directions.

4. Spatter paint into wet passages.

5. Spatter paint onto a dry surface, then spatter water on top of that.

6. Spray wet edges of a passage with water and allow the paint to disperse into adjoining spaces.

7. Transfer paint from your palette to the painting with wadded up newspaper.

8. Collage papers over passages and use opaque paints to re-define shapes.

There are numerous other technical “tricks” that can and have been employed. Any of them can be over-used and descend into trite cliches when they are used for their own sake, as a substitute for creative thinking, risk taking and problem solving.

What these techniques all have in common is the random order they bring to the painting. Nature has a way of repeating motifs and patterns while at the same time avoiding redundancy. Motifs are always repeated with infinite variations. Our methodical tendencies usually propel us toward mechanical replication, a wall paper approach. Every fence post is the same length, equally spaced, and the same value. Every limb is a mechanical reproduction of the last one. When I catch myself doing this I refer to it as the Larry, Curly, Moe syndrome. Anything that disrupts this Assembly line activity and introduces spontaneity and the accidental is good.

Because these techniques introduce the accidental into the process of painting, they more closely replicate the randomness found in nature. If they are used as a means to usher into your painting the vibrancy of randomness and suggestive accidentals, they are very useful. They can cause you to see the painting in a new way, even force you to adopt a different strategy. New images may assert themselves into the painting. You might see new possibilities. You might even discover that you like the accidental passage as it landed with no re-touching. That is what happened in this painting, titled, “After The Storm”. I liked the spatter that suggested a road without me painting one.

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In this case I loaded a brush with a lot of water and a cool neutral purple, and tapped it on my finger above the area on the lower right. Then I rinsed my brush and repeated the tapping with water only to randomly disperse some of the spatter. This I followed with some spatter using a yellow. Some of the texture on the building was accomplished by spattering water on the dry painting, then rubbing it briskly with a paper towel.

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