Monday, August 4, 2008

Technique - Pouring Watercolor Paint

Hi Susie,
I'm very new at WC so I will enjoy reading all the Q&A's here. Can you please explain how to do the "poured" technique? I've seen this talked about but I have no idea how to do it and I love to experiment with all the techniques I read about. Thank you, Nancy

Hi Nancy - Pouring watercolor paints is an indirect method of painting and quite a detour from the more traditional direct painting methods. Due the variables involved it is often thought of as an experimental technique. Those artists who do master it come up with very beautiful luminous watercolor paintings. Two of the most proficient artists using variations of pouring techniques are Nita Engle and Roland Roycroft.

I'll share what I know about pouring watercolors, which I must admit was a lot of fun to do for a change of pace but didn't quite suite my style as my preferred method for painting. I do still piddle with pouring paint every now and then just for fun and to see what I get.
The basic idea is to pour paint diluted with water over the surface of your watercolor paper creating beautiful blends of sparkling color. Depending on the results you are striving for, you can pour each color separately allowing the surface to dry between each color (which would be considered a form of glazing) or you can allow the colors to mingle on the wet paper without drying between "pours".
Basic techniques for pouring watercolors:
  • After you have transferred your drawing to watercolor paper mounted on a support of some sort, use a liquid masking fluid or maskit to carefully reserve any whites and light to middle values. Let the masking dry.
  • Squeeze the paint you plan to use from the tubes into saucers or containers (such as a empty plastic butter tubs) and using a spray bottle add water to dilute the watercolor to the desired intensity. Use a clean brush to dissolve and clumps of thick paint. Don't add too much water, you can always use the mister to add more water to your paper as needed. Remember the more water you use with the paint the lighter it will be when it dries.
  • When the masking is completed and totally dry you are ready to pour. Have a receptacle ready to catch the paint as it runs off your paper. (If you only add one color at a time the run-off and be reused for additional poured layers. )
  • Using clear water lightly mist the paper.
  • Pour a small amount of the diluted watercolor paint on your paper. You can even use an eye dropper for more control when adding the paint.
  • Use sprayer or mister to add more water as you work from dark to light in both value or intensity and to move the paint where you want it to go.
  • Tilting your board back and forth will also allow the paint to run and mingle some if you are working with more than one color.
  • Pour off excess paint being careful to watch for puddles of paint collecting in pockets caused by the masking fluid. If you find a collection of paint use the tip of a paper towel or a thirsty brush to soak up the excess.
  • DRY and repeat as needed to get the desired effect. DRY AGAIN.
  • Use a rubber cement pick-up or a piece of tape to rub off the masking.
  • Next, remask only the lightest areas, leaving the middle values unmasked. When the masking is dry repeat the pouring process. Glazing over the already painted areas will make them darker and in the area previously reserved by the masking now add color. These steps can be repeated as many times as necessary until you build up the contrast and mood you desire.
  • Remove the masking from the lightest areas and highlights. You can now use a brush to add or bring out any of the finer details.

This is a very simplified explanation of how to produce a painting using poured paints but it should give you an idea of what is involved. For more details I'll refer you to these books by the experts.

Clicking on the titles will take you to my recommended watercolor books powered by Look for the Abstract and Experimental catagory.

And while you're looking take a peek at the new book Watercolor The Spirit Of Spontaneity by Karlyn Holman. She covers pouring plus many more fun techniques.

Thanks for your question!
I hope this inspires you to explore poured painting further!



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