Monday, November 29, 2010

Easy Christmas Cards with Masking Fluid

Hi Susie,
Help! I want to paint my own Christmas cards this year and I'm running out of time!
I am not totally new to watercolor but I am new to the use of masking fluids. What tips can you give me to to create a card using masking fluid to reserve the whites for the snow. I need ideas to get me going. Thanks. EJ

Hello EJ -- Good for you! Hand made holiday cards are always welcome and appreciated!

Here are a few tips:

  • If you are using the packaged blank cards (precut with envelopes) be sure the paper will support a wet application.
  • When shopping for blank cards look for cards made for watercolor or use standard watercolor paper cut to the size you need to fit your envelopes.

Masking fluids are a great way to reserve whites when painting Christmas cards. There are several brands of masking fluid available in many art stores, some are clear and some are tinted. They are similar in how they are applied and how they work. Use what works best for you.

As for ideas and inspiration, I have a new Winter Landscape card lesson using masking fluid on my website. It's free to print for your personal use.

Let me know what you think!

Happy painting!


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Colors of a mountain lake???

Question: What colors do you mix for a mountain lake? Trying to watercolor a photo of a mountain lake in Yosemite. Angela

Susie's Reply: This question doesn't have a definitive answer. There are several color options and several factors to consider when painting still water as you would see in a mountain lake.
Unless the water is merky from algae or muddy from recent rains the water itself is grenerally clear and without much color. What influences the color of the water the most is the reflections of what is around it. Deep water is usually darker and more reflective than shallow water where you can see the bottom.
I know this answer may seem a little vague but without seeing your lake and what's around it I'm not sure what colors to suggest. I can tell you that I would use the same colors I used to paint the trees and mountains around the lake.
Another factor that influences the what we see in a reflection is the angle of incidence or the location of the eye of the viewer vs.
angle of reflection located on the surface of the water. If we are looking down into a lake what we see is quite different than what we see if we are standing closer to the water level on the shore of the lake.
In most cases the color of the water is a darker value than the local color of its surroundings.
I know this doesn't give you a "formula" to mix up before you paint the water but I hope you can look at the colors surrounding your lake and see what you might use to create an illusion that pleases you. Have fun! And don't get discouraged if you don't get it right the first time ....try painting another. Let me know how it goes....and don't hesitate to ask again if you need more specific input.
Keep those brushes wet!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

What's your brush for painting skies?

Question: Susie, I have your dvd on clouds, which is fantastic. Can you please tell me what brush you use. It looks like it is about 1-1/2 to 2". I bought one, but it is too thin and leave streaks (I paid quite a bit for it). Thanks. Pat
Hi Pat,
The brush I use is a cutter-type brush made from hog bristles (once used by sign painters to “cut” in sharp letters).
The industry stopped making this type brush since most signs are now digitally made. So the brushes were hard to find.
Daniel Smith listened to my plea and started making this brush for me and my classes. They call it the Susie Short chiseled tip watercolor wash brush and they sell them in their catalog and online.
I sell them in my little
artstore too. But the price is better on the DS site since I buy my brushes from them then add a little mark up.

Truth be told I use this brush for 75% or more of almost every painting I do. It’s a good size for all washes and under paintings.
And it’s great for foliage and texture when using dry-brush techniques.

Thanks for writing! And have fun painting those skies!
Keep those brushes wet! Susie

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Watercolor Pencils

Question: As a complete beginner - aged 78 - can you tell me if it is possible to erase watercolour pencil? Thanks! Patricia

Susie's Reply: Welcome to the Wonderful World of Watercolor!! Don't be afraid to jump in with both feet!
For the most part, depending on how dark and how much pressure was used when applying, watercolor pencils are not entirely erasable with a standard eraser. You can moisten the marks and get them to dissolve almost entirely with some gentle agitation provided you are using good quality paper. Marks made with watercolor pencils on damp paper are even more stubborn to remove.
There are some good instruction books on using watercolor pencils that go into much more detail as to what they will do and how to use them. For me personally I love to use them to draw in a light sketch for placement or to add a vein to a flower or a whisker on a critter.
Enjoy your journey!


Watercolor on a Cruise

Hi Susie, I am just wondering if you have ever considered giving lessons on a cruise ship. If it was in Jan or Feb I'd be first in line!!! That would be awesome! Thanks,Lenore

Susie's Reply: YES! I'd love to teach watercolor lessons on a cruise ship! I'll have to look into that and see how we can make that happen!

Anyone else interested? Let me know!

Thining masking fluids

FYI: Masking fluid also known as drawing gum or liquid frisket is used to reserve whites when painting with watercolor.

Question: When masking fluid gets thick how can I thin it so it can be used again?

Susie's Replay: Unfortunately there is not a simple answer to this problem. I find than most masking fluids have a relatively short shelf life once they have been opened and exposed to air. Most manufacturers state the shelf life for masking fluid is +/- 12 months.
Depending on the formula used to make the masking fluid (most are made of
latex with ammonia added as a preservative) you might try adding a drop or two of pure ammonia (not ammonia with soap added.) Sometimes a drop of water will work, but not always. Test first! Try thinning a small amount in a separate container so as not to destroy the whole bottle of masking.
My best advice is its better to be safe than sorry..... if in doubt as to whether using old masking will work as it is intended don't risk it on an important project. If you are just experimenting and playing with the paint then you can afford to take a risk.
If possible check with the manufacturer of your brand to see what they recommend.

Thanks for your question. I'd be interested to know if you find out there's a better solution.

Painting backgrounds

Question: Hi Susie, I have been painting for a while but still have a problem with background painting,it looks splotchy, even tho I try to keep the edges wet as I go but painting around the painting is the problem. Joan

Susie's reply: Hi Joan!
Without seeing your work its hard to say what you could be doing wrong, but I can almost bet the splotchy look you are describing is caused by unequal amounts of water in your brush and on your paper. Try working on a smaller limited section...blending off as you go and try not to paint near a damp area. In other words skip around and allow the areas to dry before you paint next to them. Learning how to "read" how damp your paper is and whether adding more moisture will create unwanted blossoms or balloons is an acquired skill that comes with practice.
Another tip you might try is to paint at a slight slant so your paint creates a small bead at the bottom of where you are working. Then when you add your next stroke the bead falls into it keeping the flow going and the painting smooth.
Still another tip would be to blot or test your brush before you add a stroke into a damp passage to make sure that the moisture in your brush and the moisture on your paper are equal.
Again practice will help you learn what to look for and how to avoid splotchy areas.
Don't give up! Keep painting!

Painting backgrounds - to paint or not to paint?

Question: When painting Flowers, does the Background always have
to be painted; or can it be left white?
Tend to be afraid of doing Backgrounds, as I'm just learning. Lois

Susie's reply: Hi Lois! It's not always necessary to paint the background. It can be left white (unpainted) and still be very striking. Many botanicals are left white. After all, white is a color and just because a background is white doesn't mean that the painting is unfinished.
If you are afraid of doing backgrounds behind the work you've done on the flowers try painting the background first. A background does not have to be dark or detailed, sometimes just a hint of color or texture adds just the right touch.
As with most things we learn to do when painting in watercolor, repeating or practicing will be beneficial to getting over the hurdle as we continue on our painting journey. The more we paint the better we get!
Don't be afraid the to try painting backgrounds, sometimes once you to get the background painted, the painting is half done.
On the same hand don't be afraid to leave your background white. Let it be your artistic choice.... you do have a license!

Happy painting!

Suggestions for Tropical Colors of the Ocean

Question: What colors would you use to get the beautiful colors of the ocean, especially the turquoise tropical waters ? I have the hardest time getting them real ! Thanks so much !

Susie's reply: There are so many beautiful blues and greens available in many brands of watercolors. And when you combine these colors the possibilities are almost endless. My personal favorites for the painting tropical waters include: ultramarine turquoise, cobalt teal, cobalt turquoise, Antwerp, cerulean, manganese blue hue, rich green gold, and veridian. When I use these blues and greens along with the other colors in my palette and allow them to mingle on wet paper I am amazed at the results. I believe one of the secrets is to not over mix these pigments in your palette. When they mingle together on wet paper the results are usually better and anything I can mix up on my own.

I hope that helps! Have fun! Happy painting!

Undertones and Color Bias


Susie's Reply: Great question! I will try to answer this one as simply as I can. First of all, we all see color differently. When we talk about a color being biased we're talking about the color we see "within" this color. In other words, when we look at something that is yellow in hue and it looks a little greenish then we say the yellow is biased to green. On the other hand if they look at something that leans towards orange rather than green then we say it is biased to orange. We can also say that the yellow has orange undertones. Sometimes the bias or undertone is not obvious to the naked eye. A true color will often contain traces of other colors that are not as easy for us to detect.
Let's look at red. If you combine the cool red (quinacridone rose containing blue undertones) with a warm red (pyrrol scarlet containing yellow undertones) the resulting hue will be a true red. True red contains small traces of both yellow and blue. The best way to determine the bias or undertone of any primary color is to test or mix it to create a secondary hue. If we continue to use red as our example, when we mix the red we are testing with yellow to create orange, if the resulting orange is clean and clear then our red was biased to yellow. Had it been biased to blue the resulting orange would have been murky or dull. If we mix the same test red to create purple by mixing it with blue if the resulting purple is clean and clear then we could conclude that the test red was biased to blue.
Because true hues of each of the primaries colors do contain traces of the other two primaries creating clean secondary colors is almost impossible. That's one of the reasons I prefer using split primaries. With split primaries (a warm and cool of each primary color) the resulting secondary colors are always clean and clear. The secret is to choose a warm and a cool that are distinctively split and lean towards either a warm or cool hue. It becomes a matter of testing your colors and knowing your palette.
Because we all see color differently, recognizing undertones or bias can sometimes be difficult. Add that to the fact that different manufacturers use different formulas to create paints by the same name (example: cobalt blue manufactured by Winsor Newton and cobalt blue manufactured by Grumbacher will look different.)
I hope my explanation helps you to identify the undertones and bias of a color. Like everything else with watercolor the more you practice and know your paints the easier it will become.

Click here for more information on my split primary color theory and color chart.