One good way to learn to control the amount of paint and water in your brush and on your paper is to paint wet-in-wet. Creating the look of worn, weathered barn boards is a great 'theme' to use to learn this.

I start out with a soaking wet sheet of paper which is wet on both sides to keep it wet longer. Previous to wetting the paper, I streak areas with miskit, especially along one side of each of the boards.

I also splatter a bit of miskit on the paper before I wet it. If I'm planning on putting in a chain or lantern, like the pictures posted, I miskit those entire shapes, too.
Next, streak the soaked paper with various shades of blues, oranges, purples, earth yellows, and browns. The colors blend softly together to give a muted depth to the eventual barn boards.

Now streak the paper with some narrow, darker lines where the boards meet, to help define the cracks between them. The color diffuses again since the paper's still very wet. Then randomly splatter some darks over the paper. Now pick up a 'broken-in-half' credit card and scratch some lines into the damp paper. The existing paint sinks into the scratch, making them much darker.

Repeat the process as the paper slowly dries, streaking with colors of paint, adding more dark in thin lines again to help better define the older diffused ones, then scratch again with the credit card. At some point while the paper is damp, add an irregular shaped knothole or two where there are no scratch marks.

Splattering at different times as the paper slowly dries results in various sizes of dark spots, some much more diffused than others. Take care to make each board have its own identity so that they all look slightly different, one more streaked, one more textured, one with lots of cracks, etc.

The whole process takes almost an hour, and you must wait for the right time to add more color, but make sure not to get it too dark. I'm careful not to paint on 'unshiny' but 'damp' paper, unless I'm dragging a dry brush or fan brush for one of the streaking layers.

I also make sure none of the streaks criss cross, since wood grain never crosses over itself, but always runs fairly parallel. I continue adjustments to the knothole, too, darkening it, creating the cracks shooting out from it, and darkening around it to look like discolored wood.

The final hour or more is spent working on totally dry paper to bring into focus some of the raised edges of the weathered wood. By adding a thin dark line along small areas that have an irregular edge, you can create the look of raised rough wood. I soften the outer edge of those darks, too.

The whole painting is truly a series of streak, splatter, scratch, streak, splatter, scratch. Using the broken credit card at various stages will help add texture, too, since the paint is squeeged off by the rounded edge of the card once the paper begins to dry.

Taking the miskit off (when the paper's completely dry) adds a lot of needed white to the painting. The white misketed edge is always too harsh (one of the big draw backs of miskit) so I soften it a bit, but make sure to maintain some clean, untouched white paper for contrast and sparkle.

I add Quinacridone Burnt Orange and Lunar Earth (Daniel Smith Watercolors) together to paint the rusted chain, etc. Before it dries, I touch in, not brush in, some very liquid but dark French Ultramarine. As the Ultramarine floctuates with the two browns, they separate to look exactly like rust. I love it. The less I touch the wet paint, the better it looks. Sometimes I have to tip the paper slightly to get them to blend better. Fold a tissue smoothly and place it on the very top edge of the hook while it's damp to lift off a highlight there.

Adding stronger darks under the shadowed side on the chain helps add dimension, too. A shadow of the hook and chain painted as one complete shape on the barn siding finishes off the painting.

It's almost magic to watch the blurry, wet-in-wet paint slowly be transformed into a surface that looks like weathered wood. When I teach this in classes, each artist's work is expressive and different, some looking like ocean side bleached wood, some like mossy covered wood, others like well cared for barn siding. It's amazing how the same wet-in-wet process in each artist's hands produces individually expressive results.

Both of these paintings are done with transparent watercolor on 140#CP Arches. The one at the top with the hook and chain is 15 x 11," and the one with my Grandpa's lantern is a full sheet, 30 x 22" Both were done many years ago and are SOLD.


Dawn said...

I cant keep up! this is a great lesson. I think I will give it a try. Still waiting on the horses though. LOL!

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

I came over from Pablo's blog and will be back to browse when I have a bit more time. There is SO much here and the work is stellar!

Tracy Wandling said...

This is great!!! I am about to start Myrna's February project, and wet in wet is the technique we are working on. This is a great tutorial...excellent timing!! Oh...and the pictures are great too!

RHCarpenter said...

I love the textures in old wood siding and rust and all those things that make beautiful paintings before people scape and paint and sand the fix them! Great paintings, Sandy.

Joan said...

Sandy, This is a great technique, and a very useful one. Thanks for doing such a good job of explaining what you did. These are beautiful paintings.

Ces said...

Sandy, you are a master. These almost look like photographs - amazing. In grade school, my art teacher told me that watercolor is the most difficult medium. I soon learned that. You make it look so easy but I know master works like these require a great deal of skill, talent and creativity. You are Amazing.