Workshop P: Big Brush Colour: Capturing that First Impression
Instructor: Shari Blaukopf (Canada)
Location: Singapore Management University
What makes us choose one place over another when we sketch? ItÕs often because of a first impression, an immediate connection, something that catches our eye and that we want to immediately get down on paper. In watercolour, itÕs important to capture that first impression quickly, to create a sense of place and say the most with the fewest brushstrokes. When I sit down to sketch, I begin by thinking about the big shapes in what IÕm seeing Ñ that series of house facades, for example, or those boxes of tomatoes at a market stand, or the row of trees I spy in the distance. Using a big brush (flat or round) to paint these shapes is liberating because you cannot possibly get lost in the details. With a big brush in your hand and some fresh colour in your palette, youÕre able to get the big shapes down on paper rapidly and decisively. YouÕre forced to be succinct. And then the magic happens. The paint surprises you. Shapes merge, colours flow together, and things happen on paper that you couldnÕt possibly have planned. Working first from the big shapes, and eventually moving on to the smaller ones, you’re actually able to capture first impressions on your first try.
At the end of the workshop students should be able to:
* Feel confident with a big brush
* Immediately recognize the big shapes and value relationships in a scene
* Conquer their fear of using lots of pigment, and create ÒjuicyÓ washes
* Maintain lively transparent areas that donÕt turn to ÒmudÓ
Exercise one: Capture the big shapes first
WeÕll devote the first part of the workshop to looking around us and identifying the big shapes in the scene. How can we make those big shapes interesting and interlocking? The first exercise will be a series of small sketches where we draw and then paint these shapes with a big brush. ThereÕs no detail at all at this stage. ItÕs all about incorporating as much dynamic colour as we can into each shape.
Exercise two: Add values to those big shapes
In the second exercise weÕll look at values (lights, midtones and darks) in our scene. Lights and darks add meaning and depth, so at this point weÕll go back into the big shapes with our big brush and further define them by adding a second layer of darker and smaller shapes.
Exercise three: Then add detail
The final step is to add details to your sketch. At this point a small, round brush will come in handy. Once youÕre done, youÕll have a full-sized, fully realized sketch in which youÕve incorporated big brush shapes, smaller darker areas, and finally the all-important telling details with a small brush.
I will do a demo for each of the short exercises and, while students paint their final sketch, I will circulate and help with colour and value. During the final 15 minutes we will look at and discuss each participantÕs finished sketch.
- A big watercolour brush (1″ flat or big round #12); synthetic is fine
- A small round watercolour brush for details, round (#8)
- Portable watercolour palette and a selection of tube or fresh pan colours (my preference is tubes). I like to have warm and cool versions of yellow (Azo and Gamboge), red (Alizarin and Cadmium Red Light), and blue (Ultramarine and Cerulean), as well as some earth tones such as Burnt Sienna and Raw Sienna. Often, I also carry Sap Green and Carbazole Violet.
- Cut sheets of watercolour paper (and a backing board) or a watercolour sketchbook
- Small plastic water bottle
- Pencil, waterproof pen for drawing
- Kneaded rubber eraser
- Paper towel or small rags
- Folding stool (optional)