Watercolor Washes – Painting Animal Faces

•September 6, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Watercolor washes are essential to being a successful painter.

Many artists think of washes as big colorful backgrounds in landscapes. That is definitely  one use for washes. But when I paint a face I think of it as if I’m painting small washes  where each shape contributes to the whole effect of painting a face.

Below are 2 examples of faces where I flooded colors in various shapes to create the image




Because I have a fear of drawing I find that when I think of painting a dog’s face I only think of where the controlled washes will be and what value they need to be. With a little practice I learned how to paint without fear.


Pick a subject that inspires you and break it down into shapes & values. Do a series of paintings and soon you will see the progress you have made. Most of all have a good time!

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All About Watercolor Washes #3 The Variegated Wash

•August 29, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Watercolor is all about the washes

The 3rd wash is a mingling of colors applied on the paper. Unlike a flat wash where you strive to achieve a beautiful color from top to bottom or a graded wash where you apply color to the top of the paper and blend it to clear as you paint down the paper, a variegated wash is simply applying  2 or more colors to the paper.

You must remember the principles of color so you don’t end up with a puddle of muddy color. I suggest to start your practicing of variegated washes using 2 colors. I first slightly wet the paper and alow the shine to leave the paper. I do not want too much water on the paper because I will have little control as I apply my paint. Also too much water will dilute the paint and unless I’m looking for the lightest value for my wash I don’t use an abundance of water.

I paint or drop color off my loaded brush allowing the paint to mix on the paper. I control where I want the most color or where I want to leave the white of the paper showing through.




Many times I have no idea as to what I will be painting on these washes when they dry. Sometimes I know exactly what this wash will become later on when it dries.

If I need hard edges I do not wet the entire paper. I wet sections or I use a clean brush to ‘paint’ with water as needed. As in the image below.


Texture can be added at this stage. This image shows the addition of salt for texture.



These images are to show you how a variegated wash can be useful in a painting.



No matter what level of an artist you are, a beginner, intermediate, or advanced  you will benefit and gain confidence by practicing and perfecting your washes. Get out your brushes, paper & paints and have a good time watching the colors mingle & flow across the paper. Pull out the tubes of unused color and squeeze out some of that paint. I find this a great way to better understand what my paints & colors can do when mixed together.

Many days, in my studio, I’m not prepared to start a new painting. This is when I practice my washes and fill my soul with beautiful colors. This is what makes me feel triumphant and brilliant as an artist

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All About Watercolor Washes #2 The Graded Wash

•August 22, 2016 • Leave a Comment

 The next wash every watercolorist needs to master is the graded wash. It begins with a stroke of color at the top of the paper. Unlike the flat wash where you continue each additional stroke with a loaded brush of paint of the original color, the next stroke of the brush, in a graded wash, has a diluted version of the color or a lighter value of the color. Water is added to the original paint mixture which creates a lighter value of color. A stroke of clear water  brings the white of the paper back creating a change in value from the first stroke to the last.


You can change this by making the middle stroke the lightest value.


 You can make the top or bottom of your painting the value you want by doing a graded wash.


Here is a simple example of how a graded wash can be useful.


Practice this wash and then add a simple treeline of whatever you feel would work on top of this wash. These little practice painting can be used as hand painted cards, no one needs to know that theses were done to help you become proficient with watercolor. People will cherish a unique card made by you.

Have fun, paint lots of these and work your way up in size. I started small, about 4×6 to learn control & mixing values. I painted both sides of the paper once one side was dry. Do not use a poor quality paper or paint thinking that these are just practice pieces. You want to get good results so use good quality supplies. I don’t want you to think you are failing because your supplies failed to allow you to be successful. I glued many onto blank 5×7 cards. 

Now I love the challenge of doing a wash on a full sheet of watercolor paper.

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All About Watercolor Washes #1 The Flat Wash

•August 15, 2016 • 2 Comments

Wash Examples FLAT RED Wash Examples FLAT BLUE2 Wash Examples FLAT BLUE

Having the desire to paint with watercolor I needed to learn how to use this extraordinary medium.


I was lucky to have found an artist that wrote a book for beginners.

Ann K Lindsay


She helped me learn the importance of knowing how to use watercolor paints before I attempted to create a painting. By doing this she allowed me to practice using this exciting medium without any fear of failure. I learned how to do washes which helped me control the flow of water & paint. I learned how to be patience and let the paper dry. I watched the shine leave the paper learning when it was the right time to add more paint or lift off pigment.

Too often we want to paint the painting but don’t know how to use the product, this leads to frustration & failure.

I will never forget how important the basics are so I will share with you the beginnings of my journey into watercolor.

The Importance of Washes 1

Knowing how to do a flat wash is so important. You my feel that something so simple as a flat wash is trivial or unimportant but knowing this will lead you to much success as an artist. Use small scrap pieces of a good quality watercolor paper. Mix a large puddle of your favorite color or try a color that has been sitting unused at your work space. Tilt your paper so the wash runs downward. Starting at the top of the paper, using a brush large enough to hold plenty of paint, paint across the top of the paper. Reload your brush and paint another stroke of color across the paper below the previous one. Slightly touch the previous line of color. Continue to the bottom of the paper until the entire paper has a flat solid wash.

Practice this wash until you can get an even layer of paint on the entire paper

Now you are on your way to being successful with watercolor.

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WATERCOLOR Negative vs Positive Painting

•July 27, 2016 • 1 Comment

Switching how you see an image takes time & practice.

Here I painted a circle in the positive

Negative VS Positive ShapesA2

This circle is painted in the negative. I painted the space around the object to make the object appear.

Negative VS Positive ShapesA1

Practice this technique using any object. Do a pencil drawing and paint one in the positive & one in the negative.

Negative VS Positive Shapes4

I absolutely love negative painting. I find my mind at rest as I paint in this manner.

As a watercolorist it is essential that we have an understanding of negative painting. Start with simple shapes and have fun.


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Dog Eyes in Watercolor

•June 14, 2016 • 2 Comments

I have been busy working on a series of water view paintings using wonderful washes which I will share here as soon as I am finished. I needed a break from my latest project so I set aside some time to paint more eyes. It was refreshing to revisit these delightful images filled with simple shapes & colors.

Without drawing, using only paint, I made the shape of the eye leaving a small white area for the reflection.

Dog Eye 101A


A second color was dropped in before the entire area dried. I allow these colors to mingle on the paper

Dog Eye 101B

When the eye area has lost its shine I drop in a darker color to create the ‘pupil’ Using the same darker color I paint around the eye slightly touching the outline allowing it to blend & soften the edge. The dog’s eye has a drooping lower lid so I left some white showing below the iris of the eye.

Dog Eye 101C

Now I start to build up some of the darks. I also add some brush strokes to add the fur around the eye. When doing this think about petting the dog’s face. Use your fingers to follow the growth direction of the fur. This is how I then place my brush strokes.

Dog Eye 101D

Using an even darker color I detail the shape of the eye and finally I darken the pupil. I find that this darkest color is essential to bring the eyes to life.

Dog Eye 101E

Here is another example of dog eyes

First I paint the eye shape using 2 colors. Using a damp clean brush, I wet the surrounding area allowing the paint to bleed away from the eye. This breaks up the hard outline of the eye making it appear softer.

Dog Eye 101F

Using a light wash I start to define the eye area, remembering to leave some white areas below the eye.

Dog Eye 101G

Now I add the darker colors using the process described above.

Dog Eye 101H

To complete the portrait I add the illusion of a nose & an ear.

Dog Eye 101I

Anyone viewing this will automatically fill in the blanks, meaning, they will know that the dog has 2 eyes, 2 ears and a big shiny nose. I do not have to give them all the parts for them to know this is a dog. I am allowed to have fun and take artistic license with my paintings. So can you!

Find a photo and have fun painting your favorite animal’s face. Remember you choose what to add or subtract from your paintings. You decide what colors you want your painting to contain. Why can’t a cat have violet eyes? Why not try painting a dog using only red in many different values. This is only the start of an amusing & entertaining journey. 


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Dogs In Watercolor – It’s all about the eyes Part 2

•June 7, 2016 • 5 Comments



Dogs A 2-2016

My set up, as I prepare to paint is simple. I enlarge the animals eyes so I can see the shape, highlights, colors & values. Each of these are essential to help me paint eyes that will bring life & give expression to the animals face. I could not work from a tiny poor quality photo. I’m mostly interested in painting animals I have been able to photograph myself. That gives me a feeling as to how that particular animal moves and behaves in its own environment or home.

Sometimes I wil trace the eyes which allows me to see thir shape clearly. I can study the contour, outline & shadow as I trace the image. To help me further, I can transfer the tracing onto paper and do several studies. Without having to draw each eye in detail I have complete freedom to experiment with my watercolor paints and discover how I want my finished eyes to look. By now I have painted dozen of eyes and I rarely draw an eye in pencil anymore, I start each eye working only with my paints.

These are a few of my recent dog practice paintings





Dogs B 2-2016


Dogs 8


When I started painting I was so intimated by the amazing animal paintings I would see. I believed I would never attempt to do any animal painting myself. But once the desire to do this took hold of me I decided to develop my our understanding & method of how I could achieve this. I broke it down into small studies using enlarged images and practiced constantly.

Now it’s your turn. What has you intrigued and what are to reluctant to paint but possess a desire to try? Study it & find a small yet important piece of the image and practice that one element until you reach a level of satisfaction. Don’t overwhelm yourself and expect to do an entire painting. Find joy is accomplishing that one small piece, like I did with the eyes.

The truth is that for me the rest of the face wasn’t quite so scary once the soulful eyes, of the dog, were looking back at me from the paper


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