Set II Beginners Lesson 7: Watercolor Wash

Supplies: Watercolor set, watercolor paper (postcard size or 5″x7″), artist’s tape, art board (masonite), hake brush, 1″ watercolor brush, 2 containers of water (RINSE & CLEAR), paper towel, 3-H drawing pencil

Set up your art area for doing this lesson. We’ll call this area an “Art Studio”. This space may be on your kitchen table, on a table in your office or on a tray table by your bed.

Start by taping the watercolor paper to the art board using artist’s tape. *Note – don’t use masking tape.

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It may rip your paper. Tape the edge of the paper about 1/4″ around all 4 edges. Seal the tape to the paper by rubbing your finger along the tape.

Put the hake brush into clear water and wet the paper thoroughly by using smooth strokes from top to bottom of the paper. Check to see that there are no dry places. Be sure to wet those dry areas. If you see puddles of water, pull your brush through these wet spots so that the paper will absorb the remaining water.

Use a medicine dropper or a clean brush filled with water to make a puddle of water on your palette (about the size of a quarter). Take your 1″ flat brush and dip it into clean water and then into the blue paint pan. Mix up a blue puddle of paint on your palette.

You may have CERULEAN blue which is often the color used for a blue sky. If you don’t have CERULEAN blue, just use the blue that you have in your paint box. You can lighten it with water.

Load your 1″ flat brush with the blue puddle paint. With a steady hand, put your brush to the top of your paper, starting at the left hand upper corner. Pull the color across the paper a stroke at a time – from top to bottom. Move quickly (if you can). Try to use all the color in your brush and work all the way down your paper.

While this painting is drying, get a second piece of watercolor paper and your 3-H drawing pencil.

Draw a line across the paper about 2/3rds down from the top. Or, make a couple of “hills”. This is going to be another “wash” lesson, but it will be divided into two sections on your paper – upper and lower.

If the first paper is dry, remove it and tape down this second piece of watercolor paper using artist’s tape 1/4″ around all 4 sides. Press and seal the tape again all around all 4 sides.

Wet the paper (as you did before) using the hake brush. Check to be sure there are no dry spots and that the paper has absorbed the water.

Make two puddles of color on your palette – one blue, one green (or any other “earth” color that you choose).

Take the 1″ brush, start at the top, pull the wash across all the way left to right one stroke at a time down to the line that you drew on your paper. Rinse your brush or get another clean 1″ brush and pull the green (or brown, etc.) across the paper below the line.

The line is the “horizon” where sky meets earth. You can add details to this painting after it has dried enough so that the colors won’t run. You may decide to put a tree or trees on the hills. Maybe you want to add a cottage or flowers.

Watercolors are transparent, but my students have found that they can add Chinese white to their colors to make them “opaque” (no under-colors coming through). So, if you want to add a little white cottage, you can do it easily by using a bit of white. Some lessons in my art books as the student to “work around” the objects such as a house, barn, etc. If it’s a small painting, this is difficult to do.

By now you are ready to try more “landscapes” with sky, earth and maybe some layers of purple mountains in the distance. For fun, try dropping a few cloud shapes in the sky with some of the white paint onto your paper.

Repeat this lesson. Change the colors, change the horizon line. Move it up further on the paper. Or, do a light blue sky and dark blue water. Enjoy expanding your experience with this lesson by doing more watercolor wash paintings.