Let It Flow!
|Along the Switchback Trail|
9" x 12"
The watercolor painting above was painted in a method considered "spontaneous" painting. Spontaneous painting is done without an initial sketch using washes of paint; and the paint is simply allowed to flow. Spontaneous painting is done quickly while the paint is still wet, so be certain to give yourself enough time to paint without interruption.
Although there is no sketch, one must have a subject in mind or one will wind up with just an abstract painting. And that is OK too as long as that is what you want.
I spend a lot of time hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains and see rocks exposed on the mountain side, often with water flowing down them when it rains. This is not a painting of a waterfall, simply a mountainside with rocks exposed due to ground erosion from rain over the course of time. I did not want details in the painting, but wanted to emphasize the exposed rocks on the mountainside and the trees at the top. This is a view from a switchback on a trail looking up to the next level of the switchback.
Watercolor paper (140 lb. - I like Arches) Size of your choice; I used 8" x 10"
Brushes - flat brush, round brush and liner brush
Masking Fluid and old brush or applicator
- Sap Green
- Yellow Ocher
- Paynes Gray
- Burnt Sienna
The instructions below are for painting a version of my example above. Feel free to use a subject of your choice and follow the general directions for spontaneous painting.
Since my objective was to emphasize rocks on the mountainside, I started by masking in some rock shapes cascading downward from the horizon to the lower right side of the paper. Mask only the larger rocks, as the smaller ones will be lifted out with a wet brush. I also masked in some of the grasses at the middle horizon to save area for lighter paint and highlights. Allow the masking to dry.
Wet your paper and while still wet, drop in the following washes of color. Look at the example above as you perform each step for additional guidance. Feel free to pick up your painting and help the paint to "flow" by tilting in the direction you would like movement.
- Down the middle of the paper moving from middle to right, drop in a deep wash of Ultramarine Blue, add some Paynes Gray
- While the above is still wet, drop in Sap Green on the outside edges of the blue above, pulling with your brush to the edges and down.
- Drop in Yellow Ochre and Burnt Sienna at the bottom left and on the left and right sides of the horizon.
- While the paint is still wet, add some spatter of Ultramarine Blue and Paynes Gray in the area below the horizon and in the rocks and while spaces. Allow to dry.
- Working now from the horizon up, drop in Paynes Gray and Ultramarine near the horizon pulling paint to both left and right.
- While the paint is still wet, drop in Yellow Ochre and Burnt Sienna on both sides.
- Using a flat brush, paint in the tree foliage with a mix of Sap Green and Ultramarine Blue to make a deep green. Pull the foliage out with the tip of the brush allowing white spaces to show between the branches. Allow to dry.
- Using Sepia and Paynes Gray and a round brush, paint in the tree trunks around the foliage. Vary the color lighter and darker on the trunks for shadows and texture.
- Using the tip of the round brush and the same color paint, add some limbs, and distant trees. Allow to dry.
- Remove the masking fluid from the rocks and the grasses.
- Wet each rock one at a time with clean water. Drop in various mixes of paint from your palette of Ultramarine, Sepia, Paynes Gray and Sap Green/Ultramarine mix. Don't put too much paint on each rock or they will not stand out from the background.
- Using clean water and a round brush, lift rock shapes in and around the rocks which were masked to indicate rocks in shadow or partially exposed.
- Using the tip of a round brush, add a few cracks in the rock with Paynes Gray.
- Wet the masked foliage at the horizon and drop in Burnt Sienna. Allow the water to pull this paint up into the masked foliage shapes. Drop in a very small amount of Paynes Gray and Ultramarine at the base of the foliage and allow the colors to blend. Allow to dry.
- When all paint has dried, use a utility knife to pull in highlights in the foliage. This can also be done on any rocks that may be darker than you would like.