Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Magic Tea - Blending Watercolors

Magic Properties of Tea
Watercolor Painting - 5" x 7"
by Karen A. Cooke

I received several blends of tea this Christmas and while waiting for a cup to brew, I watched the swirls of steam rising from the tea.    This made me think of how the swirls of steam were moving and how this might be accomplished in a watercolor.  Teas are blended to create pleasing tastes and aromas, so I wanted to play around with color to accomplish a similar result in my painting. 

The magic of watercolor painting is how the paint can be blended to create pleasing and unique designs.  This painting will illustrate how to accomplish the magic of watercolor blending in a simple painting of a cup of tea and it's "magic" steam. 

Now, let's paint!

The watercolor above was painted on Arches 140 lb. cold press paper.

Supplies Needed:
Watercolor paper (size of your choice)
Masking Tape
Watercolor board
Salt (table salt and/or larger grain sea salt)
Brushes: flat and round (size of your choice based on the size of your paper)
Spray Bottle of water
  • Cerulean Blue
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Sepia
  • Payne's Gray
  • Crimson

Painting Instructions:
This a very simple drawing of a teacup and saucer.  Do not draw in the steam rising from the cup.  The paint will take care of this. 

Cup and Saucer:
Wet the cup with clean water and using a blend of Payne's Gray and Sepia, drop in color to indicate shadows.  The cup is actually white, but you are simply painting the shadows.    I used a round brush to paint these shadows and used it to line the outside of the cup to separate the cup from the background.   Make this line very faint and light.  Allow to dry.  Be certain to allow the cup to dry before painting where the cup touches the saucer so that both appear as distinct items.  If the paint is wet, the colors will blend and the cup and saucer will appear as one piece rather than two distinct pieces. 

Using a blend of Payne's Gray, Ultramarine and Crimson, paint the tea in the cup using a wet in wet method.  Start with the Ultramarine and Crimson in the center of the cup and add the Payne's Gray on the edges.  Allow the colors to blend and swirl together.  While the paint is still wet, drop in some salt crystals to push the paint around and create an interesting texture.    Allow to dry and brush off the salt crystals. 

This is one of the "magical"  qualities of watercolor painting:  each crystal of salt chases away the pigment to make a lighter area beneath it. 

TIP:  Salt does not always work the way expected.  It involves the paint pigment at the correct wetness as well as the speed that the paper and air dry.  However, the best results usually occur when the paint is damp and shiny.  If the paint is too dry, the technique won't work.  Conversely, if the paper has puddles of water, it will be too wet for it to work.    Practice this on a scrap piece of paper to determine the right ratio of paint and water.    This technique can be used for snowflakes, small flowers, etc. 

Magic Steam:
Wet the area of the painting above the teacup in a pattern to indicate the swirling mist of steam rising from the hot cup of tea.  Drop in Payne's Gray, Crimson and Ultramarine Blue.  Refer to the painting above for location.  The Crimson and Ultramarine will blend on the paper to create a purple.  However, you may want to blend these two colors on your palette as well to apply to the painting. 
While the paint is still wet, mist the outside edges of the paint with the spray bottle and add the salt crystals to the swirls of paint.  Allow to dry and brush off the salt crystals. 

Congratulations!  You have learned one of the "magical" qualities of watercolor painting! 

Happy Painting!

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