Saturday, March 17, 2012

Start to Finish: Pouring Watercolor

"Eighty" Watercolor on 140 lb. paper. 16x20

People know that I create my paintings by pouring layers of transparent watercolor over drawing gum, but the process is difficult to imagine if you have never seen it. Here is a little peek into how it is done.

1. I sketch my design on the paper. Next, I take drawing gum and paint it over the areas that I want to keep white. After wetting my paper with a sprayer, I then take a pipette and squirt paint over the whole thing. It looks like this:

2. Now the first pour is dry. I will find the next-to-lightest values (not bright white, but the second brightest spots) and put drawing gum over those areas.

3. When the drawing gum has had time to dry, I wet the paper again and pipe on another layer of transparent watercolor.

4. Layer 2 is now dry and I will find the next lightest values in my painting (not bright white, not the next-to-brightest white, but the next value after that). I put my drawing gum on those areas and pour paint again.

5. Time to repeat that process one final time. Other paintings might have more pours than this, but I am happy with the range of values for this particular piece.

6. Now comes the fun part! I am going to use a rubber cement pick up to remove the drawing gum from my painting. You can see that in this photo I have removed the gum from part of the party crown and forehead:

7. Now that I have removed all of the gum, I can see what I am working with.

8. I am going to use a scrubber brush and a Mr. Clean Eraser (original only!) to soften some of the lines where the contrast is a little too harsh. To see how to recycle an old, worn-out brush and turn it into a scrubber, look here.

9. Now that things are softened up a bit, I will use a more direct painting method to tighten up some details. Sometimes I paint with color that I have scrubbed up off of the same sheet of paper to keep the color more consistent, but that's another tip for another day.

10. And now it is finished!

If you are in the Athens, Alabama area and want to come learn this technique from me, I have some classes coming up soon. You can find out more here.

To buy originals or prints, visit my website. To arrange a commissioned piece, contact me.


  1. Hi! may I know how you mixed the paint? just watercolour with water? and did you put very much water or very little water when mixing paint? :D thanks!!! love your paintings!!

    1. Hi! Thanks for the comment. Yes, it is just transparent watercolor from the tube mixed with water. For mixing up the first pour, you'll want it to be about the thickness of skim milk. For the subsequent pours, try for 2% milk and make the final pour be whole milk. It isn't an exact science and it really just takes getting a feel for how thick it should be mixed. I hope this helps!

  2. I wish you were closer! I'm in Ohio but I would thoroughly enjoy taking a class from you :) Any chance you'll record classes online at some point?

    1. Thank you for the comment! I have gotten several requests for that, so I will definitely give it some thought.