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Diving Into Watercolors-The Drawing

Beginning with watercolor can be one of the most exciting things you have ever tried! Or one of the most frustrating!

When I decided to dive into watercolors, I was in a college art class with an instructor who was a fabulous watercolorist. But trial and error was about to get the best of me when she took pity on me. She graciously gave me instruction in handling the basics of watercolors.

From that beginning, watercolor has become my favorite medium. Not just as a medium itself, but watercolor techniques have added many dimensions to my other mediums, too.

Before actually breaking out the paints and brushes, you need to get a good drawing onto your watercolor paper. The drawing you will work from is more important in watercolor than in any other medium. Oils, acrylics, gauche ... just about any other painting medium will have some measure of forgiveness in it. Watercolors are more demanding. Making small adjustments can sometimes be accomplished, but please don't rely on having room for error.

However, you needn't panic! There are ways to avoid problems. First, get your inspiration sketch(s) down, preferably on tracing paper. This is where all your adjustments will be made, even before going to your watercolor pad. If you are working from your inspiration stash (see my article on inspiration:Finding Inspiration For Your Artwork), you can easily sketch and/or trace parts of photos, magazine pictures or other drawings you have made right onto the tracing paper. Use a white artist's eraser to make corrections. It erases pencil lines but won't harm the surface of the paper.

Perpare your watercolor paper by taping it down to a board such as a canvas board, stretched canvas or tempered masonite board meant for this purpose. If you are using a watercolor pad that is sealed on at least three sides, you may just leave the paper attached to it.

When the drawing is finished on your tracing paper, you can transfer it to your watercolor paper in one of two ways:

1. Use a soft pencil such as an HB to gently color over the lines of the drawing on the back side. Just make your lines about twice the width they are on the front side. Scribbling wide marks will just make smears on your watercolor paper. Position the drawing right side up over your watercolor paper, tape down to your board or pad and very gently trace over each line, being careful not to push hard enough to make indentations in the paper.

2. Use a graphite transfer paper (such as Saral paper). First tape your drawing down, leaving one side open. Slip the transfer paper under and trace gently over it, again being careful not to make indentations in the watercolor paper.

I like to use a colored pencil or gel marker that is brightly colored so I can tell which lines I have already traced. Be sure to check after you have traced just a few lines to be sure it is transferring correctly. When you have finished, you can check to see that the lines are not too dark. Your artist's white eraser can be used to gently lighten any lines that are too dark.

Not only is your drawing exactly as you want it, your watercolor paper is unharmed from making corrections and your tracing paper can be kept to do the same or a similar painting again! Be sure to put it into it's own manilla folder so it won't rub off onto any other drawings.

Below you will find links to two books which will give more ideas and help with your watercolor painting.

Please swing by our forums and check out the current discussions. You can feel free to comment and/or ask your own questions.

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Happy Painting!
Paula Devore
Painting Editor











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