When working out scenes with dramatic light, it is important to remember where the lightest light is and not paint over it. Watercolor painting depends on the whiteness of the paper for the ultimate highlight! Once we mistakenly paint over it, we cannot bring it back.
You could argue: well, I can always lift! True, but it’s still not the same as the untouched paper.
Speaking of lifting: In my opinion, lifting always feels a bit like ‘fixing things’ – unless you lift while it’s wet – why not paint it right in the first place without having to come back later and lift paint here and there?? But I digress..
In the above painting, the huge foreground puddle as well as the background body of water is nothing but the untouched paper. It feels very light, because everything else is darker. The interaction of values does it. It is an illusion, that’s all. That’s our job as artists: create an illusion. In the reference picture the water was not bright at all, more like the color of the sky. A pretty dull scene. By exaggerating the values of the scene, we create more interest and the result is a luminous, lively watercolor. (15″h by 29″w)
Two very different compositions that convey very different moods. Where to place objects and shapes in our work is certainly one of the questions that need to be worked out even before picking up a pencil to draw, let alone a paint brush!
Over the years, I have ruined many paintings by disregarding this simple but important fact. It can be very disheartening, especially so if the painting is finished! There’s nothing more frustrating than to put it up and think, ‘mmmh, I don’t like it – what happenend??’ Well, what happened was that I placed the focal point wrong and no matter how nicely it was painted, it’s just not working. Sometimes it’s even hard to figure out why exactly it isn’t working. You just know in your heart, something is wrong. That’s a good time to check your composition. It is usually the culprit. That or the values, either one of those…
When deciding on a composition, it is important to ask what you’d like to accomplish. Do you want the viewer’s eyes to go around the painting finding different points of interest? Is it all about one focal point? Is there a lead-in? What role does the background play, if any? Most artists get too caught up with light situations and forget all about design! Sure, the light is the most important thing, but if you just get that right and nothing else then the painting is not exactly a success! Just food for thought.