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Watercolour: Easy Techniques for Mixed Media

This week I wanted to talk more specifically about how I use watercolour in my mixed media artwork. Figuring out how to use layers of watercolour with all the other mixed media supplies is a lot of fun and really allows you to play with your supplies. The most important thing to remember, is that watercolour reactivates, so you need to consider what layers will be going on top of your watercolours. Sticking to drier mediums or collaged layers, will help to make sure that you don't end up with a muddy mess.

There are lots of brands of watercolours on the market, so there's something for almost everyone's price point. The biggest thing to consider when buying paints is the pigment v binder content of your paints. More expensive paints tend to have better quality pigment in them, resulting in more intense colours on your page, however some craft brands also give really good results, so do a bit of research online, there's already tons of info out there.

I prefer my watercolour in pans as they are so much easier to store in between painting sessions. You can either buy watercolours already dry in pans or you can squeeze watercolour from tubes into an empty pan and allow it to dry out. You then just add water whenever you are ready to paint! Learning how much water you need is definitely the tricky bit, however it's also the most fun part, so play around and keep practicing until you know what you like.

Watercolour Backgrounds

Watercolour is a great choice for creating quick and relaxing backgrounds. Watching the colours all blend together on the page is entrancing and really helps you zone out from the worries and busyness of everyday life. Here I was working in my watercolour journal and using a wet brush picked up colour from the watercolour pan and applied it directly to the page. As I applied each colour, I allowed the edges of the colours to touch slightly and got some nice wet-in-wet colour bleeding.

I also like to use watercolour on backgrounds, using a resist technique. Here I stamped and embossed a pattern on my paper before apply watercolour over the top. Before I applied the pigment, I applied a layer of water using a clean brush and then applied the pigment on top. This wet-in-wet technique is nice for avoiding harsh lines as the colour bleeds out through the water

In this picture you can see the finished background effect and how the embossing stands out against the watercolour.

Watercolour Florals

When I first started painting, watercolour florals was pretty much all I did. I filled pages and pages full of pretty flowers and soon had folders full of floral compositions that I had created. Then about two years ago I started to branch out and get interested in mixed media and realised there was so much more I could do with those flower paintings. After doing some online classes with Dina Wakley, I started cutting some of those pages up so that I had unique floral focal points to include in my mixed media art and fell in love with a much broader art process that allowed me to play with colour and mix up my daily art practice.

I adore the many different effects you can achieve when painting watercolour florals and once you work out what works for you, you'll never get bored! With wet-in-wet and wet-on-dry techniques, and really easy colour mixing (not to mention an almost infinite number of colour combinations) there's so many options to blend and build colour. It means that even if you use similar compositions, each and every flower can always be unique.

I don't have a lot of patience when I'm creating and like to quickly see progress being made. Tiny, fiddly, precise details that are needed for anatomically correct botanical drawing would drive me insane so I prefer to go for a looser style that broadly represents flowers in the garden. Four and five petal basic flowers are my jam and here I show you how to achieve three different looks, using broadly the same flower shape.

Watercolour Inks

Watercolour inks are super vibrant, so I don't use them a ton in my work as I lean towards a more vintage palette. However, occasionally it's good to switch things up and by adding more water you can soften the colours down. They're also a really nice watercolour medium to try as it is much easier to control the amount of water on your brush. In these flowers I create some basic petals, stems and leaves. These flowers are so each to draw or paint as all you need to do is rotate the petals around a central circle of blank space. In the final image (which you can see further down) I also added some coloured pencil outlines for a final pop of detail.

Brush Pen and Watercolour

For this effect I drew some loose floral outlines using a waterproof black brush pen. This is a really nice way of getting a bit of variety in your outlines, as some parts will be thicker or thinner depending on the pressure you apply to your brush. I then went in and added a light water colour wash, keeping it loose and not too accurate within the lines.

Fineline and Watercolour

This is a really nice way to try and keep a bit more control over the final image. Waterproof fineliner pens are much more accurate and easier to use. After all, they're just like regular pens you write with so you'll instinctively know how much pressure to apply when drawing. I love the consistent line and extra detail you can achieve with this technique and you have options when you come to add the watercolour. You can apply a loose wash like I have here, or go for a more accurate application of colour.

Last week I mentioned that I like to have some hand painted florals in my ephemera tin at all times, so I always have focal points ready to use and this is how I do it! I'll spend an afternoon painting different flowers, in different colours, onto one sheet of A4 mixed media paper and then fussy cut each flower. Here are the flowers I painted above, all ready to go!

Watercolour Stamping

Did you know you can put watercolour on your stamps to get some really pretty effects? Here I applied watercolour from the pan to the stamp using a wet brush before stamping it on the paper. Try applying more than one colour, to get a multi coloured print and you can play around with how much water you use for different effects. If you spray your stamp with water after the fist stamping, you will get interesting second and maybe even third generation prints.

Watercolour Stenciling

Applying watercolour through stencils can be tricky. Since it is such a wet medium, you really run the risk of it running under the stencil and loosing some definition in your image. To avoid this, I like to use a piece of cut n dry foam to apply the paint. Load your pigment onto a palette (I use an old dinner plate) and then tap your sponge in it, before tapping over the stencil image. With plain stencils like this, I like to keep the stencil in place whilst I apply some stamping details on top, using a waterproof ink (this stops the watercolour and ink mixing too much) for some extra detail.

The Finishing Touches

And here are the finished pieces! A journal page and two cards using some easy watercolour techniques.

I love how unique watercolour is, each and every time you use it. You can get so much variety from just a single colour by adding more or less water and they last an age! I've been using the same paints for five years and as you'll see from the paints in the background of my photos, there's still plenty left in the pans.

I hope this has inspired you to get your watercolours out and have set aside some time to relax and play. Have a creative, happy week!

Tori x

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