Sunday, March 3, 2013

Pouring watercolor paint and not making a mess of it all

December and January are very busy months for me.  Between long hours at work and much to do at home, I was left with little time to do any painting.  To kick start me back into weekly painting, I took a two day workshop at the Georgia State Botanical Gardens by Kie Johnson.

Kie demonstrated her watercolor technique which uses multiple watercolor pours and maskings.  Class participants were given the opportunity to try the technique on their own paintings with Kie's guidance.

Kie's multi-step process requires considerable planning before starting.  The subject needs to have well defined values that as a whole will work to form an interesting painting.  The choice of pigments is also important, as the pigments will be mixing together on the wet paper. Two or three containers of wet pigments were used in each pouring, and up to five pours were used to complete each painting.

Masking parts of the painting between pours protects them from exposure to subsequent paint pours, providing well defined value differences in the final painting.  While pouring is a wet-on-wet painting technique, because the painting is dried between each step (pouring, masking, pouring, masking...) the additional layers of pigment act almost as glazes.  This is why the choice of transparent pigments which react well together is so important.

After a light pencil sketch is made, the paper is firmly attached to a board using tape, then it is throughly wet before the mixed pigments are poured across it.  The board and paper are then manipulated so the wet pigments run around the paper and mix.  Excess pigment runs off the edges of the paper and board (towels and plastic sheets are useful for this part of the process).

You can see the pouring station in the background, past my work space.  The floor and table were covered in plastic.  In addition, a large bath towel was used to help sop up paint that dribbled off the paintings as they twisted and turned to mix the wet paint.

I started with a mostly yellow pour.  After the paint dried, masking was applied to the areas with the lightest value (most of the flower petals).  Once the masking dried, the paper was completely wet again and the next layer of paint was poured and manipulated across the paper.

The second layer was dried, and masking was applied to areas with the next value (the remaining flower petals and half of the leaves).  When the masking dried, the paper was wet again and the third layer of paint was poured.

The third layer was dried, and masking was applied to the areas with the next value (the remaining leaves).  When this masking dried, the paper was wet again and the fourth layer of paint was poured.

Once the fourth layer was thoroughly dried, all the masking was carefully pealed off the paper revealing the photo above.

Additional shading and highlights were added to the now exposed parts of the painting.   I used the same three pigments for the pouring and the final painting:  Cobalt Blue, Rose Madder and Aureolin Yellow.  This method took quite a lot of paint for the pourings

The mess of pouring reminded me of kindergarden, but the multilayered results have amazing depth and create beautiful vibrant paintings.


  1. Spectacular! Love how the pigments work in the background. The process sounds rather messy but the end product is gorgeous.

    1. Thanks. I did wondered what the end product would look like while I was working on the painting, but It really was worth the mess. It would be difficult for me to achieve the same depth and subtle mix of colors without pouring.