I remember reading that the artist JMW Turner once advised an amateur artist that her watercolours would be improved immeasurably if she dunked them in a bucket of water. This was not meant as an insult, but I think was a genuine piece of advice. The beauty of watercolour, which Turner especially exploited to its full, lies in its softness and delicacy, but this can be difficult to achieve successfully. Watercolour can be difficult to control, and I for one have come to realise that I perhaps strive to control it too much.
So I have been very pleased with the new watercolour markers I recently treated myself to, because I find I can draw with the ‘control’ I seem to need and apply water afterwards using a watercolour brush or a spray (the equivalent of dunking them in a bucket of water). This also makes them perfect for sketching outdoors, and makes for a lot less mess in general. You can even add water some time later if you like, and still create washes, or lift areas out again which is something you can’t easily do with traditional watercolour once it has dried.
However the proper watercolour markers are quite expensive, and therefore probably not something you want to use with children on a regular basis. A good and considerably cheaper alternative are the waterbased felt-tip brush pens you can buy for kids. These are sold primarily because they are washable and won’t stain kids clothing or household items, but this water soluble quality also makes them perfect to create different watercolour effects with.
For the ones I did below, I used a water brush just to go over the lines a little to soften them. You can of course just use an ordinary wet brush for this instead. However I found it was important to wash both brushes regularly as I went so as not to muddy the drawing.
If you want an even looser or more abstract effect, you can use eye-droppers, or just mist the drawing with a fine water spray like I did with the one below.
With this approach, the effects are more unpredictable and haphazard, but it’s also quite addictive watching the colours bleed and run together, and you can pretty much guarantee that out of any batch you do, you’ll end up with a couple of beautiful examples worthy of framing!
PS – It’s also worth pointing out that for all of the examples above (which I created on a fairly small scale) I used a good stiff, absorbent watercolour paper.
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