Lesson 10 – Brush Strokes

Today’s warmup exercise:

I noted yesterday that I had some questions about brushstrokes and how I could make them visible in my watercolor tone studies. They all seemed to fade into the background wash within seconds.

I am working through an interesting watercolor manual called, the Tate Watercolour Manual, Lessons from the Great Masters by Tony Smibert and Joyce Townsend.  The second Master whose work is featured is Alexander Cozens, an 18th century painter. Cozens laid down accidental blots, dots and smears and constructed a composition from the resulting visual pattern.  This wasn’t the way artists worked at the time and some made fun of Cozens as the ‘Blotmaster General’.

One must have a repertoire of dots and blots before one can use them to advantage. Today’s warmup is an exploration of the uses of the watercolorist’s major tool, the paint brush.

In the panels below, I explore different marks I made from the brushes I use the most.

Watercolor Chart: Experiment with Brushmarks

Brush Marks with Different Brushes

I began with the upper left panel and proceeded clockwise with sepia pigment.

I used a #8 synthetic brush and began by poking the paper with the tip of the brush. Then I used the side of the brush to dab at the paper. I rolled the brush on its side, twisted it and crushed it into the paper to see what kind of marks I could make.

Next I used a 5/8″ synthetic, angular shader to perform many of the same maneuvers as I did in the first panel.

In the third panel I used a natural 1/2″ aquarelle brush.

Finally, I used a 1 1/2″ bristle brush. Although this may have been a little big for the size of the panel, I thought it important to include a brush with stiffer bristles. One can see a set of marks different than those made by the other 3  brushes.

The secret of keeping the brush marks patent is the amount of water in the brush. Experimentation determines the optimum water/pigment ratio for enduring brush marks.

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