Core Skills: Water­colour

In part two of her se­ries, Kelly McKernan shares in­sight into how to get the most out of your water­colour brushes, en­abling you to paint in a range of styles

ImagineFX - - Issue 163 August 2018 -

Dis­cover how to get the most of your water­colour brushes, with Kelly McKernan.

Var­i­ous brush types and ap­pli­ca­tion can re­sult in a soft and dewy com­po­si­tion, or a hard­edged, vi­brant scene. Pri­mar­ily, I’ll use the high­est qual­ity round Kolin­sky Sable brushes I can find, but I be­gan with stu­dent-grade brushes to dis­cover my pref­er­ences. Al­though they got the job done, cheaper brushes suf­fer from stray brush hairs, an in­abil­ity to hold as much wa­ter as I like, and pointy tips that don’t last too long. Once I in­vested in higher-qual­ity brushes, my tech­nique im­proved greatly.

Once you’ve dis­cov­ered the brushes that you en­joy work­ing with most, it’s im­por­tant to treat those brushes kindly. While water­colour doesn’t re­quire harsh medi­ums and rig­or­ous rules to work with, some care goes a long way in pre­serv­ing your brushes, and that in­cludes re­serv­ing them for wa­ter me­dia only. Work­ing with a brush that was pre­vi­ously used with oils or even acrylics will di­min­ish its ef­fec­tive­ness in car­ry­ing wa­ter and pig­ment. Keep your brushes up­right or flat and pointy and your paint­ings will thank you for it.

1 Water­colour brush types

Ev­ery brush has the po­ten­tial for many uses with water­colour, and some are bet­ter than oth­ers for spe­cific tasks. Round brushes are the most com­monly used be­cause of their ver­sa­til­ity. Liner brushes are ex­cel­lent for main­tain­ing width, and Flat brushes are able to cre­ate crisp edges. Fi­nally, a Mop brush is ideal for soak­ing and dis­tribut­ing large amounts of wa­ter.

2 Con­tour­ing with a steady hand

To achieve pre­cise strokes, your ap­pli­ca­tion tech­nique re­quires a steady hand. Sit­ting while aim­ing for pre­ci­sion is best, but you can also sta­bilise your hand with your lit­tle fin­ger an­chor­ing the pa­per. An­other tech­nique when us­ing a Round brush is to twist the brush while drag­ging, to achieve thin­ner lines.

3 Vary­ing the line width

To get the most out of your brushes, learn­ing to vary the line width can con­trib­ute to some ex­pres­sive strokes. This helps to de­velop a sense of the water­colour that your brushes con­tain in one stroke, which in turn as­sists in con­sis­tency.

4 Dry­brush­ing cre­ates in­ter­est­ing ef­fects

Es­pe­cially ef­fec­tive with a Flat brush, dry­brush­ing is achieved when the bris­tles sep­a­rate be­cause there’s less mois­ture present. This can be used to cre­ate a range of ef­fects, in­clud­ing hair, grass and wood grain. The shorter the brush, the eas­ier this is to achieve.

4 Com­bin­ing brush tech­niques

With time and prac­tice, you’ll dis­cover ways in which you can com­bine tech­niques to cre­ate in­ter­est­ing re­sults. Water­colour re­quires some in­tu­itive­ness and so the more com­fort­able you are with your brush tech­niques, the more re­cep­tive you’ll be to those mag­i­cal mo­ments when the water­colour tells you what your next move will be!

Kelly cre­ates orig­i­nal paint­ings for gal­leries, trav­els for con­ven­tions, and men­tors stu­dents via her Pa­treon. See her art at www.kel­lym­ck­er­nan.com.

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