Draw Tight, Paint Loose

Learning to “paint loose” with watercolor is an interesting process, and nope, I haven’t got it all figured out yet. I doubt that I ever will, really. Still, I enjoy playing with watercolor, and every new thing I learn is one more step forward.

The latest bit of information I’ve picked up is an adage about “drawing tight” and then “painting loose.” It definitely sounds good, doesn’t it! Of course, drawing is my weakest area (although I continue to work on improving) and I’m always beset with questions about how detailed a “preliminary drawing” should be, especially for a “loose” watercolor!

The basic idea is to “establish a strong foundation”, according to watercolor artist Bev Jozwiak. She draws with more detail than she paints, thus giving herself the freedom to paint complex areas if she wishes, but to also “slop paint outside the lines” (her words, not mine) when she chooses. She also suggests erasing a few lines if that helps create a “looser” feeling. The idea, she emphasizes, is to break the habit of thinking we have to stay within the lines. That can be a tough habit to break!

I wanted to put this idea into practice. I’m painting my “midwestern roots” as much as possible, so I chose our state bird — the bluebird. I began by making a simple sketch. It wasn’t overly detailed, but I tried to mark out various areas, resolving then to go back and “paint loose”, not concerning myself too much with the lines I’d drawn.

I was pleased with the background effect — wetting the page than dropping in splashes of gansai — and overall I think this is a step in the right direction. I deliberately let the color of the branch “blur” into the background, and mostly I tried to get the shape and colors right. I should have erased the pencil lines around the bird’s head, I suppose, but all in all, this was a helpful exercise. I will be using the “draw tight, paint loose” technique in future watercolor paintings.

I have a lot to learn, and I’m still having fun learning it!

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4 Comments

    1. Thanks. It’s a lot about finding that “right” balance between too wet and not wet enough, and just the right amount of pigment. Very challenging. I’ll never be a watercolor artist, but I do love playing, and at least I have some idea now of what sort of “style” I want to develop.

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