In case you missed it, I posted a great video last night about creating value in a watercolor painting by using layers.
This was a quick study I did based on the video. I was going to do a street scene or some other subject with well-defined edges, but I opted for a portrait instead. She came out looking a bit freaky (I think she could have definitely benefited from some hair and a shoulder! haha) but overall I’m happy with the result…especially considering how quickly I painted it.
The darks are really dark, and the white of the paper has been preserved in multiple places. I did the washes on dry paper so the edges are sharp. If I had done them on wet paper, however, I think the edges would have blended together and created soft, smooth looking skin.
At any rate, what I really like about the painting is that the dark values still have that “inner glow” that watercolors are known for. They aren’t dull and lifeless like they would have been if I just globbed on a bunch of thick paint.
This is just a theory, but I think maybe using layers allows the transparency of the paint to be maintained. As a result, the light travels through the paint, bounces off the white paper and is reflected back up through the paint. It makes it so the colors almost glow. By the way, that’s one thing I forgot to mention about layering – obviously it works best with transparent colors.
At any rate, if you want to practice getting a wider range of values in your paintings, this is a fun exercise. It goes really quickly and it’s cool to see the final result.