Original post: www.flickr.com/photos/augustusswift/6419392207

Gila and repkej:
Just a technical note because of your generous comments:
I have been painting watercolors for the best part of fifty years, and I have learned a thing or two from the great masters of the medium, like Sargent, Homer and Eakins.
I have also learned from contemporary and modern artists.
Here are a couple of maxims I try to keep in mind when I work:
Don't use too much water. It weakens the color.
Initial washes have to be ( often) greatly diluted when painting the figure or portraits. But from that stage of the painting forward, try to use as little water as possible. Avoid "watercolor anemia."
Let initial washes dry thoroughly. Then they can be worked over with relative impunity.
I always paint with a paper towel in my left hand. Many grievous mistakes can be erased in a few seconds, and washes can be lessened in their density without diluting with water over much.
Try using gum arabic mixed with your watercolor paint sometime. You can buy gum arabic at your art store, or online from DANIEL SMITH ART MATERIALS and other outlets. I'm not a Smith salesman, of course, but their watercolors ( which they manufacture themselves) are excellent and so are their other watercolor materials.
( explanatory article about gum arabic with watercolor):
www.artistsnetwork.com/medium/watercolor/the- secret-of-gu...
I often paint with no underdrawing at all, so that I am free to adjust shapes and forms as I go.
I try to make all my portraits and figures in two passes ( occasionally three), each about an hour long. This means I paint pretty fast.
Then they dry overnight. In the morning, when I'm seeing clearly and not exhausted from concentrating ( this has become more of a danger-- fatigue-- as I have aged) I make a few adjustments or throw them away and (maybe) start over. There was a sharp break-off at age sixty in both my eyesight and my hand-to-eye co-ordination. But some of this can be compensated for by experience, i.e. I feel the mistakes coming and can anticipate them.
I try to work as spontaneously as possible. Nothing is deader than a dead watercolor painting.
Likewise, I try to make certain strokes that are "unanticipated" or "uncontrolled"-- poor terms to describe what is a mysterious process when it comes off.
I prefer the jazz guitarist's phrase: (Tuck Andress) put this phrase on one of his albums to describe his technique while playing, "reckless precision."
Ted Kautzky, the Hungarian-American watercolorist and teacher, put in his oar ( or his brush) with some Zen-like pronouncements:
Don't use too much water.
In at least some parts of the painting , use the color nearly straight from the tube.
Don't mix colors overmuch.
Always remember that some colors are sediments and some are stains.
Use the best quality paints, paper and brushes you can.
Stop when you feel you are 80 percent finished.
Don't fiddle. Be decisive and let it stand. If it doesn't work, scrub it out or throw it away, No "in-between" painting. Be fierce when you must.
( the last two take the longest apprenticeship to estimate properly and judiciously).
Just some observations that have bubbled to the surface over the years.
Writing and painting are drastically separate arts, but maybe the words above can help convey some of my strategies.
In "the heat of battle" as jazz guitarist Larry Coryell says, " You don't have time to think about notes. You just make music. " Which is to remind his students ( and the students I used to teach) that many of the modes of knowing and executing watercolors I have described need to be pretty deeply ingrained and assimilated before they can be applied.
With oil, or even acrylic ( nowadays with the longer "open" time some acrylic brands provide you) you can put down a stroke or paint an area , stop, and contemplate what you have done for a while before going on. And you can make unlimited changes to your painting.
But watercolor is different, which is why it's more difficult for most painters than oil.
Many of these watercolor techniques can be inferred from a ( very, very) close study of the greats, Homer, Sargent, Andy Wyeth, and his son, Jamie, who is also a first-rate watercolorist.
An old acquaintance of mine, JERALD SILVA, one of the most amazing and virtuosic watercolorists I know of in America, coats his large papers with glue ( one can also use acrylic medium) and after it has dried, paints watercolor over his glue ground. This permits him to lift the color completely back to the white paper at any stage and in any area of his painting. His paintings are remarkably luminous, including his darks, and his imagination and expression are second to none.
Here is his web site. Take a look at his work. You may get some ideas from him. I have.
( Jerald Silva website):
www.jeraldsilva.com/art_pages/page01/page01_1 1.html
Your Flickr friend,
Norman