Watercolor Technique Series 4 – Brushwork

Brushwork in watercolor painting

So what is Brushwork after all and why it should be such a big deal while painting in watercolor?

Brushwork can be defined as the process of applying paint on canvas/paper using a brush.What contributes the final outcome of brushwork in a painting (in context of watercolor technique) are amount and consistency of paint in the brush, the shape and size of the brush, wetness and surface texture of the paper, angle of the brush to the paper while applying paint, motion or movement of the brush, pressure of the brush on the paper, speed of the brush on paper, how the brush is held etc. In watercolor painting brushwork may seem not to be that important. That is because most of the painting in watercolor can be done by wash and wet in wet techniques. And many times we just let watercolor do its own things on paper where brush is not involved. So we can do away with brushwork in a watercolor painting and still produce great looking works.But is it really so?

Even in wash and wet in wet watercolour techniques size and shape of the brush, angle and pressure of the brush, motion and speed of the brush play an important role. If you really think of it anything that you do with a brush on paper is actually brushwork. Brushwork is the major technique that contributes to the ‘style’ of a watercolor artist. Moreover unlike other surfaces watercolor paper is responsive to how the brush touches it. You go a little hard and the surface can get damaged. But at times a painting demands aggressive brushwork. Hence brushwork is as important (if not more) to watercolor painting as it is to any other medium.

Examples of Brushwork Watercolor Technique

Below are some examples of brush work in my paintings. These are only a few examples. The possibilities of brushwork are actually limitless and you have to experiment with different ways to really understand the range of brushwork that you can produce.

 

Natural marks of a round brush
The white flowers in this painting are nothing but natural marks of a round brush in different tones, sizes and direction.
Fast and confident use of rigger brush
The line shadows of different objects is actually what gives this painting movement and energy. These have been done with confident and fast strokes using a loaded rigger brush.
Flat brush side strokes
The textures edge of the distant hills in this painting has been achieved by putting a semi loaded flat brush almost flat to the paper pointing away and then moving the brush forward and backward rhythmically.
Synthetic round brush strokes
The reflection of the boats is done with a synthetic round brush using rhythmic overlapping horizontal strokes. Synthetic brush is used to get the fine pointed ends of the reflection shape.
Round brush side strokes
The almost dry leaves of the tree are done using the side of a round brush.
Flat brush strokes
The hair of the portrait is done with overlapping fast strokes of a flat brush.
Dry brush strokes
Fast and confident dry brush strokes using rigger and round brushes give life to this painting.
Dry brush on wet strokes
The brown buildings in this painting are loaded with various types brush works. And this creates movement and interest.

Practicing Brushwork

 

Brushwork is all about practice. The idea is to get used to a brush and build muscle memory of using it in different ways. Hence a lot of deliberate practice is needed along with the practice you get from doing a painting. There are many type of brush control practice available on internet. You can pick up few of them and practice. The brush exercises by John Lovett is simple to understand and great for practicing.

The last thing I would like to touch upon is what is known as ‘Economy of brush strokes’. There is an optimum amount of brushwork that works for a painting. Anything beyond that makes the painting too heavy. It is always good to stay below the optimum amount of brushwork than to overdo it. Hence keeping amount of brush strokes to minimum in every stage of the painting is very crucial in retaining the freshness of the painting. And this fact can never be stressed enough.

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