I came out having just gotten a book called Direct Watercolor by Marc Taro Holmes, an urban sketcher from Canada whose work I admire. I am self taught in watercolor, and he's got several techniques I really admire and want to spend some time practicing. The hardest for me is remembering to leave some chinks of paper as highlights. I tend to grab a brush and start too enthusiastically, so it's a strong mental exercise for me to try to be more restrained. Marc also talks about edges, and where you want them to bleed and where you want them to be crisp. He also talks about three passes with your painting -- a light "tea" layer first, a medium "milk" layer for more depth, and a final pass of "honey" for thick darks only. I'm impatient about letting the piece dry between layers, so that's another place for me to practice patience. I've layered more in the last few years, but this is a nicely ordered and intentional way of thinking about it.
So I went out to Rasar State Park, my favorite spot to paint here, to practice. I love the brain fizz of trying new things, and I was really pleased with my first day's work (though I also always see the things I wish I could fix). I'm looking forward this year to having more time to paint in this beautiful part of the country. I still want to do some book work (Mr. Darcy's Odyssey is waiting), but it's nice to take a little time and just do what feels good after all the deadlines of shows.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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