A year ago (doesn’t time fly when you are having fun!) I wrote two blog posts related to colour, the first: Colouring in 1 introduced my initial experiences with watercolour and the approaches I was taking to add colour in terms of media and tools, in the second blog: ‘Then don’t use brown’ I introduced the approaches I was taking to selective colouring. During the last year colour has come up as a question in my mind in virtually every drawing I have done, but I haven’t devoted another a whole blog to it again until now. Here are the questions I go through as I am drawing:
- Should I add colour at all (what is the aim of the drawing?);
- If yes to colour: when should I add it;
- What colours to use
- Where to place the colour
- What techniques (sometimes I am stricter with myself than others, it depends!)
and the order I ask them isn’t always the same! Interestingly, a couple of weeks ago I started playing more with bolder colour. This blog focuses upon colour as the focus of the work and is either applied instead of line or applied before line. Whilst there are probably several or many other ways of using bold colour, I am focusing here on the approaches I have tried rather than trying to make it all things to all people. I am also not talking techniques of application of paint in detail although I do mention it. As ever, there have been some guiding lights in this work and they are mentioned below.
Colour without line
The idea of initial colour is a relatively new one on me! I usually focus on line and add colour. This was blown out the water a little bit by Liz Steel’s Edges course whereby those elements in full sun receive no hard edges and can virtually disappear or be a pale tone (so-called lost edges). You can read my review of that course and see my examples here.
Then a couple of weeks ago I attended a workshop with Judith Farnworth at the Salford Art Club where the intention was to depict some domes from Venice, without using line, no colour mixing in the palette (it works much better on the paper), a limited selection of up to 5 colours and plenty of water to run down the page, then letting it dry in-between before adding final details wet-on-dry. Here is the result:
I am not a fan of traditional watercolour so this much looser, spontaneous approach really grabbed my attention. It needs a lot of practice and this is just an initial attempt but you get the idea. I think with thought it could be applied well to urban sketching on location but I’m less than ready for that yet! To achieve the sort of structure I am after in my drawings, without line, unless something simple, is a little bit mind-blowing for me at the moment but sure its achievable! Here is the technique again, applied on a very small scale for a recent Sketchbook Skool assignment.
And again, in Felix Scheinberger‘s Sketchbook Skool Expressing class, this time using feint watercolour pencil before focusing upon glazes (good for creating depth and texture through layering) and washes (allowing the mixing of paints); this one isn’t loose enough but you can see the potential!
Colour before line
A recent trip with the Manchester Urban Sketchers, to the Royal Exchange Theatre enabled me to think of adding colour first again. Here, given the strong architecture, intensity of colour and my interest in adding people and detail, I decided to place bold colour (mainly wet-in-wet) (in approximately the right places but not precision located!), allow it to dry and then place the line work (using a Lamy Safari and waterproof ink) over. Additional colour was added as necessary to bring the drawing together. I like the looseness but again this needs more practice. An enjoyable approach, especially if you want to be looser and freer rather than too tight and precise.
Colour or not to colour (that is the question)
An alternative approach that I often use is to selectively colour. I use it as a way of guiding the viewer through the drawing and often I am using clean line work with some detail. Here you can see it with and without colour. Whilst a number of people suggested keeping it in black and white, I think the selective colour added gives extra depth and highlights key elements. Using a very limited colour palette and colours that work well together is key.
As ever, thanks for reading and I will be back with more of my sketching adventures soon!