When I first began painting, I started in oils. They seemed bright and vivid to me. Watercolors, on the other hand, seemed washed out, insipid and boring. All pastel, no contrast.
Then I discovered GOOD watercolor paintings! Colors jumped off the page and really grabbed my interest. Lights and darks in high contrast lit up the paintings.
So I decided to try watercolors and discovered how NOT to make a boring painting!
First, of course, the composition has to be interesting. No houses centered in the middle of the paper. No trees bisecting the page. No perfect symmetry. We use a tic-tac-toe approach to composition. Place your center of interest in one of the four places where the lines intersect. That is your Center of Interest.
It is also where your lightest lights or darkest darks will be painted.
Draw out a sketch of the painting, and shade with pencil using at least 4 degrees of lights and darks (white paper counts as one light). This is a Value Sketch. If you don’t have four shades going from a 0% shading to at least 80% shading, you don’t have enough contrast and your painting will be boring. Here is one that I did for my painting “Fall in Central Park”.
Squint at your sketch and see if the darks “jump” out at you. If so, you are ready to go! If you are drawing outside, take a piece of red acetate with you. Hold it up and look through it at the subject. This takes the color out and allows you to see the lights and darks better. You can also do a small painting in one color (value painting) to make sure you have enough lights and darks. If not, rearrange your composition to have lights and darks complement each other.
Use more paint than water for the darks and to maintain the lovely bright colors from your palette. Just remember to leave some white paper!
Your job as an artist is to entertain and you do that with beautiful lights and juicy darks! Give it a try and you will love the results!