Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Creekscape.....or Washing Away Water (colour that is....) with Water.


16 x 20 colored pencil over watercolour
various brands of watercolours
various brands of coloured pencils (mostly Prismas and Polys)
Done on HiLine smooth illustration board
Photo by Frank Lyne, and used with his permission and approval

This time around I'm mixing watercolours with colored pencils.

A while back, I was looking thru my UFO (UnFinished Objects) file, and came across this half way done watercolour sketch. I'd used a lovely photo that Frank had taken when he did a creek walk. My intent at the time was to use watercolours in a very hi key colour way for the underpainting, and possibly glaze over with darker colours to mute, but not hide, the bright colours. The only thing was, I'd used hot press illustration board (a thick paper surfaced with a slick coating) that kept the watercolours very “on the surface”. That coating didn't allow the watercolours to sink in as they would on regular watercolour paper. The watercolours threatened to wash right off when I tried to apply a second set of washes. So I laid this sketch back and forgot about it.

Recently I decided to “pick up” this watercolour sketch again, and see what would happen if I went over the “on the surface” watercolours with wax coloured pencils. My normal progression in coloured pencils is to go from left to right, keeping my right (and pencil) hand on waste paper to protect the watercolour washes already laid down. I penciled in some dark and more intense colours on the left hand tree trunk and foreground rocks and leaves. It looked OK......but the tree was a bit thick towards the top. I decided that I needed a fork in the tree top. Putting white colored pencil over the dark coloured watercolour (to form a fork in the top of the trunk) didn't seem like the best solution.....so I instead took a moist acrylic brush (slightly stiffer bristles than a watercolor one....but not too much!), and lightly went over the watercolour of the tree trunk. Lo and behold......the watercolour that was resting on the surface of the paper lifted right off.....and didn't leave a residue. I could then put in a bit of sky colour and voila! I had a fork in the tree.

You can see here the differences just a little water erasing and coloured pencil detailing can make. I went on to work on some of the mid ground trees,rocks and reflections. I could use the lovely detailing in the mid ground roots/branches but still keep it “mid ground” by detailing with greyed and muted colours. If a bit of watercolour got “in the way” of where I needed a tree branch.....all I had to do was wipe it off with a bit of water. Almost as good as the erase button on a computer!

As I progressed across the page, I decided that tho' I'd followed Frank's source photo, the foreground rocks were not exactly in the best composition for my framing. This is the point in every artwork, where the “needs of the artwork, over rule the original source image”. I changed the foreground rocks crossing the creek from a straight line, to a slight bow shape that echoed the far creek shore line. Again, it was quite easy to do, due to the slick surface. Just a bit-o-water and the watercolour rocks vanished, to be replaced with rocks just where they were needed.

I continued on detailing in coloured pencils till I was ready to “call it done”.


  1. Wonderful Alison... thanks for the sharing of your process. This is simply so lovely. The reflections, the details and the fluid waters.

  2. Hi Ginger. That's high praise indeed, from someone who did a whole book about the water luving elephant, Gunther! Thanks SO much.