Watercolor: Building up the Layers

When I first started working in watercolor I was intimidated by paintings with highlights and shadows. I thought I couldn’t possibly paint several layers. I hoped I could paint one layer and make it good enough. As I got comfortable with watercolor, I realized it’s all about building up the layers of paint. You start out in the ugly stages and as you add, and add, you [hopefully] turn the ugly duckling into a beautiful swan. I liked that you built it up, because mistakes could be covered or fixed. Each brushstroke wasn’t make or break. It’s a process.

This is what I was thinking about when I painted this sunflower this morning. How the ugly stage was awfully ugly! And how each layer of watercolor I added made the painting better. Originally I planned to add ink to the flower when I was done painting. As I got closer to finishing, I liked it the way it was. My daughter agreed.

19 thoughts on “Watercolor: Building up the Layers

    1. Thank you! I know! Sometimes it’s hard to wait. I usually start a painting in the morning, at the kitchen table, and then go do other things. Everytime I walk through the kitchen, I’ll add a little more.

  1. I like it too! How do you know when to stop adding layers, though. That’s where I have trouble. When each layer makes it better….when to stop? Yours is very nice. Beautiful colors!

  2. I love this. I totally relate to the ugly phase, it is part of the process – work with it. Like remodeling a house, things get worse before they get better. 🙂

  3. Your sunflower is lovely! Watching the transformation is one of my favorite things about creating. Sometimes the “ugly stages” can be highly frustrating, but by patiently keeping up the layering it somehow magically becomes our own masterpiece. Keep up the beautiful work!

    1. Thank you! It is interesting to see it transform especially if you don’t feel pressure to make it a work of art. I was panicking when I created the boardwalk painting for my mom, and it hit the ugly stage!

  4. I may have mentioned this, but I love watercolors. I can’t paint but I love to look at other people’s art. This was cool seeing the progression of this sunflower… it’s lovely.

  5. Thank you for sharing your process. I am just learning to handle acrylics and am also learning that everything has to go through an ugly stage. Of course, some of my paintings stay ugly but there is at least a prospect that some will come together.

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