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The Technical Process of Watercolor Painting: To Sketch or Not to Sketch?

Updated: May 7

Applying pigment to a canvas demands some kind of mapping - from the image to the canvas. Before the brush even touches the blank background, the inspiration and the realistic depiction of the inspiration will need to be translated in some form, especially in the practice of portraiture.

My personal process first begins with a photo expedition. Rather than painting or sketching preparatory images, I will compile a catalog of imagery, adjusting and altering the subject through the photographic process. Thumbnails, renderings and gestures are all accomplished at this stage.

As a studio artist that produces less than 20 finished works of art a year, I look for shortcuts when I can. Other techniques that some artists may employ are to create a pencil or charcoal sketch, to create a map of the territory or projecting a rendering of the image onto the canvas to be traced.

It is when I sit in front of the canvas that things get more traditional. Back at the studio with photos - that’s when the review process begins. I review the thumbnails of the photos and then I may do some thumbnail drawings.

I certainly do not expect to all artists to adopt my process, as it would be questioned in academia, however every artist must discover their own process and I have found that in this instance, the use of technology has added a significant advantage to my ability to visualize the end of the process and translate my inspiration into the canvas.

Pictured: Carolina Girl Prep #2

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