Monday, 24 June 2013

A word about equipment

Although your aquadoodles can have other mark-makers on them, the basis is is always going to be watersoluble paint, pencils or pastels. Otherwise we'd give them a different name,e.g. mixed media, which can involve oil, acrylic or tempera. Aquadoodle as a label is meant to serve as a preparation for any other medium, including mixed media. But mixed media can consist of dry pigments over structure paste etc, and that would not be the same thing. Aquadoodles are always on paper!  

Getting to grips with the two aquadoodles I left unfinished last week, which I will post later today, I realized after trying to continue with dry mark-makers that the doodles were really crying out for water, so I remoistend my palette and started.

Apart from the paper, which I moaned about in a previous post, other tools are of course needed.  I have already discovered that acrylic paper is robust and good if it has a good surface, since any paint will run if there's enough moisture in it, so acrylic paper does not stop you working with runny paint, but sturdy watercolour paper - the sort that doesn't buckle at the sight of water - is also good for aquadoodling. I don't recommend stretching. If the paper is robust, that should not be necessary, but if you prefer to wet and stretch your paper, who am I to argue?

After years of trying out all sorts of brushes I have come to the conclusion that unless you have a small fortune to spend on the very best, the French mops shown in the photo are the most efficient for most watery jobs. They hold a lot of water (i.e. paint) and have wonderful tips, the two qualities watercolour brushes must have. I use a thick one and a medium-thick one. I have fine French ones made by the same company, but find them too soft most of the time, so I use 2 other brushes for some of the fine work - a No. 5 (red martin) for softening edges and a 3 No. (synthetic), which is firm and makes very accurate marks. 

fat French mop - medium mop - No. 5 red martin - No. 3 synthetic


I have a huge collection of brushes that don't do as good a job as the ones in the photo. It's trial and error. You could add a stiff bristle brush for lifting colour off - this is useful for shading with the paint that's already on the paper. A stiff synthetic brush, preferably flat, will also do the job.

The other element is of course your paint. You can use water-soluble crayons etc., but I'm referring to actual paint, which is much more versatile in tubes than out of pans and that's essential if you are painting mixed colours big. To make the most of your tubes, you need a decent palette. I use a fairly large melamine butcher's tray, and I reactivate any paint left on it from a previous session by spraying it with plain water. If the tray gets to the stage where there's no space for mixing, I wipe parts of it clean with wet kitchen paper or tissues. The argument that rewetting paint is not good is contradictory to the practice of using sets of little pans that are rewetted every time you use them. 

I don't use a limited palette, but certain colours pop up in every painting. One of the delights of a big mixing area is that you can actually mix new colours from what's already there.

My new shade of the day was mixed from sepia, magenta and cobalt blue. I could not find the neutral tint I normally use, but this mix is at least as intensive. Here it is under the white shapes.

shade of the day: cobalt+ magenta+sepia
As with all mixed shades, you can only tell by looking what the proportions should be for your purpose. This shade is probably also attainable with just sepia + purple. Remember that different manufacturers have different ideas about their colours. The advantage of the big mixing area is that you will probably have some of the colour left over for next time - at least enough to remix it! There is no wastage.

I love Lukas watercolours for most tasks. The tubes are big and the colours bright. Winsor + Newton have a marvellous range and some of their colours are unique. Their Cotman (studio) watercolours I bought as an 'end of line' bargain are very nice. You don't need the most expensive W+N or other paints to do aquadoodles, but I must admit that I often turn to Schminke's Horadam. The truth is that once you've used quality paints you won't want the others!

I do use black, but it is rather a dead shade for shadows, since shadow colours depend on what they are shading. But you can use black to darken colours and it makes brilliant greens when mixed with yellow. For a very bright green, you would mix a blue with your yellow. Black is not just black! It can lean towards green, blue or brown. Test the colour or read the pigment information before buying. 

I also use white if I need to. I have two colours in little bottles, made by Schminke and called 'aquacryl'. They are white and lemon yellow, and I have discovered that although they are permanent on the paper, you can rejuvenate them on a plastic or melamine palette. I very seldom need the white, but often use the yellow to make green.  

I try to retain the white of my paper and rarely use masking fluid, though it is almost essential if you are painting predrawn images and want to be quite sure the white of the paper does not disappear prematurely! I would not use masking fluid on aquadoodles since part of the fun is the unexpectedness of being led on by what you already have! 

That's about it, I think.