Part 1, project 2, exercise 1: Transparent and opaque – tonally graded wash

Updated on 19 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

25 February, 2016. For this exercise I made several longish strips using my discarded heavy watercolour paper paintings, both smooth and rough, and followed the instructions in the study guide.
Since I am working with acrylic paint, I soon found out that in order to produce a  graded wash I would need to work quickly and developed a system allowing satisfactory results. When still wet the finished strips looked better than they did after having become dry, so none of them are perfect, although I noticed that I became better with practice.

With the colours (Amsterdam) and types of paper I used in this exercise the difference between wet-in-wet washes and painting on a dried layer was hardly noticeable. Luckily I had seen the expected effects before on other occasions, e.g. with the pear painted on smooth cardboard for exercise 1b of Project 1. I did notice, however, that some pigments seem to repel each other at the microscopic level, which when painting wet-in-wet will leave small areas of incomplete mixing, somewhat like freckles on a face. The same effect I know from certain watercolour pigments, where a drop of one colour put into a puddle of the other will cause the latter to move towards the edges of the puddle instantly. I have not done the experiment recently, but think I remember it was particularly effective, and annoying, with Schmincke Horadam indigo.

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Figure 1. Tonally graded washes, first layer, top: ultramarine, bottom: bluegreen
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Figure 2. Tonally graded washes, ultramarine and bluegreen, left: on dried layer, right: wet in wet
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Figure 3. Tonally graded washes: left and right: on dried layer, centre: wet in wet
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Figure 4. Tonally graded wash, detail

In the above picture (Fig. 4) a difference between wet in wet washes and letting the first layer dry first is visible because the brush strokes on the “solid” side of the first colour became enhanced by the second colour and thus form a most attractive “glazing” effect.

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Figure 5. Tonally graded wash: wet in wet, detail

In contrast, the above example (Fig. 5) shows the effect of wet in wet painting: The result is a more or less unstructured mix in different proportions, a glazing effect is missing.

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Figure 6. Tonally graded washes. Left: on dried first layer, right: wet in wet

In the last set of the series (Fig. 6 above) I think that I spotted a few other differences between dried and wet in wet layers. Apart from not liking the red-green combination and a strange impression of a “magnetic repulsion” between the two colours the most dilute washes on the most solid first layers at either end of the strip seem to have helped enhance the chroma of the latter, while the central bit seems to have lost its radiance, it appears grey rather than coloured. A glazing effect was not visible in either of the two strips.
In my eyes the most successful of the combinations was the dried bluegreen and gold ochre wash. Will try and read about the physics and chemistry behind the above!

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