"Rose is Rose" - watercolor floral painting by Vermont artist Tony Conner

“Rose is Rose”

This painting was begun during a recent class as a demonstration of the wet-in-wet technique, sing a bouquet of various colored roses as the “model”. To paint a realistic looking rose is a challenge, due to their intricate and tightly bunched petals.  It takes a great deal of studied observation and skill to realistically render this beautiful flower. As an alternative to a realistic depiction, one can work to capture the character and impression of the rose a few with simple techniques, starting with a wet-in-wet application. The wet-into-wet watercolor technique is really quite simple to do and imparts a loose, free-flowing base that allows the color to remain fresh.  At the same time, it is a technique that many find scary and intimidating, mostly due to the fear of losing control of the wash.  While some control is lost, in the form of lost and indistinct edges, by employing the “dry on wet” techn This painting was begun by wetting the entire sheet with clear water and letting that stand for a few minutes.  This is so that the surface could dry a bit by both absorption – by the paper – as well as a little bit of evaporation.  It’s possible to tell when the surface is ready by looking across the paper – there should be a good sheen but no appearance of any standing water or puddles. I chose not to draw the shapes of the roses with a pencil, but used a 1″ flat brush to ‘carve’ the shapes out of the wet paper.   As mentioned before,  the wet-into-wet technique will result in lost edges.  It is possible to maintain recognizable shapes, even with their soft edges, by mixing your colors with a high proportion of pigment on your palette, picking up the color with your brush, and then “blotting” excess water from the bristles of the brush. (see images below).

High proportion of pigment in color mix

Use a high proportion of pigment in your color mixes when painting wet-into-wet

blotting your watercolor paint brush

Remove excess water from the brush by pinching the edge of a paper towel on the bristles at the edge of the ferrule

These two steps will help maintain a little bit of that desired control. The main shapes of the five roses were painted in and then the paper was allowed to dry. I continued with the 1″ flat brush through the remainder of this painting, using its sharp edge to twist impressions of the curvy shaded areas that define the edges of the petals, and to add the stems and leaves below.  The painting was finished up with application of some loose washes in the background.        

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