Monday, October 19, 2009

Candy Dish Lesson

The first stage of this painting was to create a drawing from a photo I took of some candy in a dish on a very sunny day. I set up the still life on our lanai while it could be washed in the crisp morning sunlight.
Next, I scrubbed the back of the drawing with a Chunky Graphite Stick (can be purchased at It's important to scrub hard and deposit a lot of graphite on the paper, so when the drawing is traced onto the watercolor paper, almost no pressure is required. This will prevent indentations in your paper from pressing too hard. These depressions can collect pigment and create ugly marks and lines in your painting.
I tape the drawing along one edge to create a sort of hinge. Now I can trace the image onto my watercolor paper, and lift the drawing occasionally to view my progress. Again, when tracing, use a light touch!!!
Remove your drawing and fold it in half. You may want to use it again sometime!
If you would like to join us in painting this piece, for $5.00 you can order the printable reference files from my etsy shop:

Even though the drawing is on the watercolor paper now, there is still another step before paint is applied to this piece. I wanted to mask the areas of absolute white (the paper will be my white), which I need to save. If I mask these areas, they will be preserved and I don't have to be quite as careful when laying down the wet washes.
To mask, I use a small container that holds a bar of soap and some water. You can use dish soap also, but I like the bar of soap because it is a little thicker. My second small container holds a tiny bit of masking, just enough for the current project. This protects my fragile masking fluid in its larger container. Masking dries out quickly, so I like to keep my larger container closed, except for pouring a small amount into my little container that I work from.

I use a small, cheap brush. Don't ever mix masking fluid or its water, with your watercolor paints or brushes. Any masking that gets into your water tub can eventually get into your good brushes and ruin them forever.
I saturate the brush with the soapy mixture by brushing into the very wet, thick bar of gooey soap. Then, I dip into the masking and apply a small amount at a time. Again, dip into the soapy mixture, pick up a little more masking and apply. The soap keeps your brush from getting saturated with masking fluid. The brush will stay soft and workable for a long time. The last thing I do is scrub the brush in the soapy mixture one last time. I don't wash out the brush, I just leave the soapy mixture in it. My masking brushes last a long time!
Allow the masking to air dry. If you dry it with a hair dryer, the heat can make the masking sink into the paper and it will be more difficult to remove.


Darla, Pencil Portrait Artist said...

This is very neat - so you use the soap as a kind of frisket? I haven't done much watercolor and have always had trouble controlling it.

Debbie Johnson said...

I actually use the soap to keep the frisket out of the brush and ferule. I soak the brush with soap, then use the masking, dipping back and forth to keep the brush filled with soap. When I am done masking, I just rinse the brush and it is as good as new, instead of being gummed up with masking and ruined. It works great!