Dogwood Blossoms

Image can be clicked for a larger version
6x18" on Stillman & Birn Beta paper

My favorite way to work in watercolor is to Just Do It. No pencil lines (or just a few for compositional guidance), no ink......Just straight in directly with a brush and pigment, getting as much down in a single pass as possible. There's something very unique about the way watercolor glows and jumps off the page when it's not fussed with. About six months ago, I ditched the non-transparent colors in my watercolor palette, and found that also made a huge difference in getting the paint and paper to give each other their very best.

That's not to say that I don't need to occasionally bail myself out with opaque lights like Cadmium Yellow or even Titanium White, or that I don't enjoy working with opaque color at times too --- especially on a toned surface. I do. But in restructuring my palette over the past six months, I decided to use gouache for that purpose. After all, if you need to go opaque, that's the way to do it. I took one of the Schmincke palettes that comes with two rows of half pans, removed the metal plate, and squeezed five (yes, five!) rows of half pans into it. Three of those rows were watercolor, and two were gouache. You may recall the post I did about that palette not too long ago. Here's my color chart from that set, as of last week:

It gave me a lot to choose from, but it proved to be heavy for hiking in the mountains. So last week, I pulled out my old palette, which is this one:

I discovered that by removing the metal plate and turning the half pans sideways, I could fit a fourth row into that smaller palette, and it's a lot lighter too. It was hard deciding which colors would stay and which would go, but this is the configuration I eventually ended up with:
 Yep, I'm down to one row of gouache, and kept three rows of transparent watercolor pigments. The dogwood blossoms sketch was one of my test drives for this new setup. So far, it seems to be working, and I'm happy with the lighter weight. Of course, when I need to travel super-light, I can always resort to the mini set I posted yesterday.

This is all a long-winded way of saying that as artists, our ideas continue to change, evolve, and come back around. It's all part of the fun of exploring our world of materials. What we work with depends on what we're painting, what we're painting on, how much time we have, what we're able to carry, and where we're going. And of course as watercolor painters well know, one can never have too many palettes! ;)

I know I promised a tour of my little red sketch kit for today, but I realized I need to take one more photo and do the image adjustment before I can write that post. It will come soon though!


  1. Lovely sketch of the blossoms.

    I love seeing your palettes and how they change. Can't wait to see what is in the little red bag..

  2. As usual, your post is inspiring!

  3. Hi, I'm new to your blog, and love how you combine gouache and watercolor. Do you have any trouble with using the same brush in both gouache & watercolor? thanks!

  4. .Hi Cathy, and welcome to my site. I prefer stiffer brushes for gouache than for watercolor when given a choice!