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Painting Watercolor Lace

By Mary Ann Boysen

I recommend that you master painting watercolor lace without photo realism.

The way I start is by selecting a very small portion of the lace and making a fairly detailed pencil sketch of it on my paper. Then I repeat this design in a looser manner as many times as needed to complete my still life.

I also place something dark beneath the watercolor lace so that I can see the pattern more clearly, then I carefully draw the basic image of the lace. Then I draw the repeated pattern, and repeat this procedure several times, until my mind has memorized the basic pattern.

It is just like practicing the piano. Repeat, repeat, repeat, until your mind and fingers have it memorized. It is not necessary to draw in every little hole in the lace....just the main pattern.  I do this on a piece of paper. When I have it memorized it is then time to draw it on my watercolor paper.

Lace PatternsThe other details can be put in with a brush when I begin to paint. Even then, I don't find it necessary to paint every little hole. I let the viewer's mind imagine what he is seeing. Click on this image to see the larger picture.

Once you have this design in your mind, it is time to paint. The viewer is never aware that I have taken any liberties with the pattern, and they are very impressed with my ability to do what looks like an intricate drawing or painting. Your viewers will be impressed too.

They will never know if I have slightly changed the pattern.

Now I can put this on my watercolor paper and begin to paint. I dare say, that you may not even have to draw it on the paper, but that you will have memorized the shapes just because you have drawn it enough times to know exactly where the negative shapes (background shapes in this case) are.

Lace Patterns 2Here I have taken some liberties with color. I carefully paint clear water in each negative space, then drop a color with the tip of my brush and let it flow into the wet area, trying not to let brush stokes show. If the area is not totally wet, you might have to help it along with the tip of your brush.

In an adjoining space, I repeat the process, but might drop in another color, and with the brush, blend the two colors at their edges. This is only for dramatic effect. Perhaps you would prefer the same color in the background all over the painting. The choice is certainly yours.

As you continue this process you might not use a pencil at all. And if you make a mistake, I doubt that anyone will notice. Just keep repeating the pattern as well as you can remember it. By this time you might even be able to see how it would look if it were folded. The pattern, like shadows in the landscape, will follow the flow of the fabric.

Lace Patterns 3Probably the most difficult thing to learn when painting is how to determine negative shapes. It is in discovering this that an entire new possibility and challenge is presented to us as artists. When you get to this point in the painting, you can add further detail (the little holes in the watercolor lace). Don't make it such a difficult thing by counting the holes and trying to make them exact! Use either a 1/8" flat brush or a small round brush to make the holes. If they are square or rectangular in shape, the flat brush is appropriate. If they are more like little circles, the round brush is the one to use.

It is not necessary to paint every little hole in watercolor lace. You can start with one area, and when you get to the edge of your paper, you can fade out the color of the holes so that you eye is on the focal point and not carried off the page by all the detail at the edges.

Return To Watercolor Techniques From Watercolor Lace

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