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Watercolor Painting Without Drawing

These are instructions for watercolor painting without drawing that I share with my journal painting students. When you are traveling, there is just no time to sketch and then paint before it is time to move on.

First and foremost a watercolorist needs to train his/her eye to see shapes…..and most importantly negative shapes.

A great exercise is how to paint your name (with which you are most familiar) in negative shapes.

Beginning with painting a rectangle in a pale color, then painting your name (with a flat brush) in a complimentary color. Use a block type style and print your name. You may also draw a rectangle around it (touching the tops and bottoms of the letters). Examine then, the shapes around the letters.

Betty Blockbuster

Next try painting those shapes instead of the letters. Not so easy! (ALSO, try other complimentary colors.

Orange Bar

Reverse BettyB

If you think this is hard, try writing your name in longhand and then painting the negative shapes!

But you should get the idea. It takes practice, just like learning to print your name all over again! Watercolorists are the only artists that need to train themselves to see these shapes. That is probably what makes watercolor a bit more difficult than other mediums.

When you think you have mastered this you may continue with some easier shapes!

Start with simple shapes (overlapping)

Two or three rectangles or squares

Watercolor Squares

Two or three round shapes (apples, oranges, lemons or a variety of round objects).

Three Shapes

Draw a window (first using a pencil).

Window Pencil

Paint a window using a flat brush (preferably 1/4 to 1/2 inches wide.

Window Brush

Speed it up using just a brush

Painting a tree

With a flat brush, paint the foliage of a tree (any shape that you desire). Pine trees come to a point at the top, and deciduous trees are more broad spread. When the paint is dry, put a few smaller shapes within the larger shape for depth.

Now paint the trunk and branches. The smaller branches may be in front of the foliage or sticking out through some of the holes in the foliage.

Watercolor Tree

Lesson 7: Negative Shapes and Perspective >>

<< Lesson 5: Dramatic Skies

Return to Watercolor Lessons

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Learning the Basics of Watercolor
Learning the Basics of Watercolor

Painting Flowers in Watercolor
Painting Flowers in Watercolor

Painting on Watercolor Canvas

Painting on Watercolor Canvas


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