Working with White

All images ©Bivenne Staiger

In watercolor, only the shadows and dark shapes of white objects are painted. A lit shape is simply left as unpainted paper. So light and shadow are key in developing a shape’s form. I usually begin with the palest blush of shadow and bleed it out into, and integrate it with, the palest background wash, as seen here. Salt, lightly sprinkled onto the wet paint, adds a bit of background texture. In this painting, I also purposely dripped water here and there for added textural effects, and let the paper dry.

All images ©Bivenne Staiger

Next, a large, basically single form shadow shape begins to define the fur texture and three-dimensionality of this dog. Note that it varies in color temperature from cool at top and bottom to warm around the face. This wash, when applied, was the same value as the first wash, but appears darker because it was layered on top of the previous.

All images ©Bivenne Staiger

The cast shadow on the ground now anchors the animal in space. Because transparent paint was used, the salt effects added earlier peek through. Again, the value of this wash when applied was the same as the earlier washes, but appears dark in this case because a different blue (Cobalt) is used.

All images ©Bivenne Staiger

Now small details are added in their palest value at first and allowed to dry.

Snowball, Watercolor, 12×16″ ©Bivenne Staiger 2020

Though I met this little guy on a hiking trail on a hot day and don’t know its name, I’m calling it “Snowball.” Shadows from the long hairs cast onto the tongue seem to give energy to this creature. They’re achieved by carefully painting a cool pink shadow across the tongue shape, and warming it slightly at right. The cast shadows of dog and owner tie the subject to its plain background.

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