My Process

My watercolor journal, Sept. 8, 2015. C. Maniglia.
My watercolor journal, Sept. 8, 2015. C. Maniglia.

My watercolor sketchbook is the perfect place to experiment, practice, and learn. I feel like a floodgate has opened. After all the doodling and playing around I’ve been doing, I have a new approach to landscapes. In my sketchbook, I am free to do “whatever.” And that same “whatever” principal applies to light subject matter – like a simple scallop shell or just plan scribbling as it does for the more “serious” stuff we artists sometimes tend to aspire to (re: landscapes). My process for this watercolor journal page was …

  1. Take a morning walk. Bring my cell phone, which takes awesome photos. Walk meditatively and notice what a great scene is before me, a path leading to a creek in my neighborhood. It is early morning, end of summer, and the light is streaming in. Take photo.
  2. Go home, notice how gorgeous photo is. Post photo on Facebook. My friends and relatives love it.
  3. Decide photo and scene could be a good exercise for practicing watercolor with light and shadow. Print out a fast draft copy in black and white and save for later to use as a reference to paint. My color cartridge is out so I could only print in black and white. No worries. This is the main thing anyway. Colors come easily to me. So that won’t be a terrible challenge.
  4. Early morning, open my watercolor journal and two sets of watercolor paints – one semi good (Reeves travel kit) and one not good at all (a kid’s set but who cares?). Using a limited palette at first of yellow, ultramarine blue and brown, I paint light shades, no sketching first. Wet on dry. My sketchbook paper is thin, so I can’t be very wet. This is unlike when I first started painting again in watercolors back in Feb. 2015 – I’d stretch paper, paint wet in wet and get wetter and wetter and have to use tons of paper towels – and it was so frustrating. I find painting wet on dry suits my style better, and then I can always quickly add another color to the wet wash to get a bleed if I want, without making a big mess.
  5. After the light wet on dry, I did just as I said, and added a little more wet same colors to deepen the tone, this time adding in a dark green. Then I let it dry a bit and kept darkening up – now with yellow ochre, brown, ultramarine blue, and green.
  6. Not enough contrast. I build up areas with graphite pencil now. Using a thick, soft lead. I also keep darkening with brown paint.
  7. Finally, I decide to “Autumn” this scene up with the burnt sienna and another shade of reddish orange from my kid’s paint set. It’s good to go and I sign it.Super satisfying to watch this bloom on the page, and I’m happy with the result. It kind of made my morning and day. And now I have to get ready for an appointment and go off to do “non-painterly” things.

Early on, I wondered if I needed to use better paper, better paints – and I’ve concluded that for me, it’s best to practice with lower grade papers and paints – it frees me up and I really can stretch myself creatively and learn things. Paint is expensive! And I can go through a lot of it easily. That’s why I like to buy markers, and kid’s paints, and use those to play with color and explore. I save money yes – but I feel it’s a great investment in the craft of my work, and that has no price tag. If I need a stronger color, I’ll use nail polish – you know me! ; ) LOL!

P.S. Jodi, thanks for asking about my process!


10 thoughts on “My Process

  1. Let me repeat what was already said, the light, you captured magical light!

    I love your process, thank you for sharing it. Its insightful! I get intimidated with a new sketchbook…what if the first thing I create in it stinks, will the book be tainted…dumb I know but still…

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  2. The light in your painting is terrific….as if there is a “floodgate” of light shining through the trees. I love how you just keep learning and stretching and exploring….and sharing!

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  3. Expensive materials can indeed be intimidating. I think we do much better work when the pressure’s off. I love the light shining through the trees here. And always informative to see process. (K.)

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  4. I adore this atmospheric forest piece! And I enjoyed reading about your process (so glad Jodi asked). I don’t know that I could ever describe my process….I seem to attack art willy-nilly. 😀

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