Direct Watercolor Strategy #1: Pick a forgiving subject

So you’ve decided to do the Direct Watercolor challenge?
Or you’re on the fence because direct watercolor is a bit scary? Not quite your thing? Well, it’s not my go-to method either, which is exactly why I’m doing the challenge.

I figured I’d put together my list of strategies for getting directly to watercolor. They’re probably things you know already, but reminding you (and me) might make the difference to taking the leap and trying this, right?

Strategy #1: Pick a Forgiving Subject
I love painting people. But get that little dab of paint that indicates the nose in the wrong place, and you’re not going to be happy. So why not pick something that’s forgiving? That allows for mistakes and is still believable?

Like my jade plant. Because who cares if a leaf or stem goes awry? And if there’s 7 leaves where there are only 6?

This is about the point at which I reach for my pen to “finish” the piece. Why? See that big fat leaf where the stem color runs into the leaf? Normally, I’d run a line there to separate the two. But do I need pen for that? I could use a darker paint. Or just not go that route because Do I need separation for you to call them a stem and a leaf?

So instead of adding a dark I decide I’d like to add some of those little rim lights that are on the edges of leaves, and that’s what I do. With white gouache.


Which brings me to this other thing I’ve found useful to remember:
Don’t sweat the whites. 

Whenever possible, I’ll leave my whites out. It’s true there’s a beauty to white paper in watercolor. But when leaving out a white gets in the way of a bold stroke, when I think I’ll slowly and deliberately paint around a white, then I’ll gladly exchange it for a bold stroke and come back later with a stroke of gouache.

I looked back through my recent work to see what other “forgiving subject” I had painted in direct watercolors.  Besides plants, landscapes figured big on my list.


That’s Strategy #1: • Pick a forgiving subject
on my list to help me go straight to watercolor.

I’ll be posting more strategies from my list soon. If you haven’t joined in yet, join the Direct Watercolor group on facebook here.


About Suhita Shirodkar

obsessive-sketcher. graphic designer.
This entry was posted in challenge, Paintings, Supplies and Materials, teaching, tools, watercolor and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Direct Watercolor Strategy #1: Pick a forgiving subject

  1. Annie says:

    Thanks, Suhita, as a longtime pen and inker, it is scary to contemplate watercolor only. (As Kris Kristofferson said, “You’ve been reading my mail!”) Keep your ideas and suggestions coming!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sigrun says:

    great strategy – wonderful greens! looking forward to new ideas & strategies 🙂


  3. Betsy Angene says:

    very helpful thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Terry says:

    Good stuff. I am still pondering that the essence of “direct” is no pre-sketch, right? So if you paint with watercolor first, then a few ink marks for effect it still seems direct, but I think I am letting my anal side show, argh.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Terry, I’d take it to mean “as direct as you can work” I’m going to try for that but I won’t let a little pen line at the end or light pencil setup ( quick) get in the way of calling it ‘direct’: it’s more direct that my usual approach and that’s what I’m going for…


  5. Yes tour are right and from your impulse to pick the pen I guess for those like me that draw a lot with pen the best strategy is to let them rest at home…then you will be forced to find a watery solution !

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Rob says:

    Hi there, question: believe it or not I do not have FB account. Is there a way to follow along with 30/30 direct painting without joining FB?


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