Midway point: #30x30DirectWatercolor2018

At the halfway point of #30x30DirectWatercolor2018, and I’m looking back at the half-month with some thoughts and some favorite picks.

If you aren’t a natural direct-watercolorist, (I’m not!) then this is a HARD challenge! To see exclusively in shape and yet keep a piece from being overworked takes a whole lot of focus. The impulse to just pick up a pen and finish the piece is strong!

Some subjects are easier to work in direct watercolor and get loose with because they’re forgiving. Like this landscape with simple perspective.  Knowing I didn’t have to get the drawing right meant I was free to focus on capturing the feel of the blazing heat. I couldn’t resist painting in the two figures: to me, they add a story to the piece.


I was quite pleased with this next piece because it combined many challenges for me: painting a person/people without line (and not just as ‘little people in a landscape’), creating the feel of space and activity without getting too specific. And, the piece is darker, literally, than a lot of what I paint. In both this piece and the one above I like that I got pretty dark values that still stayed transparent, something I often struggle with.

On other days I just took it easy and painted stuff I understood well and had painted before. Like this skull that sits on my studio table, a ready model whenever I need one. I also painted this on the wrong side of a sheet of Arches paper.(The other side was used for a rather unsuccessful piece). Doing this totally takes the pressure off creating a ‘good piece’ and it’s amazing how much it adds to flow and looseness. If only I could convince myself to work like this more!


All my piece use white gouache. I use it like I would any other color, and while I try to save my big whites, I don’t save smaller ones if I feel saving them will make me work tighter: I feel like it’s an exchange sometimes, saving a white versus working loosely. And for me, spontaneity usually wins over careful planning.

So what have I learned so far? (Besides that this is hard work?)

  • Seeing in shape-first is slowly becoming less difficult. Right now the hard part is keeping from quickly jumping to pen after that first take on big shapes.
  • I am enjoying watching watercolor move on the paper with no line to hold it within bounds, and I’m learning a lot about pigments and transparency in the process.
  • If I hang on for another few weeks and work at this, there will be more insights and progress. I think.

I’d love to hear what you’re learning if you’re attempting to paint this way. Or if it’s your go-to way to paint too.

About Suhita Shirodkar

obsessive-sketcher. graphic designer.
This entry was posted in challenge, Everyday Sketches, Paintings, people, watercolor and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Midway point: #30x30DirectWatercolor2018

  1. Susan Wilson says:

    I love what you’re doing. Your work has always been strong, but leaving out line has put it on a whole new wave. I’m suddenly paying attention to your color combinations and how you map out your page. Really lovely work and I’m learning a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s been challenging to work like this (maybe that’s why it’s called a challenge 🙂 ) but I’m hoping to look back at this and see what it’s brought to my work. Your words are super encouraging, thank you!!


  2. dapplegrey says:

    Great post – it’s really useful to stop and take stock of what’s going on (having said which – wonder if you’ve seen Marc’s most recent post where he says he’s sick of watercolour!!!?) Like you, I’m a ‘line-first’ protagonist and so all this has been infuriating at times, but one thing I’ve discovered is that doing quick sketches of people (my favourite subject) can be a lot faster, once you’ve got that thing about shape rather than line flowing a bit more intuitively. A very useful discovery! And like you I’ve really enjoyed just feeling the quality and behaviour of the paint more than I usually do. I love that desert landscape of yours – but your people sketches have taken on a new dimension as well. Fabulous stuff!


    • now I have to go see Marc’s post… Thank you so much, it is a bit scary, but quite an adventure to put away line for a while. I can’t lie, I’m itching to put it in to almost every piece I paint.


      • dapplegrey says:

        Well, me too. And I have to confess I’ve found that a waterbrush is a bit of a line-giver! I’ve carried one about with me the way I normally do a pen, along with a two-colour micro palette, and inevitably something linear does take place along with the shape/tone/colour thing. But that’s been a very useful discovery too! Long live challenges, I say. Thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

      • oh yeah, thank goodness for line-givers! I’ve been using the waterbrush with white gouache for my highlights: besides line, it helps keep gouache out of my regular brushes (and water container!)


  3. pbass wil says:

    “I try to save my big whites, I don’t save smaller ones if I feel saving them will make me work tighter: I feel like it’s an exchange sometimes […] spontaneity usually wins over careful planning…”
    Some of us feel like there’s almost a holy covenant we have to agree to, when we buy into watercolour. All these rules & conventions – Saving Whites being one of the Commandments.
    Your attitude is an example of clear values: ‘This is what I’m trying to achieve; so this is the strategy that serves my pursuit of it.’ Very sensible, and a relief from rigid w.c. convention.
    By the way, did you know that John Singer Sargent had a similar pragmatic attitude toward whites, with his fabulous watercolours? He was quite content to add any missing highlights at the finish line. Faced with his luminous results, I wonder if any of his era’s w.c. purists had the audacity to scold him? :^D

    Liked by 1 person

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