Afraid of the Dark?

Embrace the Darkest Darks in Watercolor Painting

Carnations flowing in a loose watercolor with exciting watermarks and color effects evident within the composition.
Carnations flowing in a loose watercolor with exciting watermarks and color effects evident within the composition.

Enjoy this special edition watercolor painting blog from artist and instructor Jean Haines, discussing how to embrace the darkest of darks in your watermedia work without getting overwhelmed. Enjoy!





I have just taken a week of watercolor painting workshops and I came across a problem that many watercolor artists have in common. Many of us start a wonderful painting but when we seem to be half way through the creative process we hit a wall of what to do next.

Often the problem lies in that the painter has gained such a beautiful result so quickly that he or she is terrified of ruining it by going any further. This can result in many half finished paintings that never make it to a frame. I can understand the problem, but it is only by fighting through the fear that we can improve and grow in technique.

To understand how we should progress in any painting we need to fully comprehend where we are heading. Unfortunately, this too is a huge problem for many new artists who have yet to find their style. Picking up a brush and simply hoping for the best does not always lead to great results!

So before you begin painting, decide what you wish to achieve, especially if you are aiming to working in a loose interpretative style of watercolor art.

1. Soft Results.

Adding darks can add powerful impact and drama to a watercolor painting.
Adding darks can add powerful impact and drama to a watercolor painting.

These carnations were specifically painted with a soft result in mind. The composition indicates a gentle flow of  direction. It holds a sense of movement and leaves much to the imagination. But is it finished? This is where a watercolorist’s personal opinion will make the decision on whether to add more detail or leave the painting as it is.

2. Drama and Definition.

I decided to keep going. By working further and adding strong darks to surround the flowers, the composition appears more dramatic. In the second image where darks have been added as a backdrop they literally jump off the paper but is the original sense of movement that was so beautiful in the first version now lost?

Adding darks to sections of a painting can make or break the composition. Careful additions of a few brushstrokes can make all the difference to what otherwise could have seemed a boring work. But too much definition can kill the excitement and freedom that so many artists struggle to achieve when creating a watercolor painting.

3. Finding the Balance.

Blue Rhapsody by Jean Haines, watercolor painting.
Blue Rhapsody by Jean Haines, watercolor painting.

Trying to create a fantastic masterpiece that screams of fascinating sections and is unique and interesting because of its originality is a hard task. But to the artist who is not afraid of the dark, knows when to add strong colors and when to leave sections soft as a contrast, the pleasure involved in creating is endless.

Don’t be afraid of the dark but do use bold brushwork and color additions wisely.

Study your paintings at different stages in their creation so that you know exactly what is needed to either make your work fantastic or just a touch bolder. Most importantly, be unique!


For more insights into all the aspects of watercolor painting from Jean–an expert we know and love!–get your Watercolour with Jean Haines Bundle today! Enjoy!







Related Posts:


Artist Daily Blog
Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

4 thoughts on “Afraid of the Dark?

  1. Jean, a very encouraging article. When I plan out a painting with a pencil or charcol drawing I often write off to one side “Fear Not the Darks!” as a reminder to keep in mind the need for rich darks in key places to make my painting complete.