Granulation in Watercolor Painting

Watercolor can do things that other painting media cannot. Although I paint in oil, pastel and casein, I always return to watercolor painting whenever I want to really challenge myself as a painter. First, it requires complete and total focus – no phones, no breaks. To paint really well, one must thoroughly and intimately know the behaviors of the medium and the living relationships that develop between the paint, the paper and the environment as one paints. To do all that while the clock is ticking (for washes are only "alive" for so long), is a performance and a dance with a lovely partner who has little tolerance if one doesn't know the steps!

Granulation in watercolor painting.
Granulation in watercolor painting.

One of the fascinating and unique characteristics of the medium is inherent in the formulations of the pigments. Watercolors come in two forms, the sedimentaries and the stainers. Sedimentaries can generally be thought of as relatively coarse-ground earth colors – umbers, ochres, and the like, although many blues and reds are also sedimentary in nature. These colors are heavy, can be quite opaque in concentration and tend to sink and settle out from the water as they sit on the palette or in a color mix. On a sheet of rough textured paper, they tumble off the high spots and settle in the low spots, creating a speckled look – granulation. Stainers are more ink-like in consistency, highly transparent, dissolve readily and don't settle out of water. They tend to penetrate and stain the paper, whether rough or hot press, and can create even, smooth wash effects. Granulation is also a delightful by-product of mixing sedimentary and staining colors together on textured paper.

One can create violet in the palette by mixing together red and blue. One can also create a much more interesting violet directly on the paper by applying a blue wash followed by a red wash – an optical mix. If the blue is a less transparent, sedimentary color (like cerulean), it must go down first, followed by the transparent staining red (like quinacridone rose). The result is a granulated tri-color effect – a vibrant violet with evidence of the red and blue as well. Marvelous! Only watercolor can do that and it does it willingly. This is what I mean when I say watercolor is alive. All the combinations of sedimentary and staining colors will perform this magic trick to a greater or lesser degree. Do try this at home.

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–John and Ann

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John Hulsey and Ann Trusty

About John Hulsey and Ann Trusty

John Hulsey and his wife, Ann Trusty created the website, The Artist's Road - Painting the World's Beautiful Places.  The Artist's Road inspires with practical art tips and painting techniques for the traveling artist, video painting tutorials and demonstrations, workshop resources, artist profiles and interviews and remarkable painting locations.  The Artist's Road is an artist community for oil, watercolor and pastel artists.  Articles cover intriguing art travel experiences artists have had while painting the world's beautiful places. "I believe I must speak through my art, for the preservation of Nature and the natural landscape from which I take my inspiration and living." John Hulsey is an accomplished artist, author and teacher who has been working professionally for over thirty years. In addition to producing new work for exhibition and teaching workshops, Mr. Hulsey continues to write educational articles about painting for national art magazines, including Watercolor magazine and American Artist Magazine. He has been selected as a "Master Painter of the United States" by International Artist Magazine where his work was previously chosen to be included in the top ten of their international landscape painting competition. He was awarded residencies at Yosemite, Glacier and Rocky Mountain National Parks. "I strive in my art to celebrate the mysteries of Nature - the fleeting light on the landscape, the unimaginable diversity of creatures, the beauty of each leaf and flower." Ann Trusty  is an accomplished third generation artist whose work embodies the natural world and is created through direct observation and translation of her subjects into her paintings. She has found inspiration in the dancing light across the water of the Hudson River (where she had a studio for ten years), as well as the big sky and waving tall grasses of the open plains of the Midwest (her current home). Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States, France and Turkey in both museum and gallery exhibitions, and has been reviewed favorably by the New York Times.

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