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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Working with Color

Last month when I was working on an Illuminated Letter, I toyed with the idea of adding a water color wash to the piece to add just a little more to the design.  In the end I decided not to because you can't remove the color once it is there.  I still want to explore the idea some, but there are a few kinks for me to work out.  The most important is: I don't know anything about watercolor painting.  A pretty big hurdle don't you think?

The day that I bought watercolors, I spent an hour or so exploring them.  I wanted to see how the paint worked with the water and the brushes.  In the end, I had a sheet covered with brush strokes and puddles of color.  When I looked at the sheet by itself, it looked like just what it was, a test page, or maybe some of that "abstract" 1980's paintings that were popular in doctor's offices.  I didn't toss the paper though.  I figured that I could always use the back as a scribble spot for pens, practice space or whatever. 

This weekend, I decided to cut the page up into different sizes and tangle over the watercolor and see what happens.  It was fun.  The watercolor paper takes the ink a little differently but not in any obvious way.  The paint on the paper didn't seem to affect the micron at all.  I wondered if the paint would be picked up my the pen and cause a problem but it didn't. 

First try. Watercolor paper, watercolor, micron pen and pencil.
I started with 2 3.5" squares that I cut like a tile for Zentangle.  In the first one (left), I wasn't sure if I wanted to tangle over the paint or not.  Should I let the color stand alone or use it as a way to enhance the design?  In the end I did both.  I kept some patterns on the color, as if the color was the string.  On the left side, I drew a small string to determine the space, but chose not to cover the paint.  I really love how the variance in the paint color gives the tangles depth and light without shading.  After finishing, I went in with a B shading pencil and a blending stump and added in a little shade here and there.  The pencil shaded very nicely over the paint.  I didn't have to press as hard and the shade was more even. (It seemed so anyway.)

Second try
There was more color in the second tile, so there was no choosing where to draw.  This time, I let the colors be the string.  I used the B pencil again for shading and kept the shade to the patterns alone for the most part.  My favorite part of this tile is the way the orange and blue paints mix to create highlights.

Just in doing these two tiles, I already have ideas on how to paint the next time.  I don't think that I need to have a full page of paint.  I think having unpainted spots will be nice.  I also think blending dark colors into lighter ones will be a nice touch.  I have the whole first sheet I want to use first.  I am on a third and larger (5X7) and have found more fun things to try. 

This is a new direction for me and a fun one.  I am excited to see where it grows from here.  In the last few weeks, I have been really productive (for me) and these two tiles were finished really quick.  I'm not sure if it is my excitement for something new, the simplicity of the patterns, or maybe the both, but I surprised myself at how quickly they went.

Thanks for stopping by and taking a look. 


  1. i was just getting ready to sit down and do this very thing - watercolor paint, then tangle. i am so glad i saw your post first! it just reinforced what i was planning - to paint, then draw. i'm glad to know it works well :) your tiles are really pretty!

    1. Thanks! I will check your stuff out and see how it worked for you. This new direction is kind of exciting.

  2. Since a while I use Ecoline (a special transparent water colour) to just wet a piece of paper. Also dripping some on the paper. Let it dry and tangle on it.
    If you do it rhis way it's a bit different but also very nice.
    Your tiles are lovely!

    Annemarie Huijts,

  3. Your tangles are just gorgeous.

    Once I started coloring my tangles, the plain black and white ones started looking a little boring.

    I use watercolor pencils, crayons, and cheap kids' watercolors (like 8-color Crayolas) for coloring. The Derwent pencils are very intense, and you can scribble and use a watercolor pen (like on the couch or in bed) without worrying about spilling a pot of dirty water.

    I paint first, tangle first, and do both. There are no rules where I come from (altered books were my last obsession), so I bristle a little from the Zentangle strictness. The idea is to have fun, not be hemmed in, but I'm about to turn 60 and have lost whatever patience I might have had with people telling me what to do. ;-)

    1. Thank you so much! I am just exploring the color but I do enjoy it. I especially like drawing over the color. I'm afraid to color after as I tend to color like a coloring book. :)

      I have some watercolor pencils that I need to explore more. I didn't invest much on my paints, just a wet and go set at Michaels. They also had a shimmer set that I want to try my hand at. That is next one the list.

      Sigh, if I only had the time I want...
      I look forward to seeing your work!

  4. I love both of these colored tangles. The effect of using the color as the string is very effective. Thank you for explaining your process.

  5. These are great! Watercolour washes make a great background.

    FYI, if you want to experiment with watercolour on top of your pen work without using the original artwork, you can scan the original and print a copy for your experiment. I have found that I can put 140lb watercolour paper through my inkjet printer with no problem.

    Here is an example where I drew a Paradox zendala, and then made several copies so I could experiment with colour schemes with coloured pencil.