Giving it a lift

Despite my best efforts, watercolor paint, by its very nature, frequently goes where I don’t intend it to.  Sometimes that’s okay and results in a serendipitous event that adds texture and interest to the painting.

But sometimes it spoils the effect I’ve tried to achieve.  In that case, I may try to repair the damage by lifting some of the color back off the paper.  While the paint is still quite wet, I can sometimes remove it by sucking it up with a “thirsty” brush, one that is damp but thoroughly blotted so that it attracts more water to itself than it releases whenever it touches the painting.  After each touch used to lift the wet paint, the brush needs to be thoroughly blotted so it will be ready to pick up more moisture with the next touch.

If the paint is still damp, I can either blot it immediately or add clean water to the misplaced paint and then blot it to remove most of the color.

If the paint has already dried, however, I can use a clean brush, moistened only with clear water, and gently stroke the color away, lifting the paint into the brush.  The brush needs to be rinsed and thoroughly blotted after each lifting stroke to avoid spreading the remaining color further afield.  For me, this method works best with a pointed “round” brush in very small or confined areas, such as when I want to lighten the vein of a leaf.  It can also be done with a mask to create or maintain a hard edge along the side of the lifted area.

This method of lifting is not only used for rectifying mistakes.  It was part of the original creative process when I used a small “liner” brush to lift out pigment to create whiskers on Boots & Bandit (#100305)

Boots & Bandit detail

For larger areas, I sometimes use a specialized “scrubber” brush, shorter and stiffer than a typical round brush, to gently scrub the color off the paper’s surface.  “Scrubbing” must be done very carefully to avoid roughing up or otherwise damaging the surface of the paper.  Referring once again to Boots & Bandit, I used a scrubber to soften many of the hard lines within their fur.  And I applied it again when the cats’ owner asked me to extend the area of white fur on Boot’s chest, more in keeping with his usual appearance (since the groomer had recently trimmed it uncharacteristically short), and to soften and add characteristic tufts to his paws.  (I also added black tips to his ears, which I’d overlooked in the shadows in the reference photos, and darkened the eye linings.)

Boots & Bandit detail, before

Boots & Bandit detail, after

Although all of these methods of lifting paint work well with non-staining colors, none of them works so well with staining pigments.  For this reason I generally prefer to use non-staining paint whenever I can.  The adjustments I made to Boots & Bandit would not have been possible if I had used staining pigments.

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