Plan Twice...Paint Once

Some friends were recently asking me about the process of painting with watercolors, compared to other media.  We were comparing them to oils and acrylics, which I've had little experience with, but I thought I'd use my most recent painting to point out some things if you're interested in that sort of thing.  The main thing that makes watercolors difficult is that they are transparent, so you can't put light over dark.  That means you have to leave all the white spaces  and paint around them.  You can use masking liquid, or masking tape (my fav) to "mask" the light areas off, and then paint the dark colors that are next to them.  There were 4 areas in this composition that needed to be reserved as white.
    1. The house.  It is mostly a shadowy white.  It did not require masking because it is a big mass and doesn't extend into any "darker" areas.  
    2. The chimneys.  In order to paint the blue sky and gray clouds with fluid strokes, and not stroking "around" the chimneys, but "across" them, I blocked them out with little chimney shaped pieces of masking tape. 
    3. The little white window dividers.  These delicate lines are not done with white paint, but are white paper left exposed. In this case I freehanded the dark window glass rectangle areas, leaving the white lines within the windows.  I didn't want a perfectly straight line from masking tape so they would have more character. 
    4. The clouds.   Skies are tricky, quick, and fun.  In this scene, I wanted to give the sky lots of clouds, so that means less blue than clouds (white with gray).  In order to paint the sky, and not have it look like "color by number," the white parts of the clouds must be "saved" and not covered, but using masking tape makes too "hard" of an edge.  No cloud has a "crisp" edge.  They are fluffy, or whispy, or feathery, or you get the idea.  So I had to work lightly and quickly to "feather in" the blue, across the sky and in between the clouds, but not "hanging out" too long in any one area.  Even this takes careful planning, with some light pencil lines, showing where the clouds will be placed.  Later I went back with the grays of the clouds and gave them shape.  
    I love the process of thinking through the composition, lighting, colors, and mood of these home portraits. The paints and brush are the frosting on the cake!