If watercolor isn’t part of your mixed-media playbook, now is the time to add it. Danielle Donaldson has a new kit that includes a book and videos all about watercolor techniques, and they are exactly what you need to shake up your routine and discover what you’ve been missing. Color, composition, storytelling—it’s all here, and it’s all designed to take you to your next level of happiness.
Danielle not only provides great instruction, but inspiration and confidence boosting as well. Not sure about trying a new medium and techniques? You’ll be fine, trust me. And if you’ve already fallen in love with watercolor, you’ll discover lots of fun ways to take it even further.
I opened Danielle’s book, The Art of Creative Watercolor, as soon as it arrived, and immediately wanted to try one of her watercolor techniques for composition and painting. The technique I chose involves nesting similar elements together for a beautiful composition, then layering color. I wasn’t sure what to draw (she shows butterflies), but she suggests keeping it simple and includes some prompts, and leaves seemed like a great choice. I started with a small piece of watercolor paper, then drew a light border for my composition. I taped the paper to a Masonite board to keep it flat, and gathered my favorite mechanical pencil, a kneaded eraser, and some inspiration, including real leaves and photos.
Another great idea from Danielle is to practice drawing your items on a small scale. This also helps cut down on the amount of erasing on the main piece. She includes more tips for drawing a collection, which helped enormously when figuring out how to compose the elements. I found this part of the project to be very relaxing; as I focused on drawing and thinking about shapes and the overall composition, I got lost in the process and was able to tune out the rest of the world. Such a nice state to be in.
Next, I added my first wash of paint. Danielle recommends doing a controlled wash, which she describes as using a moderately wet brush on dry paper that results in a fairly even layer of color. A quick side note to mention that The Art of Creative Watercolor is a fantastic reference for an array of watercolor techniques, such as washes, creating color palettes, mixing colors, and more. You’ll find yourself opening this book often. I chose a palette of mostly greens, with pops of yellow, turquoise, and pink.
As I painted the washes I also created color swatches. These are handy references when trying different color combinations, and they’re also a fun element to add to a piece. Lucky for you, this kit includes Danielle’s Swatch Kit Paint Chip stamps (one large, one small), so all you have to do is add the paint! I find myself using these stamps again and again, adding them to art journal and sketchbook pages, cards, and collages.
When the washes were dry, I added details with pencil, creating ribs and veins in the leaves and some fanciful designs. Danielle advises not making things look too realistic: “Tap into your imagination,” she says, “and play with scale.” This took the piece into a new realm, and it also started to look more like my style. Another favorite watercolor technique from Danielle that has made a huge difference in my artwork is adding what she calls “visual tension” to drawings. This involves re-outlining some shapes with pencil, and varying the weight of the line. The technique makes objects pop, is an easy way to add depth, and I highly recommend you try it.
Time for a final layer of color. This glaze layer was added in small sections of the leaves to create more depth of color and details. I turned the piece as I painted, thinking about what I wanted to draw attention to, and making sure that I didn’t overdo it and add too much paint. This was another exercise in slowing down that I really appreciated.
Adding shadows is one of my favorite parts of the watercolor process because it brings painted items to life. Danielle has a no-fuss approach to creating the perfect shadow color: Simply mix whatever colors are left on your palette, and if it’s not dark enough, add a little Payne’s Gray or Van Dyke Brown. After trying every single shade of gray, grayish-purple, blue-gray, etc., I’ve found that this truly is the magic formula for making the perfect shadow color. I imagined where a light source would be coming from, and added shadows.
A white marker is one of Danielle’s signature touches, and I can see why she loves it. Adding tiny dots of white brightens the whole piece and makes it pop, and it’s a lovely touch. She recommends the Uni Posca Extra Fine Marker in white, and I’m so glad I tried it. The white stays white and doesn’t fade as it dries.
I added a “nature study” label, and my piece was done! This is but a fraction of the watercolor techniques, projects, and ideas that Danielle has to offer, and I can’t wait to discover more. We have this kit exclusively, so don’t hesitate picking it up. And remember, those cool stamps are included. Doesn’t get much better than that.
Danielle’s watercolor techniques for creating lettering are not to be missed! Check them out in this blog post.