Dot Matrix

Today’s watercolor experiment: 

I practiced a bit more with inks on watercolor paper today. The grid I drew was to be the framework for a series of drips. Although I was careful in my draftsmanship, I threw caution to the wind after flooding the entire rough-surfaced paper with water. My first drip, burnt sienna (I was mistaken yesterday when I identified the yellowish reticulated spot as burnt umber) formed a perfect ovoid shape. However, I was a bit flustered when I applied the other inks. I couldn’t think of a meaningful pattern of colors or types of ink. The wetness was not uniform. Some areas were drying while others still had pools of water. Some drips splashed and some of the crud from the bottles fell on the paper. It was hardly a precise, clean-room experiment.

Here is a detail of the larger image in which illustrates the quintessential difference between calligraphy inks and watercolor inks:

Watercolor detail: Abstract - Inks burnt sienna, ultramarine, vermilion = water-soluble; carmine, dark blue, green = calligraphy

Detail: Dot Matrix

The calligraphy inks on the bottom seem to have very small grains. If you look carefully at the bottom blue spot, you may be able to see very small reticulations. The red spot seems more diffuse.  I really enjoy the patterns that the watercolor inks make.

Dot matrix:

Watercolor: Abstract - Inks burnt sienna, ultramarine, vermilion = water-soluble; carmine, dark blue, green = calligraphy

Dot Matrix
9″x2″ 140# Rough Watercolor Block

The watercolor inks make different patterns depending upon the degree of wetness of the paper. For example, the two ultramarine blue spots to the left of the green calligraphy dot and underneath the vermilion watercolor ink dot seem to swirl. This blue seems to mix slightly with the vermilion red.

The red calligraphy ink seems to shy away from the watercolor ink, while the green doesn’t seem to mind the proximity of the burnt sienna. You can see to instances where the burnt sienna seems to invade the green areas.  Perhaps this is a consequence of the pigment, since both inks are the same type (calligraphy ink).

Rather than designing more experiments to compare and contrast ink behaviors, I would rather compose images that take advantage of each ink’s special qualities.


Today’s watercolor experiment:

In my recent watercolor experiments (Autumn Sky, Discontinuous Bird of Paradise, Amorphia), I wet the paper and painted fields of color. I dripped clear water into these fields and watched as it chased the color away leaving a starburst of white. Today I performed the inverse of this procedure. I wet the paper down with clear water and dripped colored ink on the white paper.

The colored ink spots grew and filled in the crannies created by the grain of the paper. It was fun to watch as the spot grew and reticulated. It seemed organic, in the sense that it reminded me of a cellular organism.

Watercolor: Abstract - Detail: Ink Blots Orange and Blue

Detail: Ink Blots Orange and Blue

The orange-colored ink (burnt umber) spread out to make wonderful patterns, wicked by the wet paper and the rough texture.

Different inks:

Blue and orange are complementary colors. I placed the three burnt umber drips on the paper first. This is a Winsor Newton, water-soluble ink. The next spots I applied were from my bottle of dark blue(Winsor Newton) calligraphy ink. Perhaps its waterproof characteristic has some bearing on the different way it disperses. Maybe the pigment is more finely ground in this ink, accounting for the smooth, non reticulating spread.

To eliminate the possibility that the color blue itself disperses more smoothly, I dripped in a Winsor Newton ultramarine blue, of the same type as the burnt umber (not calligraphy ink). Reticulation recurred.

Watercolor: Abstract - Ink Blots Orange and Blue

Ink Blots Orange and Blue
9″x12″ 140# Rough Watercolor Block


I like the way the waterproof dark blue in the vicinity of the burnt umber blot did not mix (in the two lower blots). The result was the creation of an edge between two complementary colors and to set up the orange as foreground with the blue receding into the background.

This study reminds a gathering of nanoparticles. The spots could be cells or little animacules (as first seen by van Leeuwenhoek, inventor of the microscope).

I would like to find a methodical way to experiment with the interactions between waterproof and water-soluble inks. I suppose this means many more daily watercolor experiments.



Today’s watercolor experiment:

I began with soaking wet paper, streaking permanent mauve across its width. I left room at the top for another color. I chose Prussian blue, since I wanted  a color close to mauve, on the color wheel.  As they mingled, I dropped on some clear water. I love when the water chases the pigment away when I drip it into a solid area of color. The paper has to have a little bit of sheen; not soaking wet or too dry. I’m still learning to know just how to tell when the paper contains the right amount of moisture to preserve the intricate patterns made by the spread of the water against the pigment.

I used aureolin yellow to fill in around the edges of the mauve areas. Since yellow is the complement of purple, I was hoping for maximal contrast. My reasoning was the same for placing the cadmium orange adjacent to the blue.

Finally, I dripped aureolin in the same place I placed the water, in several places, to create a bull’s-eye effect.

Watercolor: Abstract - Permanent mauve, Prussian blue, Aureolin yellow, Cadmium orange

Abstract 111914
9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block


I like playing with the wetness of the paper. I must continue to practice to judge when it is the right time to place a drop of pigment or water.

Today’s abstract is formless, as the title of this post implies. I displayed it, as shown above, upside down from the way I painted it. I like it better that way.


Today’s watercolor experiment:

I tried out some of my new-found nibs today. I used one that looked like a paint brush, It was probably 3/8” wide with three tines, and the insides looked like a leaf spring.  I didn’t know if it would work at all.  The first stroke petered out within a couple of inches.  I intended to try intertwining the long, broad strokes.

In the final analysis I liked the way the ink flowed and the intertwininess. I found out some interesting things about calligraphy ink though: they don’t run even when placed on a wet piece of watercolor, with a brush!

The inks I used for the long lines were: sepia and crimson; for the fill I used vermilion. I used aureolin yellow, permanent mauve, Prussian blue and cadmium orange watercolors as well.

Since the first set of squiggles reminded me of a boot, I inserted a partial of the second boot, walking out of the frame.

Watercolor: Abstract - pen and ink long lines with watercolors

9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Paper


My inspiration for this style comes from Katherine Scrivens. I really enjoy her silhouette artistry. You can find her work here:

Katherine Scrivens Silhouette Artist

Eyes Abstract

Today’s watercolor experiment:

For something completely different, I started my watercolor with pen and ink.  I had a rude surprise when I opened the box where I stored my dip pens, I found that most of my inks had dried up, inside the bottles. I hadn’t used them in a really long time!

Some calligraphy inks survived, however, so I began my painting with broad pen strokes of carmine, followed by doodles of dark blue.  I took my pen point ‘for a walk’, a phrase that I learned from Paul Klee’s writings. The square edge of the nib caught on the surface of the paper even though it was moderately smooth, so I was unable to sweep the paper with complete freedom.

I was expecting interesting blotting and streaming effects when I wet down the paper. Alas, the calligraphy ink was waterproof! Usually when I don’t want ink to run, it does.

My plan was for the ink to flow into the clear-water wash. Therefore, to avoid a busy composition I kept my doodles sparse. When it did not flow, I resorted to filling in with watercolors. I used were: Moonglow (a brown-hued, multicolored pigment), aureolin yellow, quinacridone purple and burnt orange, Prussian blue, cadmium orange and Winsor red (not necessarily in that order). Here is a preliminary stage of today’s study:

Watercolor: Abstract - pen and ink with watercolors


For some reason, when I doodle with pen and ink, or pencil, tend to draw eyes. Today was no exception. I’m sure there are psychological reasons for this. Instead of delving into this here, I refer you to previous posts about eyes, as relates to my older autistic brother (Name This Photograph, The Eyes Have It and Photography and Truth).

I completed the study in two stages. First, I increased contrast by painting saturated colors around some of the pen outlines. Second, I sought to visually organize the ink scribbles.

Here is the final stage of today’s composition:

Watercolor: Eyes Abstract - pen and ink and watercolor

Eyes Abstract
9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block


Part of the fun of composing an abstract study (for me), is making sense of, or unifying the marks or splotches on the paper. In today’s composition, I suggested faces to go with the eyes. There are at least five, by my count. The relationship among the faces becomes a point of interest in this study.

In hindsight, I wish I had scribbled with a bit more purpose, without relying on the colors to run. The underlying pen and ink drawing should have been able to stand on its own. I don’t think I achieved this. The study began to take shape in the organizing stage, where I embodied the eyes into their respective faces.

It would be interesting to compose a study with permanent and water-soluble inks, and experiment with an overlay of watercolor washes.


Autumn Sky

Today’s watercolor experiment:

I have really been enjoying the Moonglow pigment, manufactured by Daniel Smith. Previous posts using this pigment include: Discontinuous Bird of Paradise, Concentric and Granulation. Its component pigments include ultramarine blue (PB29), Anthraquinoid Red (PR177) and Viridian green (PG18). As one might surmise, a mixture of the primary colors would tend to result in a brownish, or neutral color. The primary paint colors (i.e., colors that cannot be made from mixing other colors together) are red, blue and yellow.  Thus the brownish tint of Moonglow comes from the combination of blue, red and green, the latter of which is a combination of blue and yellow.

Today I used my 3.5″ brush to put down a wet layer of Moonglow on dry paper. Drippings of clear water and other pigments (quinacridone burnt orange, quinacridone red and aureolin yellow) caused the underlying pigment to give way. The drips spread out in a circle, leaving clear or tinted rivulets. If watercolor paper is very wet, the pigments underneath the spreading drip mix, and the spidery riverways are absorbed by the time the composition dries. In today’s composition the paper was not saturated when I introduced splashes of water and pigments. They did not mix fully with the Moonglow, therefore, the final (dry) watercolor retained some of the details of the streaming pigments.

Watercolor : Abstract with Moonglow; quinacridone red, burnt orange; aureolin yellow

Orion in the Autumn Sky
9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block


I’m getting some Thanksgiving spirit these days. It is getting darker, colder (by California standards), and the leaves are changing colors.  Today’s composition expresses these colors. The results of dripping water and pigments into the Moonglow background reminded me of starbursts, thus my choice for the name of today’s study.  The only non-random dripping of color was the three drips for Orion’s belt. His belt, and not his dagger.

Discontinuous Bird of Paradise

Today’s watercolor experiment:

I began today with an unsatisfactory color wash of my paper. Somehow the strokes with my wide brush just didn’t do it. Maybe it was the colors: cerulean blue, cadmium red light and aureolin yellow.  I blotted up as much as I could, hair-driered it and started over.

I do enjoy the granular Moonglow pigment from Daniel Smith. It crackles nicely on the rough paper. I wanted to see what it would do on the cold pressed surface.  The original, underlying wash dictated the contour of the Moonglow border.  The remainder of the paper received the peacock blue, with a dash of lemon yellow at the edges.

I traced some of the under painting showing through to the surface, with cadmium red light and a re-enforcement of peacock blue.

As the Moonglow was drying, I dripped clear water randomly across its surface to get a blooming effect. In the middle of each bloom, I dripped a red or yellow drop.

Watercolor: Abstract with Moonglow, Peacock blue and cadmium red

Discontinuous Bird of Paradise
9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block


The red-blue figure seemed to be floating, with the firework laden, brownish field behind it. For an instant, I got a Chagall-y feeling from this composition. The more I dripped my red and blue paint on the figure, the more it reminded me of a bird. However, since I didn’t plan beforehand, it was so off-center, that there was no room for the beak.

Since my watercolor paper is my space, I decided that it would be a opened-up cylindrical space, where it would make perfect sense for the bird’s beak to be placed at the left-hand edge of the paper.

For those who don’t live in cylindrical space, the title, Discontinuous Bird of Paradise provides an explanation of this study.


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