Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Watercolor postcards

Watercolor Postcards

Heya! So, today I want to talk about watercolors. Watercolor painting is one of the trickiest art forms to master, yet it also incredibly delicate, beautiful, and satisfying. It requires restraint, patience, a high degree of skill, and the ability to see what your going to paint before you lay the color down.

Needless to say, I haven't come anywhere close to mastering it yet.
However, playing and practicing are good ways to dabble and learn! To that end, I started casually painting 4" x 6" postcards. The cards I found are great because the size isn't intimidating, they are quality paper, and all the postcardy goodness is printed on the back for you already. Plus, they size is great for framing, so whoever is lucky enough to receive one of these little beauties can frame it if they'd like.

As I was working on these, I thought others might like to play around, too. I find watercolors a little scary, but with this little tutorial, maybe it won't seem so scary for others anymore!
Strathmore Watercolor Postcards, 4" x 6"

Back, and front.
 So, let's get some materials together!

4" x 6" watercolor postcards
Watercolor paints - I show two travel palettes, this is the bigger one. You can also use tubes of paint.
A palette or plate to mix and thin your paint on
Various brushes
Masking tape
Paper towels and/or a towel
Masking fluid-optional, b sure you have an old brush to use with this. It can ruin a brush if you don't clean it out completely.
Sharpie, ultra fine-optional

Materials, baby!

Masking fluid and an old, cheap brush to apply it with. 

The next step was to open a file in Microsoft Publisher and find a page size for a 4" x 6" postcard. I decided on the portrait orientation so I could print out these little calaveras I drew and scanned a couple of years ago. Any free line art would work for this as well! There are some great line drawings online of just about any subject you want to paint. Google is your friend in this case! However, if you'd rather just draw free-hand directly onto the cards, that works, too. In fact, that's what I did with the Henna Sunrise card shown at the bottom of the page. I'll touch on that process in a bit. Don't worry, it's not hard.

Ok, so you're ready to print. Go for it! Once you've printed your image, it's time to get your workspace ready to go. Everything needs to be within easy reach. Use the masking tape to fix your postcard to your working surface. Be careful to make this neat as it will eventually make an unpainted frame around your work. Good lighting is important, too. If you can get natural light, awesome! If not, whatever you feel with comfortable works, too. Just make sure you can see where you're putting paint, and can accurately see the colors your using.

Yes, I work at my computer desk. It's the only place I can call my own with two kids in the house! LOL
 If you want to use masking fluid, this is a good time to save any spaces you want to keep white. In this example, I masked several places on the face and in the background area. Paint it on with an old brush and be patient! It's stinky. It can be a bit of a pain. But, it creates a really neat effect, so I hope you'll give it a try.

Taped down, ready to add masking fluid or paint.
You can just barely see the masking fluid on the surface.
 When you're happy with your masking, LET IT DRY completely. Don't rush this. Go get an iced tea and give it a few minutes. It will be worth it.

You're ready to paint! I'm not here to dictate how you color your card or try to teach you to use watercolors. There are some fantastic watercolor tutorials out there that will help you much more than I can. However, I encourage you to play! Try covering an area with water, then dabbing some paint into it. Try blending two colors together this way. Use highly-concentrated color, use very thin color, drawing thin lines or create big blobs of color. Be realistic or crazy. Whatever you do, try to have fun and enjoy it. Reminder: watercolor dries lighter than it looks when applied. Keep this in mind when adding very light colors. In my painting, the "whites" of the eyes are painted a light blue, but it dried so light that, next to the intense colors of the irises, it looks a bit washed-out.

Getting some color laid down!
Dabbing color into a wash of water.
Thrown down some salt!

If you want to create a cool effect, regular table salt is a great way to go. While an area is still wet, sprinkle some salt down. It will push and pull the paint and create a snowflake or crackle texture. Carefully brush off the salt before it's completely dry, being sure to not smear the damp paint. If you let the salt dry onto the paint, it may not brush off completely. However, I've found this leaves a subtle sparkle, which I don't mind at all. In this example, I used salt in the enter of the eye to add a little variation, while the two previous cards got salt on the background.
Salt textures, close-up.
Ok, done painting? Let that baby dry completely! If you're feeling a bit impatient, a blow dryer on low will help you along. Once it's completely dry, gently peel off the masking tape. Then, run your finger over the masking fluid and it will peel right off, revealing gleaming white paper beneath!

A matched set!

The final step is to sign the front and add some info to the back of the card with your Sharpie, so your recipient knows the name of their beautiful artwork! I also add the date and the medium, but feel free to add whatever information you want. You're ready to mail or frame your art work!
Back of the completed card with painting title, date, and medium. I think this adds a nice handmade touch.
 I promised to talk about hand-drawing your line art, and I keep my promises so here goes. The card shown below was created before I got my lovely postcards. I cut out the size I wanted from regular watercolor paper, taped it down like the card above, and got to drawing. I free handed a henna-inspired sunrise in pencil. Then, I painted it and let it dry completely. After it was dry, I removed the tape and outlined it with my Sharpie, adding a few more details here and there. I like how it turned out. :) Because it wasn't on postcard paper, I used a ruler to add the postcard lines on the back. Don't forget to sign your original artwork!
Henna Sunrise
I hope you enjoyed this little post. And, I really hope it inspires you to try something new! If you decide to try making your own, please leave me a comment and let me know! I'd love to know how it goes for you!