Watercolor Painting by Dennis Pendleton. This is another painting from my weekend workshop at Denver Botanic Gardens. I painted it with the students watching along with onlookers who were wandering the gardens. I would like to thank everyone who took the Botanic Gardens Workshops this summer. It always amazes me how we can all be painting in the same area of the gardens and yet all our paintings are different and interesting in their own way.
This painting gives me the opportunity to talk about the effective use of white paper in watercolor painting. Unlike oil painters and pastelists, we don't use white paint but rather save the unpainted white paper. This requires planning and painting in watercolor is like a chess game where you are always thinking several moves ahead. It is also possible to use masking fluid to save the white paper but I have never liked this technique because of the hard edges that are left when you remove the masking fluid. After my preliminary drawing in pencil I put a little bit of color in each of the white flowers being careful to leave mostly unpainted white paper. I used cobalt violet mixed with rose dore then surrounded the white flowers with different shades of olive green mixed with cerulean blue and perylene green. In actuality, I created the white flowers with the colors around them.
Before I started painting I decided that I wanted to use unpainted white paper for the background and I knew that the white flowers surrounded with color would relate nicely to the white background. Next I painted the yellow buds with lemon yellow making sure that a couple of them overlapped the white flowers to create depth. Finally the blue purple flowers, painted with cerulean blue and violet, at the top of the composition made a nice transition into the white background by creating a lacy effect that resulted in lots of interesting little negative shapes. Now the white background peeks through the different colors and the background and colors are working together. I also spattered these colors into the flowers and white paper.
When I am using white paper for the background rather than color, I make sure that at least 80% of the painting is painted and only about 20% or less of the composition is unpainted white paper. I also make sure that colors touch at least three of the borders thus creating more interesting negative shapes. Learning to preserve unpainted white paper takes practice but the results create a sparkle and clarity that are not possible with white paint. Happy Painting! Dennis Pendleton