Watercolor has always been my weakest medium. I’m good with gouache, a type of opaque watercolor, but I’m not good with actual transparent watercolor. Still, I like to try my hand with watercolor every now and then. I even bought some new watercolor pans in the last few months. I’ve made some decent small art cards with the new watercolor but that was it. Until yesterday that is.

Lately I’ve been organizing a bunch of old works on paper. Pencil drawings, ink drawings, preliminary drawings, finished drawings, and whatever else I find. One of the things I find is random pieces of paper either blank or with an abandoned drawing on them. The blank ones go in a pile to be used and the abandoned ones (usually they were abandoned because I grabbed a new piece of paper and did a new version of the drawing) get cut up into smaller pieces of paper to be used later on.

I found an 11×17 piece of paper with a drawing I made back in 2003 printed out on it in blue line. It was a drawing of the goddess Athena that I eventually made into a color print back in 2003. This paper had her face partially inked but then I obviously wasn’t happy with it so I abandoned the inking. Since so little of it was done it was easier to start over than to try and fix the face.

I put the drawing in the pile of papers that were going to get cut up. For such things I usually cut them into five by seven inch pieces of paper and draw on the backs of them. But it turn out that this paper had pre-printed blue lines on the back. That made the back of the paper useless to me.

Then it occurred to me to ink and color the drawing. When I made the original Athena drawing back in 2003 I hadn’t yet developed my “Side of the brush” inking technique. That’s where I ink with a rough line rather than a smooth one. I knew I could apply that technique to the face that I didn’t like in 2003 (now I’m not even sure why 2003 Jared didn’t like it) and finish the drawing. So that’s what I did. I finished the drawing in a completely different way that I did 20 years ago.

When it came time to color it I knew I wanted to try out my new set of pan watercolors. I had seen a few ads on Facebook or some such of a guy painting over an ink drawing with water color. All he (or she I can’t remember) was doing was laying down brush strokes of transparent watercolor over the ink drawing. There wasn’t any shading going on but it looked good. It’s easy enough to do and takes little technique.

The first problem I had was that I wasn’t working on watercolor paper. My drawing was on Bristol paper but I thought that it would be thick enough to handle the watercolor. I knew the paper would buckle a bit and I thought I could handle that and it turned out that I could. Sure the paper is wavy now but that didn’t affect my technique much. It was something else that got me.

It’s been a while since I read anything about paper making but let me see if I can describe this. There is something that goes into paper making that controls how the paper holds its shape and how much liquid it can absorb. It’s called “Sizing.” Watercolor paper is made to absorb a lot of water and hold its shape. The Bristol board that I was using isn’t quite watercolor paper.

I like Bristol board/paper. It’s the main paper that I use. I use pencil on it. I use ink on it, and I use marker on it. It works with marker quite well as the paper absorbs the marker ink quickly. But the main reason it does that is the markers that I use are alcohol based and the alcohol evaporates quickly leaving only the color behind. Even when I use water based markers there is so little water in them that the water evaporates quickly too. Not so with actual watercolors and a brush.

The problem I was having with the watercolor was that the water wouldn’t absorb into the paper quickly enough. As I was trying to lay down color the watercolor would pool on the surface of the paper. The sizing in the paper was designed to keep the paper fairly dense so that ink or pencils could sit on its surface. Watercolor needs to sink into the surface.

There could be a way to work with watercolor on Bristol but I don’t know it. That’s where some knowledge of watercolor techniques would come in handy but, as I wrote before, watercolor is my worst medium. I never quite took to it so I don’t know many techniques to use it.

I eventually muscled my way through the painting part. I kept putting color where it needed to go and waited as it dried to add the next color but I don’t think there is any subtlety to it. It looks okay but not particularly interesting. I find that some areas of color look too dense while others look not dense enough. I think I could have gone lighter with the color in the whole thing but I was using the watercolor straight out of the pan. I bet there is a technique for that that I don’t know about.

I’m going to give this drawing a little more time and hit it again with some black ink. In places the watercolor went over the black line and weakened it. I want to strengthen it again. Plus that’s where I know what I’m doing. Ink is one of my favorite mediums. I can get that going.

Years ago, when I wanted to learn more about watercolor, I bought a book called “Transparent Watercolor Technique.” I glanced at it but never really studied it. After all I was proficient at enough different mediums that I didn’t have to learn one more. I’m still not sure that I want to put the time in to learn more about watercolor. I’ve got plenty of other ways to express myself and make art. But I might glance at the book again. I like looking at art books even if I don’t study them.