Where The Watercolor Painter’s Eyes Go

Nine years ago, when I worked in Hocking Hills as a camp counselor, I began to dream about being a full-time watercolor painter in that region.

On my days off I would go into the woods and work on watercolor paintings at the camp. On my second attempt at a watercolor painting in the naturally air conditioned creek bed I layered on color after color trying to represent reality. At the end I scratched out a branch with an exacto knife that was beautifully lit by sunlight filtering through the trees above.

To many people I showed this painting to it proved to be very successful. It was highly discouraging to me, because I did not capture the reality from which I observed.

Plein air watercolor paintings require diligence and experience to paint detail.

A viewfinder helps you visualize your scene before committing it to paper.

A viewfinder helps you visualize your scene before committing it to paper.

This frustration has led to an on-going refining process. This now includes a black mat viewfinder and a digital camera. These two tools are tied together in one purpose: To simplify the viewing area. With less distractions the viewfinder keeps your eyes focused on one area that you find interesting. The digital camera captures the elusive light that comes and goes unexpectedly. You can use either one or a combination of both.

What should your view find? Directional Lines

Find a letter shape with negative space.

Find a letter shape with negative space.

Varieties of Directional Lines

  1. Negative space
  2. Repeating shapes
  3. Repeating colors
  4. Light moving in one direction (Toward your Point of Interest)
  5. Gradations of value (Either lightest or darkest area brings the eye to your POI)
  6. Gradations of texture (Variation of texture creates automatic interest)
  7. Contrast (Value, color, or shape)

There are probably others I have not thought of. Perhaps you will discover some on your own. These can definitely be combined, but the key is to keep your eye traveling in the direction of your Point of Interest.

What are your eyes fixed on in a painting?


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