Watercolor Painting Ideas: Harmonize Shape, Color, and Movement

Are you ready to try your hand at a new painting exercise? Linda Kemp, who is known for her unique style of negative painting with watercolor, shows you how to create harmony in this exclusive excerpt from her book, Simplifying Design & Color for Artists: Positive Results Using Negative Painting Techniques. Click here to learn about Kemp’s Negative Painting Technique Ultimate Collection and get your kit today while supplies last. Scroll down for the free step-by-step.

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Warm regards,

Watercolor Painting Techniques | A Symbiotic Trio

Watercolor painting ideas | ArtistsNetwork.com

In Summer Light (opaque watercolor on paper, 7½x7½), the brushstrokes guide the eye in a clockwise direction that leads to the center of the painting, creating a swaying-in-the-wind effect. The gold and violet, and the red and green, complement each other to add a further sense of cohesion to the vibrant painting.

by Linda Kemp

If you aim to find new, exciting subjects to paint, keep in mind that it’s not just the objects in your paintings that make the work unique, but also your interpretation and the personal creativity you bring to them.

Golden koi are symbolic of love, good fortune and strength. In the demonstration that follows, I’ll show you how to put a different spin on this oft-painted subject. Harmonizing shape, color and movement will reinforce the feeling of a quiet moment found while peering into the shallows of a fish pond. Breaking forms into multiple planes will give the appearance of volume and dimension. Practice first on a piece of sketch paper so that when it comes time to paint, you’ll layer shape, color and movement with confidence.

Learn about Kemp’s Negative Painting Technique Ultimate Collection

Watercolor painting ideas | ArtistsNetwork.com

1. Draw a plan for the layers of fish. I draw the parts of the fish that are closest to me first. The dorsal fin and head of each are a good place to start. Next, I add bodies and tails, giving life and rhythm to my fish by curving the parts. After finishing the bodies, tails and side pectoral fins, I give each fish its own character by varying the contour and size.

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2. Draw and glaze the top layer. Recreating the first layer of my drawing on watercolor paper with a pencil, I transfer two fish from my sketch. I glaze around the heads and fins with pure red-orange (a mix of permanent yellow-orange and cadmium red deep). I dilute the color to soften it, leaving a hard edge to define the shapes, and then let it dry. Throughout the painting process, each element is drawn and painted one layer at a time.

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3. Reduce the intensity of the red-orange. I combine a touch of cobalt turquoise with the red-orange mix to slightly reduce the intensity. As the layering continues through this piece, the orange becomes progressively more neutral, or grayed.

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4. Make a hard edge. I follow my plan to sketch the bodies of the fish. Working in one small section at a time, I paint the slightly neutral red-orange along the edge of one fish.

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5. Pull the color away from the body. I wash the color away from the fish by dampening the paper and creating a soft edge, gradually transitioning the intensity of the color.

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Watercolor painting and negative painting | ArtistsNetwork.com

6. Dilute the color outward. I continue to paint around the forms, diluting the paint as it’s pulled toward the edge of the paper. Then I set the work aside to dry (or use a hair dryer to speed the process).

Beginners watercolor painting demonstration | ArtistsNetwork.com

7. Continue building. I follow my fish blueprint to add the fins and more levels of layering. Based on the number of sections I’ve divided the painting into, this requires several steps of sketching and glazing.

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8. Neutralize the color as you add layers. For each new layer I add, the red-orange becomes more grayed. I accomplish this by increasing the percentage of turquoise in the mix. I test the paint as I work, adding more water as needed to keep the value from becoming too dark.

Watercolor lesson of Koi fish | ArtistsNetwork.com

9. Add some pebbles. I paint the first set of pebbles under the fish, accentuating the stones’ round form and a circular pattern to carry the theme through. Next, I paint around the stones with grayed color. Little hits of pure turquoise create a jolt of color.

Watercolor demo, Koi fish | ArtistsNetwork.com

10. Scatter stones. I follow the same basic strategy for building in the negative space to add more pebbles. I’m not painting the pebbles; I’m painting around them. I work slowly and let the paper dry between steps.

Step by Step watercolor lesson of Koi fish | ArtistsNetwork.com

11. Keep the motif going. My painting now has five levels of pebbles. Working from the upper to the lower levels as I build, the piles of pebbles get deeper.

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12. Develop the inside details. Eyes and the fins’ bony spines can be added, but instead of painting them in, I paint around them.

A United Front

The combination of color, shape and movement produces a calming, quiet effect in the completed painting (below). The blended complementary hues, repetitive shapes of the pebbles and the semicircular positioning of the fish add up to a harmonious result.

Watercolor painting ideas & lessons | ArtistsNetwork.com

Color, shape and movement—as well as the bright shot of turquoise in the center of the painting—draw the viewer’s eye into The Love Dance—Golden Koi (above; watercolor on paper, 5½x7½).

For more watercolor painting lessons from Linda Kemp choose from the following:
Negative Painting Technique Ultimate Collection (book, DVDs, supplies)
Video Download: Negative Painting Techniques: Acrylic (video download)
Visit ArtistsNetwork.tv for online art workshops with Linda Kemp, and many others (online workshops, DVDs, video downloads)

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