How to use a dagger brush with watercolors

You know it certainly, i love painting greenery especially with a dagger brush. But what is this king of brushes ?

Normal round brush on top vs dagger brush at the bottom

This particular brush is often in natural hair (squirrel), it has long hairs with a triangular shape. The ferule is flat like a normal flat brush, but on one side the hair are much longer than on the other side. So why is this interesting ? Simply because it can hold lots of water and make random marks on the paper.

The size of the hair are useful for two essential things : holding lots of water, but also it reduce your ability to control the brush. Long hair are very bendy and can go in all direction once on the paper. The triangular shape is very useful too because it allows you to paint very fine line as the point is so thin. You can use all the body of the brush and make blod strokes but by using no pressure you’ll be able to make the finest line.

As i said it’s a hard brush to master as it creates so much random marks. It seems a little bit confusing to paint with that kind of difficult brush. But with a bit of exercises you’ll be able to paint texture very easily. For trees, bushes, branches… it’s the perfect brush. You’ll have to be very precise in the pressure you apply on it, but it’s well worth the work !

Using a dagger brush in video

Supplies :
Brushes : Escoda aquario nº18, Rosemary & Co serie 39 1/2″.
Paper : Canson Héritage hot pressed.
Colors : Potters pink (Schmincke), Ultramarine blue (Sennelier), Aussie red gold (Daniel Smith), Quinacridone burnt scarlet (Daniel Smith), Burnt sienna (Schmincke), Lunar blue (Daniel Smith).

And here you have an exemple of what one can achieve with this brush (Click to enlarge) :

Fall in watercolor

Fall is starting to show some colors in Stockholm and some of the bushes are covered with red berries. It’s a subject i like to paint every year so here you have the 2019 version !

I don’t have any reference picture to show you this time because they are all in my head ! During my excursions in the city i’m observing the nature a lot and i’m looking at trees and bushes. All this images i gathered are my inspiration for today’s painting !

But before starting this watercolor painting i need to choose the color wisely. It’s a part of art i like a lot, that free possibility to play with whatever color you want. And be able to tell different stories with each association of colors i put together. So today i started this story by choosing Aussie red gold. The perfect gold color for fall. And i added winsor red to it, because they are playing well together and it’s the perfect color for berries. And to balanced all this warm colors i need cold colors. Indanthrene blue and Carbazole violet are the perfect contrasted match. And when mix together they make a very beautiful night blue.

Fall watercolor in video

Supplies :
Brush : Escoda Aquario nº18, Rosemary & Co série 39 1/2″.
Paper : Canson Héritage hot pressed.
Colors : Indanthrene blue (Daniel Smith), Aussie red gold (Daniel Smith), Winsor red (Winsor & Newton), Carbazole violet (Daniel Smith).

And here you have the finished painting :

Experimenting with watercolour ground

This week, i’m experimenting ! And i take this opportunity to re-paint an old and sucessfull painting on my youtube channel : Rocks and water (very unique isn’t it ?!)

The painting i did a year ago is still one of my favorite and it is hanging right on top of my painting space ! So my goal for this new version is not to do better but to do differently. To help me achieve that goal, i’m using some watercolor ground. I want to test it for painting white area after a first wash of painting and also for creating a very textured surface.

This medium is looking like gesso, maybe a bit thicker but mostly more textured. It’s as if there is something like sand in it. It’s totally ok to mix it with water in order to thin it down a little bit (but not too much water !). I’ve chosen to apply it with a plastic card, like a credit card, but it’s also possible to use a palette knife or a brush with it. But do not use your most favorite brushes with it because it is a bit like acrylic paint and it will damage your brush if not rinse carefully. Thanks to my plastic card i was able to move it around my page easily and i had a lot of time to carve the texture i wanted. It’s quite a long drying paint so you have to wait at least 24h before painting on top of it. Maybe even more if the layer is quite thick.

The result is very intersting and i’m very happy with it. It could be a very usefull tool and i’ll explore it more !

Painting with watercolor ground

Supplies :
Brushe : Escoda Aquario nº18.
Paper : Canson Héritage rough.
Colors : Ultramarine blue (Sennelier), Viridian (Schmincke), yellow ochre (Daniel Smith), Aussie red gold (Daniel Smith), Quinacridone burnt scarlet (Daniel Smith), Burnt sienna (Schmincke), Lunar blue (Daniel Smith).

And here you have the finished painting (click to enlarge) :

My setup for plein air painting with watercolor

This week i want to talk about my setup for plein air painting and especially about my travel palette. And it take this opportunity to paint a landscape !

My palette is called Portable Painter. It’s a very compact palette : it’s the same size than my phone but just thicker. Once the two dark plastic part are removed (they can be used as water pot), we are in front of a tiny 12 half pans palette. And here you have the colors inside :

  • Aussie red gold, Daniel Smith
  • Quinacridone gold, Daniel Smith
  • Viridian, Schmincke
  • Carbazole Violet, Daniel Smith
  • Ultramarine blue, Daniel Smith
  • Sépia, Daniel Smith
  • Nickel azo yellow, Daniel Smith
  • Rose madder lake, Sennelier
  • Quinacridone burnt scarlet, Daniel Smith
  • Lavander, Daniel Smith
  • Manganese blue, Daniel Smith
  • Verona gold ochre, Daniel Smith

The big plus of this palette is that i can change the color scheme as i want thanks to the removable half pans. So i have other half pans of colors in my stash and i can swap them according to my inspiration of the moment or the season.

Apart my palette, my setup consist in a sketchbook with watercolor paper (100% cotton if i can), a pencil case with watercolor pencils, pencils and travel brushes, a rag, few paper clips and a collapsible paper pot. And of course a water bottle with water so that i can paint ! I try to keep it minimal so that my setup can fit in my bag and is not too heavy.

My setup for plein air painting in video

Supplies :
Brush : Raphaël petit gris 903 nº2
Paper : Sketchbook USK watercolor Sennelier
Colors : Ultramarine blue (Daniel Smith), Manganese blue (Daniel Smith), Sepia (Daniel Smith), Aussie red gold (Daniel Smith), Carbazole violet (Daniel Smith), Verona gold ochre (Daniel Smith).

And here you have the finished painting (click to enlarge) :

Painting a beach in watercolor

And i’m back from my holidays with so much reference pictures ! So this week, i’m painting a sunset on a rocky beach near Nyborg, Danemark.

The focus in this reference picture is mostly on the rocks lying on a really simple beach. I love painting rocks and creating textures to make them look like rocks but without being to realistic and detailed. On thing you can’t really see on my picture is the sunset. The sun was hitting everything with a gold warm and soft light. First, i’ve painted a little study of the scene in gouache in order to have a first feeling of it. I didn’t reproduce the gold lighting i had in my memory and i think it’s really needed though !

This first version with gouache was very useful to determine what i wanted in my watercolor painting and what i wanted to avoid also. For example, even if the composition is working well in the gouache painting, i wanted more focus on the rocks so i tighten the framing in the watercolor version. The other important point was the colors. On the gouache painting the golden light isn’t there and for me it’s important to have it on my watercolor version. So i’ve chosen the colors accordingly : strong warm colors with high contrast so that i’m able to paint the feeling of this view !

Painting a beach with watercolor in video

Supplies :
Brush : Escoda aquario nº18.
Paper : Canson Héritage hot pressed.
Colors : Aussie red gold (Daniel Smith), Yellow ochre (Daniel Smith), Quinacridone burnt scarlet (Daniel Smith), Carbazole violet (Daniel Smith), Cobalt blue (Schmincke).

And here you have the finished painting (click to enlarge) :

Paintings with reds in watercolor

I put the blog in pause during my holidays but i’m back at it now ! So this week i just wanted to play with colors i do not use very often : reds.

I don’t have any reference picture to show because i painted this watercolor painting in a spontaneous way. That is to say that i let myself watch what is happening on the paper and i decide what i want to bring up or tone down as i go, layer by layer. It’s a bit of a dangerous process. It can go super good but also really bad. You have to know when to stop ! I often still want to add lot’s of things, a tiny bit of colors there, a bit more water here…

Before starting this watercolor, i’ve choosen my colors to help me go in one direction and not make a mess by using to much colors. I wanted to paint more with reds and pinks because i have trouble with using them. Those colors are very strong and i want to learn to use them in a more subtle way. The trick is quite easy : using more water ! And learn to work them with layers and slowly.

Painting watercolor with reds in video

Supplies :
Brushes : Escoda Aquario nº18, Rosemary & Co Serie 39 1/2″
Paper : Canson Héritage hot pressed.
Colors : Viridian (Schmincke), Rose madder lake (Sennelier), Winsor red (Winsor & Newton), Aussie red gold (Daniel Smith), Opera pink (Daniel Smith), Bloodstone genuine (Daniel Smith).

And here you have the finished painting (click to enlarge) :

Cactus in watercolor

This week, i’m again painting something new, i’m painting a cactus, a prickly pear tree.

The big challenge here is that there isn’t much details to paint ! This plant is composed of big plain shapes so my reference picture looks a little bit simplistic. I’m more use to paint lots a greenery in a very dense disposition. With this subject, cactus, i’m a bit lost !

In order to beat this simplistic appearance, my strategy is to play with colors. I’ve used colors that are not very reallistic with violets and turquoise. And alos i’ve let my colors fuse in one another in order to get beautiful gradients. Having less details to paint made me focus more on my colors strategy and i needed to think a lot more what i was doing. Usually if i made a mistake i will blur it or cover it with greenery or leafy shapes, but here i have nothing with which cover them. I needed to think carefully each brushstrokes.

Painting a cactus with watercolor in video

Supplies :
Brushes : Escoda Aquario nº18, Raphaël le “803” nº2, Rosemary & Co Eclipse round nº4.
Paper : Canson Héritage rough.
Colors : Phtalo turquoise (Daniel Smith), Yellow ochre (Daniel Smith), Rose madder lake (Sennelier), Lunar blue (Daniel Smith), Lavander (Daniel Smith), White gouache (Winsor & Newton).

And here you have the finished painting (click to enlarge) :

Succulents in watercolor

For this week’s video, i’ve decided to associate a technic i’m not very familiar with (creating texture with plastic wrap) with a subject i’ve never done before : succulents.

I have quite a lot of experience with traditional plants and flowers, but i never tried succulentes before this video. And even if it’s still plants, they have a lot of differences in the structure, texture and colors. So i am a bit lost here. But in order to help me find my marks, i decided to work with plastic wrap. When i apply plastic wrap on top of a still wet fresh layer of color, i’m able to create lots of texture with all the folds it creates. And i can move the folds around until i’m satisfied with the texture. With this technique you can create texture for leaves, water and like here rocks.

The final painting for this first try is quite abstract and maybe you need a lot of imagination to “see” the succulents. That’s why i wanted also to show you my gouache painting with the same subject. I painted this one after my watercolor painting. I did want to have a better understanding of the structure of the plants. And by trying many times the same subject, i’ll learn something each time. And maybe later this year i’ll be able to paint another version of the same subject in a more accurate way. Watercolor painting is not success every time but painting again and again in the best way to learn and make beautiful things !

Watercolor’s succulentes in video

Supplies :
Brushes : Escoda Aquario nº18, Raphaël Petit Gris le “803” nº2.
Paper : Canson Héritage rough.
Colors : Phtalo turquoise (Daniel Smith), Rose madder lake (Sennelier), Yellow ochre (Daniel Smith), Lavander (Daniel Smith), Lunar blue (Daniel Smith), Nickel azo yellow (Daniel Smith).

And here you have the finished painting (click to enlarge) :

Watersoluble graphite

No color this week ! Just graphite and studies in black and white. But this is a very nice tool to work with and i’ll explain why in this post !

But before talking about the tool i want to present a little bit my reference pictures. Of course for an easy subject i always choose my cat. It’s the prefect subject for trying a new tool. So i choose a picture with contrast and a nice pose so that i can also enjoy the drawing part ! My second subject is a landscape with lots of different textures. I love this picture and i would like to be able to paint it on a big sheet. But i can’t make up my mind on how to work this one so today i’ll make a tonal study with it so that maybe i’ll have a better understanding of it.

But now let’s talk about the star of the day : watersoluble graphite. It’s a tool looking like a regular pencil but with no wood around. Just paper in order to protect fingers when drawing with it. It can be found in other format such as a pan and you can use it like a watercolor pan with a brush. But here i can draw with my pencil and i’ll be able to smudge and blur the line later with a brush an water. And once my drawing is done i also can add more graphite by taking the pigment from the pencil directly on my brush and then paint with it like a regular watercolor.

This tool doesn’t need lots of supplies to go with : paper, brush and water. It’s the perfect tool to boost creativity. You can just play and have fun with it without all the usual mess with watercolor. It’s easy to take it with you wherever you go and perfect to draw on the go ! The only drawback for me is that it doesn’t mix well with colors. Watercolor pencils or regular watercolor from my palette, they all get muddy and weird with the graphite. it’s much better to use it alone for my taste.

Watersoluble graphite in video

Supplies :
Brush : Princeton Neptune 1/2″.
Papers : Saunder waterford rough, Canson héritage hot pressed.
Colors : Derwent graphitone 6B.

And here you have the two little studies (click to enlarge) :

Lily pads in watercolor

I’ve almost the feeling that i repeat myself a lot in my watercolor’s subjects. But in order to progress, i need to repeat and re-do again and again, don’t i ?! So this week i’m painting again lily pads which are quite a coming a going subject in my sketchbooks.

I’m very clearly influenced by the impressionist current and i admire a lot all the paintings from this era. So as you can expect, i’m also fascinated by ponds and lily pads (or waterlilies?). It’s subject i found very poetic and romantic in a way. My reference picture is coming as usual from the botanic garden in Stockholm. But i also see this plant almost everyday in the waterway close to my home. I’ve tried a lot of time to paint it with various result. The sketch above is one of my favorite because it’s very colorful and also because the lily pads are barely recognizable.

I painted this new version of my lily pads basing myself on my reference picture for the construction but with the liberty and the fluidity of my first sketch. And i restraint a little bit the colors so that the image is a bit more unified. And the result was way further than what i expected !

Watercolor lily pads in video

Supplies :
Brush : Escoda Aquario nº18.
Paper : Canson Héritage hot pressed.
Colors : Ultramarine blue (Daniel Smith), Rose madder lake (Sennelier), Lavander (Daniel Smith), Nickel azo yellow (Daniel Smith), Payne’s grey (Sennelier).

And here you have the finished painting (click to enlarge) :