When I paint birds and flowers, I totally disregard traditional symbolism. My primary concern is purely for aesthetic consideration. Chinese artists know their subjects well and store them in their memories. When it comes to painting, they usually take an improvisational approach. I adopt this method by intuitively painting the background first, and then lifting out shapes for the birds. This gives me the freedom of having the birds in the most strategic areas after all the rest is done.
I call the method I use a “saturated wet technique.” At the essence of this dynamic process is an effort to harmonize opposing elements: yin and yang, intuition and contemplation, emotion and reasoning, incident and intention, subjectivity and objectivity, imagination and reality, abstraction and realism. Working on saturated paper is a wonderfully freeing method, ideal for painting goldfish, koi, flowers and birds.
Follow Cheng-Khee Chee’s demonstration below, and discover other artist’s tips for painting animals in watercolor, acrylic and oil in this new eMag from Watercolor Artist. Get your copy here!
Saturated Wet Technique for Painting Animals in Watercolor
Step 1: I intuitively painted an abstract negative background, considering only warm and cool colors and light and dark values. I daringly splashed colors on the paper, tilted the board to let them run and mix, and guided them in the direction I wanted them . (If I use phthalo colors, I apply them over non-staining colors so as to reduce their staining power.
Step 2: Once I was satisfied with the background painting, I immediately evaluated the composition and determined the subject matter. In this case, it was sunflowers with the chickadees. I waited until the glistening wetness of the surface disappeared and then started defining the sunflowers by lifting colors off the wet paper with a brush.
Step 3: I positioned the chickadees and lifted out shapes with a brush and sponge.
Step 4: I further developed the painting.
Step 5: I refined the details and signed the painting.
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