When watercolorist Nadine Charlsen walked into Paul Ching-Bor’s class, his first words caught her by surprise: “I don’t have rules.” Foregoing traditional technique, he started dark and worked light; he liberally scratched parts off and scrubbed others out, “and I’d never seen that before,” Charlsen says. That class challenged her own tendencies, allowing her the freedom to experiment and explore. “Within three weeks, it changed everything about my watercolor technique, and I loved everything I was doing.”
In the process, Charlsen learned that some watercolors require more effort and reworking than others. “There are so many ways you can make watercolor work,” she says. “I believe in constructing and deconstructing a painting through many alternating steps. Each time, a new focus appears, and over the course of 10 or more phases, that focus becomes clearer.”
Erasing and making changes is key to Charlsen’s method. “If I had to leave everything that I put on paper right now, it would be a muddy mess.” She protects lighter areas by saving the white as she progresses, “but I use paper I can scrub, so I can go back to white as needed.”
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