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Create imaginary worlds with watercolor – drawing ideas

Create imaginary worlds with watercolor. David Brayne is not your average aquatic media expert. He mixes almost all colors from his collection...

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Create imaginary worlds with watercolor

Create imaginary worlds with watercolor. David Brayne is not your average aquatic media expert. He mixes almost all colors from his collection of nearly 100 raw organic and inorganic pigments for beginners. He even excavated a red ocher pigment during a speleological expedition. And, unlike most traditional watercolorists, Brayne creates visible textured surfaces for imaginative paintings of him. Some people are confused by the story of my commitment as a watercolor. As a Royal British Watercolors Society member, he agrees with their inclusive definition that watercolor is a landscape in a water-based mark on a paper-based medium. 

Its purpose includes traditional pure watercolor and its combinations with other mediums and new media altogether. Also intriguing is that almost all of Brayne’s imaginative paintings are of figures in a landscape or interior. However, both the people and his surroundings are the product of the artist’s fertile imagination.

Pigment mix

When Brayne first judged acrylics, the variety of colors possible was relatively short. His initial reply was to mix earth pigments like yellow ocher and raw amber with store-bought tube paint. Although art supply stores carry many more colors these days and carry two or three packages of his idols, Brayne still relies on his excellent collection of pigments and mixes his colors. I have no objection to commercial colors. Sometimes I use conventional watercolors to offer the best solution for the effects I want; however, I can usually only achieve the shine, vibrancy, and lyrical quality that I desire by using pigments.

Brayne claims to use a lot of water to achieve these sublime qualities and create many thin layers of paint. He also mixes colors with gum Arabic or uses acrylic media as a binder. One acrylic medium that he often uses is water-soluble Lascaux, which makes the painting almost identical to traditional watercolor. If I wet the paint again, it will rise. It is a property that I like to play with.

Make several paintings at the same time.

Watercolor is, after all, just paint dissolved in water with a machine that adheres it to paper. My usual method is to use very open and diluted paint and work on a completely flat surface. It means that the best I can paint is limited by how far I can go. Partly because the color is fragile and partly because the paper is not very absorbent and allows the paint to set, it can take a long time to dry. As a result, I usually work on multiple frames at the same time. Due to the painting technique, Brayne’s surface must take several hits. His favorite option is 300 pounds. Paper sold under the name of the Royal Watercolor Society, which they use not out of loyalty but because I like how the paper behaves.

A technique for the plot

Varying the texture of the paint is essential to Brayne and the overall impact he strives to achieve. I can use the wrong end of a brush or scoring needle to scratch dry paint. I like the effects of introducing gold leaf or, better yet, silver leaf. When I incorporate a soluble medium into a wash, I let it dry almost entirely, the artist continues. Then you could spray it with water from a brush, leave it for a minute or two. Then I apply the blotting paper on top. 

Lifting it almost immediately can create a delicious marbled effect like in Swimmers and Fishermen. It is a textured look rather than an applied texture. Of course, this technique produces different results. I can’t control it, so sometimes I’m happy, and other times I’m down, says Brayne. When I get a quality that I want to maintain, I usually apply a clear coat of acrylic to fix the area.

Be open to experimentation.

Brayne is open to experimentation, and the votes that flow from it, with two notable exceptions. I like pretty much any mark made with paint, except for the drops and drips. It may be another reason I want a flat surface; painting flat means that the paint dries in a particular way. Running and dripping is too annoying for me. They are not quiet and, looking at them. You can imagine them forming.

Working from the imagination

Create imaginary worlds with watercolor

In addition to their various textured surfaces, Brayne’s imaginative paintings typically contain relatively few but primarily large shapes. When I am in the studio, thinking of new shapes, colors, and compositions, it is very different from the cool drawings of life, where there is an infinite variety. My way of working forces me to invent forms and documents. It must be a conscious search. I liked to draw from life when I did it regularly, but I don’t want to work from life on my paintings. Similarly, I am not an outdoor artist. All my paintings are made-up scenes. In a sense, they tell a story, which is not necessarily an easy option. I need a very controlled environment with all my pieces at hand.

The initial drawing

Brayne’s starting point for his highly textured paintings is a scruffy 2B or 4B pencil drawing, perhaps even with some markings using a piece of red ocher, and with a web of lines and many erasures. The initial drawing is always more detailed than the finished painting. Detailed pencil drawing is an integral part of his thinking process. I find those first signs to be the most challenging part of my method, he says. 

It’s almost as if you first have to destroy or ruin that clean white surface before you can proceed properly. Then I try to see what is essential in the initial expression of the idea or what does not work. I have found that I have to respond to what is in front of me all the time.

The beauty of the water

While creativity may be at the center of Brayne’s business, that doesn’t mean he’s not affected by his surroundings. He once lived in Lincolnshire, a notoriously flat part of England home to great skies and open fields. At that stage in his pictorial career, his work was very minimalist and about spaciousness and emptiness.

His most recent paintings still deal with open space, but these days his home is located 6 or 7 miles from Somerset Levels, a coastal plain and wetland where, over the centuries, residents have learned to adapt to the regular floods, sometimes severe. Therefore, water has become a common theme in Brayne’s paintings, although the depiction can be somewhat ambiguous. It is not always clear whether he is looking at a river, a lake, or the sea.

Waiting for interpretation

Brayne lets viewers determine which stories the paintings tell and, in a sense, each could find a different narrative. The imaginative portraits have a timeless folktale feel, or again, with the depiction of people fishing with nets, a religious connotation. It is confirmed by the evidence that the regional church in Brayne commissioned him to make an altarpiece.

However, not all of his landscapes focus on water. The horizon controls much of my view art. In Orchard I, for example, I needed to try something new and test with a different structure. I abandoned conventional perspective and divided the image with thick black lines, which created a space reminiscent of a theatrical stage.

Projected naivety

Brayne’s paintings, which are less abstract than when he began painting, manage to be timeless and overtly modern. They also have an attractive innocence, which the artist recognizes is something he strives for. It’s not the most direct challenge, trying to project naivety when you’re not naive. Brayne’s winning combination of innocence and structured luminosity creates intimate worlds that the viewer feels privileged to enter.

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