Painting Your Subject in Five Simple Strokes: Video Demonstration

What a perfect summer day!

The kids finished their school work for the year last week and are officially on summer vacation. (Don’t tell them, but we’ll be packing lots of learning into the summer months, just in a sneaky, hands-on way!) This afternoon I took them on an outing; I wanted to get a run in without getting up early, so I jogged while they biked the walking trails in town. We did a quick 5km and then packed the bikes back in the van and went swimming at the pool. It was actually a lot of fun – so often my plans for a fun outing hold a lot of frustration and complaining, so maybe they are growing up!

I got a little watercolor painting in this morning and I wanted to share my video of my newest endeavours because I’m trying something new. Jean Haines in her book Atmospheric Watercolour said something that stuck with me, about painting only half the detail you think you need. I think that’s what I need since I really struggle with “overpainting”; that is, painting the life out of my subject. Nothing makes a watercolour look more dead than that.

So I pulled a number out of thin air and said to myself, “What about trying five-stroke paintings?” The idea being, do an exercise where I allow myself only five strokes to paint my subject. Obviously, this is an exercise, not a way to complete a full painting, but in limiting my strokes, I can still play with amazing colour washes and edges, while avoiding painting my subject till it’s dead.

I tried it out today, using this photo as my reference:

Love these saskatoon berries! And my five-stroke version of the berries:

In hindsight (and requiring a sixth stroke), the berries really need one more stem joining the top berries to the leaves. As an exercise, this rocked! Take a few minutes and watch the video in which I demonstrate this painting from start to finish. Two five-stroke layers got it to the point you see here.

I would really love to see how the five-stroke exercise works for you! Email me with your projects ang @ angelafehr (dot) com. Have a great day!

7 Comments

  1. Lori · June 15, 2012 Reply

    I’m so glad I found you on Kristen Werner’s blog. I need to learn to be more relaxed and loose with my artwork. I look forward to going through your archives and learning whatever I can.

  2. ConnieM · June 15, 2012 Reply

    Like Lori, I stumbled onto you via Kristina’s blog as well. What a delightful birthday find for me! (Today is my birthday.) I love watercolor painting and am hoping to do more of it. I’m sure your blog will inspire me in the right direction. Thanks for sharing!

  3. linda · June 15, 2012 Reply

    WOW!! i so enjoyed browsing through your blog and admiring your watercolouring! and i spent some time clicking on links and tutorials too. your paintings are what i love about watercolours, but would never be able to achieve so i’ll have to keep popping back here. :)
    linda

  4. Manic Mom · June 16, 2012 Reply

    Love, Love, Love your work. :-)

  5. Karin · June 17, 2012 Reply

    Can one go to cloud nine after watching a watercolor video??? Well, I think I just did! It was sooo inspiring to watch you paint and to listen to you when you took me through the steps. This was exactly what I needed to feel inspired to take out my colors again- so happy I only have two workdays left. Promise I’ll send you my result it it’s not too embarrassing – it’s been years and I know how tough I think it is when I don’t have the same feeling for it as I used to )-:

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU Angela! Your video made my day – hoestly (and I’ve had a great day (-: )

  6. Exploring Apple Blossoms in Watercolor | Angela Fehr Creativity Central · June 19, 2012 Reply

    [...] flow with white space. I love mixing hard and soft edges! This one is more along the lines of my five-stroke exercise, though it may have been more like three strokes to sketch this simple blossom beginning. That [...]

  7. Susan Daniels · February 18, 2014 Reply

    Angela: I am soooooo happy to have found your teachings on the web. You paint how I wish I could. I took one of your classes on Skillshare and it helped me advance unbelievably!! I paint with a group of women every Monday morning, and they all have comentd on my growth! (Some of them have taught art at universities, and some win prizes regularly. I am a new watercolorist – if you can call me that – Previously I earned my living with photography and writing. I love your website. Thank you so much!

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