Glazing in Watercolor
Tuesday and Wednesday, April 1 & 2
For watercolorists with a little experience and a willingness to take risks, there’s a workshop coming up next month on the technique of glazing. We asked the instructor, Rachel Collins, to tell us what glazing is, what you can do with it, and how the workshop works.
What is glazing?
Rachel Collins: Glazing is the process of putting one layer of transparent paint over top of a first layer that has already dried, so that it remains undisturbed by the wetness of the paint going on over top. The result is a change in the hue and/or value of the area being glazed, but often a relatively subtle change, as what is underneath is not covered over completely. All media with paints that can be rendered reasonably transparent by thinning them out have glazing possibilities. It is wonderfully suited to watercolor, which of course is inherently quite transparent.
The trick in watercolor is learning which paints glaze most successfully, which paints make good underpaintings, and how to apply the glaze so that the underpainting remains undisturbed.
What can I do with glazing?
Glazing provides an excellent way to darken colors, alter their hues, ease color transitions, and bring color unity to a painting. It is a rare watercolor painting that does not have at least some glazing on it, as any layering of paint over an area that has dried already can be considered glazing. But there are certain kinds of painting in watercolor that are totally geared to the ability to layer the paint, and it is some of these that we will be exploring.
Some watercolor artists tend to define wet-in-wet watercolor and glazing watercolor as two totally separate and opposed approaches to the medium. I tend to see them as complementary, and love glazing because it gives me a second chance to get things right and make them more exciting!
What experience do I need?
Students with at least a little experience will benefit most from this workshop. The experience need not be extensive, but it really helps to have painted enough that you can really see how glazing can solve some of the painting problems we encounter every day!
What is the workshop schedule like?
I aim to have everyone painting as much as possible during the hours we have together. I talk and demonstrate enough to get processes and techniques well-explained, but no amount of talking or demonstrating by me can substitute for the actual experience of the joys and pitfalls of working in watercolor, and watching the transformations that take place!
We address the mechanics of glazing first, and do a project that helps us understand our brush and paint handling better.
Then we move into two projects where glazing is an absolutely essential component: a negative space project and then a project involving a well-developed underpainting, which then has glazes applied on top.
Mini-demonstrations and critiques happen throughout the workshop, sometimes for individuals, sometimes for small groups, and sometimes for everyone, depending on the need.
The development of technical facility with glazing is important, but the most important element is the development of the confidence that comes from understanding how glazing works and that glazing gives you multiple opportunities to create excitement in your work! Emphasis is always on the process, and what you can take away from your experience in the class. If you end up with a painting or a part of a painting that you are happy with, then you are among the fortunate! You probably will have a few glorious “failures” as well! I like to reassure everyone in class that I personally have never produced anything in a class or workshop that could really be deemed a success. I have to go away and work on my own, wrestle a bit with all the new information, and then figure out how to incorporate it into the kind of work I want to do. With this kind of practice, you learn to trust the process, and that it will lead you to some surprising experiences and eventually to a degree of ease with and mastery of the medium.
And to top it all off, working with watercolor in a concentrated way, like you do in a workshop, is always an amazing amount of fun! It is the medium that moves, and gives unexpected gifts!