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Part 2 of this series to learn watercolor shows the difference between flow versus diffusion.
Our goal is to get the pigment and water to do what you want them to do in your paintings.
The expressive texture and color graduation of watercolor relies on using diffusion or flow.
Watercolors by master painters illustrate the soft, flowing, or random effects of water.
Historically, in the 1800’s, J.M.W.Turner became famous for using diffuse color areas.
He created by mixtures on the paper of red, yellow and blue pigments in his landscape paintings.
Turner also painted clouds, mists, reflections in water, using a variety of wet in wet techniques.
Turner’s paintings are full of light and atmosphere.
Joseph Zbukvic’s (learn more here) wet in wet painting technique includes flow and color graduation to create his dynamic landscapes.
Jean Haines uses wet in wet diffusion and flow in her paintings and teaching.
She encourages her students to enjoy the unpredictability of wet in wet effects and to improvise with the diffusing paint on the watercolor paper.
Haines has many excellent watercolor instruction books.
However, I recommend starting with Jean Haines’ Atmospheric Watercolours: Painting with freedom, expression and style.
Here is a preview of her dvd that shows you her painting style.
Learn Watercolor (Flow versus Diffusion)
Flow is the movement of water-containing-pigment from a high to low level.
When we place our watercolor paper at an angle, we direct flow.
Flow increases with
- greater tilt of the surface
- more moisture on the paper.
- Note: Unfortunately when we have created dips or valleys in our paper from a previous wash, flow will move paint where we might rather it didn’t.
- occurs when thicker paint moves into thinner concentration of paint or clear water
- is encouraged when the paper is wet
- and is limited when the paper is only damp or moist.
- is greater when the paint pigment is small and light (In contrast, to heavy, large paint particles)
- Diffusion is strongly affected by the presence of dispersants, such as ox gall, soap or alcohol (more in later post)
- Diffusion is most vivid when a highly concentrated, syrupy to creamy paint is applied to paper at the soaked to shiny stage of wetness.
Comparing Effects of Diffusion and flow
Diffusion tends to produce a slightly irregular feathering along the color boundary.
Flow creates a subtle parallel streaking of the paint color, or a distinctive “tendril” or branching pattern along the lines of flow.
Flow also helps with the gradual transition between concentrated and diluted color over a larger area.