Facing Your Fear of the White Paper

David Csont learned a new way to approach the start of his watercolor paintings by watching Tom Lynch during a plein air event.

“Overhang” (watercolor, 10 x 14 in.)

“Following his example, I put a big wet wash with a lot of color, blend a series of transparent colors into that form, and link everything together as I move forward in space,” says Csont. “I look for a dynamic element of the scene — the shape of a shadow, the lean of a tree, etc. — and that’s where I begin painting. Generally speaking, I build up layers of transparent color from the lightest to the darkest and most opaque. But quite often I need to define the edges of a building early on in the painting process, so I mark the range of values and the edges of a major shape with some dark colors painted along edges.

“Closed For Now” (watercolor, 16 x 12 in.)

“In those situations, it is better to establish the dark adjacent shapes so I can bring that section to completion and thereby establish a reference for judging how to complete the rest of the painting. In many cases I won’t need to develop every area of a painting to the same degree of completion. In most cases, I can stop at any point at which the painting works and doesn’t need more elaboration.”

Colonial Birdhouse (watercolor, 16 x 12 in.)

DAVID CSONT is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of the State University College of Buffalo with degrees in design and art history. In 1995, he completed his Master of Fine Arts degree with honors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has served as an adjunct professor specializing in illustration and design at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Cincinnati, and Northern Kentucky University. In 1998, David and his wife settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he is now the chief illustrator and a partner at Urban Design Associates. He founded Plein Air Mt. Lebanon in 2012 and continues to lead that annual event, and he participates in some of the top festivals around the country. He was featured in the February-March issue of PleinAir Magazine.


  1. Love this weekly watercolor news. It’s like meeting new artist and how they approach different painting challenges.


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