No Brush Required

Laurie Goldstein-Warren demonstrates how she makes a painting almost entirely with a mouth atomizer.

Laurie Goldstein-Warren first learned about using a mouth atomizer years ago from John Salminen in a workshop he gave on painting abstracts. “I loved that you could create interesting textures when viewed up close, but from a distance, everything looked so smooth,” she says. “I started using the atomizer to play down areas in my cityscapes, such as at the edges of the paper, using a violet mixed with my Antwerp blue and quinacridone rose. A couple of years ago, I decided to see how far I could get through a composition using only my atomizer and no brush, and it’s a process I’ve come to love. Working this way requires a lot of planning, but there’s no other way to create the unique look I’m able to achieve in my paintings.”

Follow along step by step as she demonstrates her process.

Artist’s Toolkit:

Watercolors: Daniel Smith: quinacridone gold deep and quinacridone rose; and Winsor & Newton: Antwerp blue and lamp black. (I mix all my paints in 5 oz. jars, squeezing out a 1-inch long line of watercolor paint at the bottom of the jar and then filling it half way with water. The paint and water must be mixed thoroughly with an old brush, so that all the pigment is fully emulsified in the water. I do this several times throughout the painting process as the pigment wants to settle at the bottom of my containers.)
Paper: Fabriano Artistico 140-lb.cold-pressed
Mouth Atomizer:  Holbein
Masking:  2-inch and 1/2-inch tape, and masking fluid
Misc: Boards to cover larger areas not to be sprayed

Step 1

Step 1:  I drew the image on paper with pencil.


Step 2

Step 2:  I applied masking fluid to the areas I wanted to save as white or a light color before I atomized the first dark layer.


Step 3

Step 3:  I made several passes with each of the four colors using the mouth atomizer to create my darkest darks.


Step 4

Step 4:  I removed the first layer of masking.


Step 5

Step 5:  I applied masking tape to create thin fire escape rails.


Step 6

Step 6: To achieve a vibrant orange, I used the mouth atomizer to apply quinacridone gold and quinacridone rose.


Step 7

Step 7:  I removed the masking tape to reveal the fire escape.


“Chinatown Shadows #2” (30X22)

Laurie Goldstein-Warren is an award-winning painter living in West Virginia.

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  1. I am slowly digesting the short articles. I found the article by Laurie Goldstein-Warren helpful in “downplaying” an area using the atomizer. I am enjoy the AWWeekly so much! –Tuva Stephens

  2. Thank you for sharing your process. I have a question/problem. I bought a mouth atomizer some time ago, and I can’t get it to work. I follow the directions, but the paint doesn’t go up into the atomizer at all. Suggestions anyone???


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