Don’t Skimp on the Drawing

“Borrego Springs Treasures” (watercolor, 9 x 14 in.)

“When I travelled for 18 months around Europe at the age of 24, I painted in sketchbooks using my pan box of Winsor & Newton watercolors and got hooked on painting from life,” Barbara Tapp. “Watercolor dries fast, is clean, easily transportable, and compact, making it perfect for this pursuit.

“Hay Bale Hauler” (watercolor, 12 x 16 in.)

“My plein air process starts with a rough sketch followed by a complex drawing that sometimes takes over an hour to complete. I then use flat brushes to layer abstract wet-into-wet washes across the entire paper, providing me a color-coded background on which to work. Once this is dry, I continue to draw or paint my design. Working to achieve complex color and layered texture with watercolor, I respond to its spontaneous, reactionary, and explosive nature.”

“Winter Glimpses” (watercolor, 10 x 14 in.)

Step 1
Barbara Tapp shares a view of her plein air setup, including her rough sketch and the initial washes on her watercolor painting.

Step 2
The artist checks her painting at an intermediate stage against the subject.

“In My Backyard” (watercolor, 9 x 14 in.)

Final Step
Finishing details complete the painting.

Breaking with convention, Barbara Tapp starts by placing her dark shadow shapes first to achieve maximum contrast. Learn how her “reverse” process can give you a new and exciting way to analyze a scene, and expose you to new patterns, contrasts, and textures!


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