Playing fast and loose

Playing fast and loose

So many people want to paint looser watercolours ( me included) .I have tried over the years to become more and more loose in the way I paint.Trying to exploit watercolour's properties to create wonderful effects on the page. I don't think any other medium has that sort of magic, but it's powers can be frightening, especially to a beginner.

My first piece of advice is to 'go for it', what is the worst that can happen? Then work with the effects created. The more you do the more the effects won't be as unexpected and you can use them to their best advantage. We all need some pointers but there is no substitute for practice.

My second piece of advice it to buy a little spray bottle


I use these a lot when painting loosely.

So now onto today's painting, a butterfly as loosely as I dare...

Sketch it out first 



Then using a paper clip



and masking fluid, mask out the white areas



Now I start on the body , I want some highlights so I leave the white paper showing and then I drop in colour , to add the shading and the colours of the body. This is all wet in wet and I am working quickly



Now for the wings, I add the under- colours of yellow and cerulean blue, orange and purple


then I spray the paper carefully with one squirt and let the colours run.




Now it is a case of adding more colours, but being careful not to let it all get too wet and let the colours become muddy. Or too dry and then they don't blend. I also like to use a clean damp brush to take out veins along the wings. 

Be brave, and creative, and let those watercolours sing



Always go from light to dark , I love to use cerulean blue under dark browns or blacks to add highlights.

Now it is a case of painting each wing in a similar way, checking which colours go where and being as brave as you dare.



Can you see I have let the oranges and yellows bleed a lot, it is a lot of fun and memorising to watch ( perhaps I should get out more!)



Once the butterfly has paint on all it's wings I added some very loose suggestions of flowers and leaves Just dropping paint into water on the paper, very subtlety.

Now I head back to the butterfly

I need more detail and definition, I  like the tension between the loose painting and the details, 



So I add more darks, and more detail to the orangy parts, some dots and marks.

Finally I splatter some white acrylic around, but every artist is different and you might want more or less than I do 



I have rubbed of the masking fluid and he is done , my butterfly, as loose as I dare be, have a go and see what happens.




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I really love your watercolours, but don’t understand how you know which colours to use as under-colours!

Mary Marsh

I like your paintings and follow your blogs. May I know what kind of paper do you use? Cold press or rough? If you mention it in your blog for every project, it helps a lot. Thank you very much. I like to learn the loose painting. Your blogs are so useful.


I like that you did not paint in the entire background. I think leaving white makes it feel airier and lighter. Beautiful!


Lovely! Thanks for sharing 💖


Thanku so much Rachel fb or showing us how u paint t Painted Lady…. she is stunning x 🙂 love her x x

Wendy Girling

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