Back in 2010 while working at The Center For Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont, I had the distinct honor of sitting in on a watercolor demonstration by the great Canadian cartoonist, Seth. He spent two hours showing the students (and a few lucky faculty members!) a handful of useful tricks that you can use when you mess up a watercolor painting. I remember then-CCS student Katherine Roy asking if he had any advice for us, other than how to fix mistakes. He replied something to the effect of "When it's going well, there's not much to it! It's only when you make a mistake that watercolors can be really punishing."
I sure learned that lesson with this little painting!
As I was laying the blue "shadow" layer on top of the dried, lit-up painting, the brush was grabbing some of the paint below. Not because it wasn't dry (I let it sit for four hours and hit it with a hair dryer a number of times) but because that much paint and water laid over such a large area actually reactivated some of the paint and mixed it in with the blue shadow paint. You can see this happening in the lower left-hand corner of the tent, where some of the red bled into the yellow section.
This also happened in the much larger yellow section on the right-hand side of the tent. I
probably definitely should have left it alone. Like the bottom left corner, it wouldn't have been that noticeable to most people and it is almost always a bad idea to "go back in" on a watercolor.
While the paint was still wet, I tried to blot away the red that had bled into the yellow area, and then after it dried I tried putting some more shadow in there, which looked a lot worse. I even messed up the area on the other side of the wooden pole, to try and make it match! Ugh:
I had already dumped a lot of time and energy into this piece, so instead of starting over, I decided to try one of the old tricks that Seth had showed us. After letting the painting dry again, I wetted the effected region and then used a paper towel to lift out as much of the paint as I could:
I then laid in a "normal" area of yellow. You can compare it here to the yellow inside the spotlight. It's definitely not the same, because there was some residual blue and a bit of yellow left in the effected area as well:
After letting it dry again, I then laid in another shadow layer on the effected area. Again, it's not smooth or even as the originally covered areas, and the color doesn't match quite right (the yellow is a bit too intense) but I knew at this point that this was as good as I was going to get! Hopefully the value structure that I set up for the composition would keep the viewer's eye focused on the multitasking tightrope walker! I'd be interested to know how many of you spotted the problem area at the top of this post...
As with most of these process posts, I have a dual purpose: 1) I hope this information is useful to some people out there and 2) I'm glad to have this documented so when I need to try it again in the future, I can see all the steps!
As if all of this wasn't horrific enough, next week's theme is: Horror!