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Watercolor Backwash Jubilee

Updated: Aug 20, 2018

Backwashes, Blooms, Backruns, Cauliflowers, Bazoodles; what ever you want to call them, every watercolor artist knows from experience about backwashes.

 Watercolor painters the world over often consider the backwash as a mistake, something you don’t want to ever see on your painting. The backwash is often thought of as a nuisance because it just appears unexpectedly, becoming an unintended eyesore on a beautiful, soft, watercolor wash. 

        For years I have sought to avoid the backwash in my own watercolor paintings and in my watercolor classes have taken measures to help my students avoid backwashes with diligence, keeping vigilant watch. It’s true most backwashes are made because the artist isn’t in control of the water, and so backwashes are understandably seen as a mistake. 

In a recent watercolor painting, I defied my own thinking and made backwashes, on purpose! It was so much fun, I felt like dancing around with my paintbrush, basking in this new freedom! I was finally able to make backwashes! What gave me freedom to step outside my comfort zone, is that the backwash contributed to the message of this particular painting. This painting of the African boy and chicken is capturing life closely connected to the land, life in the dirt, and a little boys spontaneity, I felt the backwash fit with the rustic way of life. So if you’ve had backwash phobia, hopefully this will encourage you that it’s not always a bad thing, it can be used as a tool you can use when appropriate and hopefully you will gain a new joy in your watercolors with freedom to do backwashes


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