Hamamelis Project (Negative Painting)
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In the long dark days of January, before the early bulbs have opened, it’s easy to think that the outdoor world is bleak and colourless. However, there are some bright highlights to be found in gardens and hedgerows. The Witch Hazel, Hamamelis, is an unassuming tree for most of the year but now it’s branches explode with colourful blooms and is a perfect subject for artists who love colour. This fast and loose study is painted in watercolour and uses the ‘negative’ painting technique. Negative painting is where the space around objects (negative space) is painted rather than the object itself.

In this example, the first stage was to drop some bright colour on to wet paper to produce the petal colours. When dry, a transparent wash of blue was applied to the negative areas, (all the areas that are not flower or stem). The crisp petal edges are achieved by keeping the paper dry in that area – the outer areas are pre-moistened with clear water to allow each wash to bleed out. Layers are built up in this way and the project is completed with traditional, (positive) painting techniques for the final detail. 


This technique is a fun and easy way to use watercolour. It is suitable for all abilities and can highly detailed or loose and fanciful as in this example.

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