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Wet in Wet Advent Candle

This is a quick true wet-in-wet painting of a candle.

What is Wet-in-Wet painting? When I studied anthroposophical (Waldorf) art when I was training to become a Waldorf School (Steiner School) teacher, we spent a lot of time painting wet in wet. It is the first painting method that is taught to children when they begin to learn to paint in a traditional Waldorf School in Germany, where the educational method of Rudolf Steiner originated and is still very influential.

This method of painting involves soaking the whole piece of paper with water first. Then, the painting is done directly on to wet paper using a limited palette of six colours – a cool blue, yellow and red, and a warm blue, yellow and red. There is no touching up with a second layer when the paint is dry, and no rewetting.

I have adapted this method of painting to use it in parts of many of my larger works, and it’s an essential part of many of my bird paintings, especially in the backgrounds.

This little painting is a demonstration of use of wet in wet principles, first on the top part of the candle, with the flame and sky, and then for the leaves in the little garland below the candle.

You might find it useful to incorporate this technique into your own larger paintings.

Materials:

  • I used a piece of 8 x 10 inches rough watercolour paper, 140lb. Any brand would do, and it could be just cold pressed if you don’t have any rough. You might need to experiment until you find the paper you like to use for this technique, as watercolour papers vary in their absorbency.
  • The colours I used were Indigo, Winsor Violet, Ultramarine Blue, Transparent Yellow, Quinacridone Gold, Cadmium Red, Alizarin Crimson, Olive Green and Sap Green, all by Winsor and Newton. This is the same as the limited palette mentioned above, with the addition of a cool green and a warm green to make the painting easier to do quickly. They aren’t essential though. I also used a little bit of white Winsor and Newton Designer’s Gouache (opaque white watercolour paint).
  • I used a large round synthetic brush size 14 and a smaller one size 8, but the exact sizes aren’t important.
  • I used a long haired brush (a rigger) to flick the white paint.

Method:

  • You can download the sketch for free or else draw your preliminary sketch freehand using a light pencil and only indicating the main outlines.
  • With clean water, wet the top part of the painting around the candle, leaving a large halo around where the flame will be.
  • Roughly introduce the Indigo, Violet and Ultramarine (or your choice of background colours) and allow them to bleed into the water-laden paper. Avoid the candle halo area. Don’t overwork the strokes. Keep one side darker than the other.
  • Paint the candle flame and tease the watery background into the flame area and just let it mingle. Then following the video lift out the excess colour to shape the flame.
  • Wet the candle and then paint with a wash of Alizarin Crimson.
  • Wet the lower part of the painting, and start to indicate the pine needles and the holly leaves. Use a variety of shades of green, always mixed from your limited palette listed above. Add the berries using Cadmium Red or similar.
  • Lift out any excess colour again in the flame area and touch up as necessary.
  • Allow to dry.

Enjoy your painting!