Richard Bolton's Tutorials
is an international author of books on watercolour techniques.
A painting needs to be almost dry for scratching out to be effective. If it is tried when the painting is wet the colours will creep back into the marks and dark lines will result. Wait until the paper has stopped being shiny and wet, and has dried out a bit and become dull though still damp, then start to scratch out. My favorite tool is a razor blade but a sharp craft knife will work. A fine line can be incised with the corner of the blade or broad strips taken away with the edge of the blade.
With care this technique can also be used in a painting that has dried. Apply a brush stroke of
clear water and follow by scratching out.
Great care is needed to avoid colours lifting when doing this so apply the water in a single stroke. In my example I show a variety of lines scratched out demonstrating how effective this technique is. These lines could easily be some detail of grass in a painting.
FIGURES IN WATERCOLOUR
Here, I am really thinking of figures in a landscape, where the landscape is the main subject and the figures are there to bring it to life, and add a splash of colour. They can also indicate scale.
A lot of figures in a scene, e.g. the beach or a busy street, can almost form a pattern of shapes. Figures and movement can be suggested and this can be more effective than precisely painting in each figure. Placing one or two figures in a landscape takes a lot of care. I find it works best if they are doing something - walking the dog, fishing or working. A figure just standing on its own can look odd. Two figures together work well, they can be companions out for a walk.
Figures can be drawn in at the start and a spot or two of masking fluid can be a great help to capture highlights on the head and shoulders. I prefer to add the figures towards the end of the painting. Usually I sketch them out on the brown gum tape around the edge of the painting, and when I think I have got it right, I re-draw them in the painting. Colour can then be lifted by rubbing with a damp brush and the figures painted in. A little Chinese white can help with the highlights.
Poor figurework will let down an otherwise good painting. The viewer's eye always goes straight to the figures and any weakness in this area is very obvious. To achieve good figure work it requires a lot of practice, get a sketch book and fill it with figures, and if possible attend a life class.
Best wishes, Richard Bolton