Wet-on-wet painting is one of watercolour’s greatest secrets. By painting one section before the previous one has dried, colours can be mixed on the page and a wide variety of blending effects obtained, such as rain-filled, windswept skies. By its nature, however, this is a technique which it is extremely difficult to manage and, although it is the very unpredictability that appeals, a pro-active approach can yield some control over the outcome.
A lot is written every year about wet-in-wet, but most of it is in general technical manuals and only really scratches the surface. Books solely devoted to this one technique are relatively few and far between but, as this one amply demonstrates, there’s no shortage of what can be said.
Inevitably, any in-depth approach is going to be on the technical side, simply because what affects the outcome is the paper type you use, how much water is involved, how soon after the first wash the second is applied and, sometimes, even the colours used. It’s much to the author’s credit that she demonstrates these variations through practical examples and illustrated tables, rather than lengthy explanations. She also includes a handy table of effects where you can see how a number of different methods of application are effected by the combination of paper type and the level of dilution. This short, invaluable section will give you a broad outline of what you may need to do to achieve a particular effect.
The technical side takes up roughly the first half of the book and the second is devoted to a series of step-by-step demonstrations which illustrate what happens in a completed painting and subjects include flowers, landscapes, still life, trees and water.
This is one of a developing series of books from New Holland which have been translated from French originals (and well translated, too) and it looks as though there is quite a flourishing school of technical painting in that country that could be very instructive.