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We were able to obtain a small collection of two hand signed serigraphs by Frederic Whitaker, released in the 1970’s.

Flowersinthetreetop                                                   pinkportal#2

See more details in the Whitaker Webstore

From Frederic Whitaker’s book, Whitaker on Watercolor

Chapter 2


Once you have your watercolor equipment before you, the nest step is to learn to handle it correctly.  Watercolor is a deceptive medium––it is easy to use, but it is not easy to use well.  Considerable practice is needed to learn to control it.  Before you can produce finished painting with the fresh accidental quality for which watercolor is famous, you must learn by trial and error what causes the “accidents” and how easily the freshness is lost.


It is possible to take a sheet of medium or heavy weight watercolor paper, attach it loosely to a drawing board with spring clips, and begin to paint.  Many artists do just this.  Others prefer to sponge or stretch their papers beforehand, whether or not these procedures are necessary depends to some extent on the kind of paper being used.  Often, however, it is a matter of personal preference on the part of the artist.  Personally, I use A.W.S. 300 or 400 lb. paper without sponging or stretching.


The stretching process is possible because paper expands when moist or wet and contracts as it dries.  Papers of 200 lbs. or less should be stretched.  Otherwise they will buckle too much when moistened.  The heavier papers can be used without stretching.  Some watercolorists, however, always stretch their papers, regardless of weight.

Heavy paper has an unbelievably powerful “pull” when drying, so a strong background board and a strong adhesive to fasten the paper to it are needed.  A weak board will warp, and if a poor adhesive is used, the paper will pull away at the edges, with ruinous results.  Let me describe the stretching of a 22” x 30” paper of 300 lb. weight, for that is about as large, heavy and strong a paper as you will ever want to stretch.  Smaller and lighter papers can be dealt with similarly.

For best results use a 3/4” drawing board about 1/4” larger all around than the paper.  Have ready four strips of heavy, 3” wide gummed paper corresponding in length to the four sides of the board.  Soak the paper, mop off the surplus water, and let the paper stand until its surface is free of loose moisture.  Lay is evenly on the board and, taking the gummed papers one by one, moisten them and stick them to the limp paper, covering one inch of the outer margin.  Then fold the gummed paper around the edge and back of the drawing board.  Be sure that the gummed tape adheres firmly everywhere.  Now let the whole stand until it is perfectly dry.  If all precautions have been observed, the paper will dry out as tight as a drumhead, but if the adhesive has loosened in any part, the paper will be warped and unfit for use.  The only remedy is restretching.

Some artists use a drawing board considerably larger than the paper and simply apply the gummed paper flat, but this has less holding power than wrapping the tapes around the back of the board.  Others wrap the watercolor paper itself around the edges of the board (or of a regular canvas stretcher, leaving the center of the paper unbacked) and use thumbtacks for holders instead of tape.  The thumbtacks are inserted in the back; never use them on the front of the paper or you will lose the continuous tight surface desired.  The wrap-around method naturally wastes a lot of paper.


If your paper is not stretched, it must be rigidly supported by a board of some kind.  Don’t try to work with a loose pad or some flexible contrivance, nor on a board so small that the paper extends beyond its edges.  A supporting panel of 3/16” plywood about one inch longer and wider than your paper is ideal.  This provides a 1/2” marginal allowance all around.  Hold the paper in place with four to eight large, strong metal spring clips.  (They can be bought in stationary stores.  Don’t get small ones!)  As the paper expands from the moisture, the clips can be loosened to take up the slack.

Some paper comes in blocks, usually twenty-four sheets held together at the edges with tape.  These are satisfactory in small sizes for making sketch notes or for drybrush painting, but should not be used in larger sizes for wet work, because the fixed edges prevent expansion and the paper buckles.  For the same reason, papers should not be fastened down with thumbtacks.

Figure 2. Some examples of different types of brush strokes on a medium-surface paper are shown on the following two pages. A. Strokes were done with a 3/4-inch flat brush. The solid area was made with a fully charged brush held upright; the dappled area by dragging the brush on its side. B. Strokes made with a No. 12 round red sable brush. The hairline was made with the point of the brush; the heavy spots by pressing down on it. The thin lines of uneven direction were registered by dragging the point of the brush lightly, twirling it back and forth. C. Strokes made with a No. 12 round brush dragged on its side. D. Strokes made with a 1-inch flat brush charged with thick color and brushed lightly. E. Strokes made with a No. 6 round brush, lightly stroked back and forth with thick, nearly dry color. F. Strokes made with a No. 6 round brush scumbled about in various directions. By repetitive scumbling one is able to build up darks to any point desired. G. Dry brushing which was lightly stroked, with little color on the brush. H. The outer branches of the tree were painted with the side of the round brush held so that the handle of the brush was almost level with the paper.


It is advisable to experiment with your brushes and colors to learn their possibilities, as shown in Figure 2.  A variety of effects can be produced by the handling of the brush itself and by the density of the color used.  Incidentally, remember that beginners invariably overestimate the thickness of color on their brushes.

Practice handling the brush in different ways.  Hold it upright, swing it from right to left on its side, drag it along the paper endwise on its point.  Slow brushing will deposit the color solidly, quick strokes will leave white paper showing through.

Don’t be too tense about brushing.  Hold the handle lightly near the end and swish it about lightly.  Remember a brush is not a pencil and should not be used like one.  At times you may want to hold your brush as the Orientals do––at right angles to the line of the arm and hand, with the handle pointing directly upward.

Color may vary in density from very light and thin to thick and heavy.  The former is likely to leave a solid tone, the latter may register only on the tops of the paper’s grain, leaving the depressions white.


The wash is the foundation of transparent watercolor painting.  A wash is an area of color, evenly applied, without breaks or brushmarks.  It may be uniform in hue and value, or it may graduate from one hue or value to another, but it should be smooth and effortless in appearance.  It is used primarily to cover large areas which cannot be painted smoothly with individual brush strokes, but even in relatively small areas the wash principle apples.

Since watercolor is a fluid medium, it can best be controlled by painting on an inclined surface from the top to the bottom and taking care of the accumulation of pigment at the lower edge.

To paint a wash, first prepare a pan of color diluted with water.  Place your drawing or paper on a slanted easel or board, at as high an angle as you can negotiate, and then, using as large a brush as the job will permit, begin at the top to brush the color across the whole width of the area involved.  The strokes should be very wet, with as much liquid in the brush as it will hold.  As soon as the first horizontal stroke has been completed, repeat the process with a second stroke under the first, allowing the collected liquid color of the first to mingle with that of the second.  This horizontal brushing should be continued until the surface to be painted is covered.  Now, with a brush, remove the color as it collects at the lower edge until the paper is dry.  In effect, you have simply allowed a quantity of liquid transparent paint to roll down the surface of the paper, covering every pore of the area.  That is the principle of the wash.  There are, however, certain complications that may arise.  The most common are listed below.