Watermelon obsession, paper testing and backruns.

Yesterday afternoon, I painted 5 times my watermelon slice!!!! 😁😂  With its gorgeous color and its juicy look, the fun didn’t end at all, even after several sketches. I was so happy to play with water and colors!! 😝 

This creative session was about trying new papers to paint on and ended up with a variation on the same theme aka various ways to paint my watermelon slice. 😀 

So, about the watercolor paper issue…

In my opinion, absorbent papers like Arches and Fabriano cold press may be the best watercolor papers… They are probably the easier to work on and the more predictable.

However, sometimes they feel too good for me!!!! 😂😅 You know me, I like flaws, watercolor running on the page, crazy watery effects, backruns… And they don’t happen easily on these so good papers. 😉 

So, I will probably keep using these kind of papers for their reliability, for some of my sketches, when I need a paper that doesn’t dry too fast to grow a rather clean wash, maybe for a more classic look and so on. But I am searching for a paper that can allow me to get some other renderings, especially fun backruns (or cauliflower effect).

If you are not sure to know what a backrun is, look at this close-up view of one of my sketches, below. See the strange mountain at the bottom of the sketch?! 😝😉 That’s a backrun! This happens when some water “runs back” in a previous painted area (which is drying but not totally dried yet) and pushes the pigment on the page, creating an irregular strange edge.

Btw, the backruns don’t always look exactly the same, depending on the drying stage of the previous wash, I think, and maybe the paint used.


I tried two new French 300 gsm papers with my watermelon sketches, along with the Arches one : “Lavis Vinci” which is really smooth and looks like a piece of cardboard (“lavis” means “wash”, in French, but I don’t think it really is watercolor paper) (I don’t care!! 😉) and Canson Montval, which is the one I am going to choose for some of my handbound sketchbooks for the Urban Sketchers Symposium, in Manchester, next week.

The idea, here, is not to try to demonstrate which paper is good or bad but rather to share with you my fun sketches and talking about the effects I was able to create on these papers. 😊 

I started with this sketch on the Lavis Vinci paper. Unfortunately, I overworked the watermelon part (bad girl!!! 😬) but I like the background, with its smooth look but also some gorgeous melting colors and textures.

Then, I moved to the Canson Montval paper and painted this one (it may be my favorite, even if each sketch has some good things and some flaws 😉).

In this one, I admit that I am really proud that I have created ON PURPOSE 😛 the backrun between the flesh of the fruit and the skin, to the right of the sketch.

This : ☺️

It’s pretty much an achievement for me. 😳😀 I like the subtlety and creativity of this backrun soft edge. 😉 To create it, I added a brushstroke of water between the skin and the flesh and tilted my sketch, putting the top of the sketch lower than the bottom, in order to force the water to flow into the red area (from the bottom towards the top).

These other backruns and color mingling, on the background, are really pretty too, for my taste! 😉 Here, some watery strokes are falling/flowing (towards the bottom) into some more pigmented drying areas.

As a comparison, I decided to paint a piece of watermelon on the Arches 300 gsm cold press paper I am more used to. Here is the result. 

The texture of the paper is stronger, more present. I tried to create a backruns between the flesh and the skin, like previously. Maybe you can guess where it is, at the bottom of the red area… It seemed nice and strong when I created it but the effect was almost totally lost after the drying time… The paper softened it. 😕


So, if you compare the previous sketch to the other ones, you will understand why I am interested in using another paper too. 😉

Watercolor is so fun!! I couldn’t stop then. 😁 So, I decided to paint another watermelon slice 😉 on the Canson Montval again, to see if I could get the same effects than previously and to try some new things.


Here, it’s interesting to note the lost edge at the top of the slice. I like the effect! 😊 “Lost edge” means that the red is melting with the green and you can’t tell exactly where the watermelon ends. The edge is really soft here, gradual, whereas the skin of the watermelon is a precise hard edge. 

It doesn’t show a lot in the whole sketch pic but there are some nice color melting effects in the background, with small backruns here and there. ☺️

And here is another detail from this sketch (I hope you like watercolor details!!! 😅😜). The”water seaweeds” at the bottom are so cute, aren’t they?! ☺️

And a last one before cooking!! 😛 To try the Lavis Vinci again. 😉 


I think the result is fun!! I may be a little bit tired, however, and had a too heavy approach with the effects, here, I think. The splattering on wet paper, to the right (which creates circulars backruns), especially seems a bit too much for me. 😉 There are some things I like in the sketch, though, like the crazy area at the bottom.

So, here it is for my watermelon and watercolor obsession of the day!!

I didn’t do that a lot previously but, for a few weeks, I have been starting to paint, sometimes, several times the same subject. I think it’s interesting to improve our technique, to refine and study some effects and to detach ourselves gradually from the subject.

Which kind of paper do you like to paint on? Absorbent paper? Smoother paper which lets the water creates some puddles on it? ☺️
Btw, thank you so much for you adorable comments about my video, in my last post!! ☺️ I am sorry I couldn’t answer to the comments yet but I so enjoyed reading it. 😀😊😘

Now, it’s time to prepare the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Manchester!!! 😀😝

20 thoughts on “Watermelon obsession, paper testing and backruns.

  1. The different approaches were interesting to compare. The series has a happy, playful look. The back runs gave the watermelon convincing texture and interesting backgrounds. Great courage to experiment so much! Pat yourself on the back! I use Canson Montval 140 lb in my handmade journals with no “guilt trips” for experiments.

    • Thank you Linda!! I like this playful look so much!! 😀
      Sometimes, I can’t help experimenting with effects, ideas, and materials.

      I guess I will talk further about the Canson Montval when I will have painted on it more in Manchester! 😉

  2. wow, i must get the montval out and give it another try.

    thank you so much for sharing – i love everything that you share with us!

    lynne

    • Lynne, I will paint on Arches and Canson Montval during the Manchester Symposium so it will be great to compare the sketches and the effects when I will go back.

      I am glad you like my sharing. 😀

  3. Wow – I just love your juicy watermelons – they are so ALIVE! makes my mouth water. It’s so helpful to see you do these on a variety of papers and get your impressions and feedback on the experience and outcomes. Very lively post – thanks so much! I’m inspired.

    • Thanks Mary, I am so happy you liked my juicy sketches so much!! 😀
      I am glad I am able to offer inspirational and helpful post so thank you for encouraging me. ☺️

  4. This was a great idea because the values situated the watermelon in space and gave it a 3-D quality. I loved the runs, splatters and the colors were so vibrant that it made the watermelon rendering look energetic and dynamic. I liked all the papers because each gave a different look, and that’s good to know. You rock! Have lots of fun in Manchester!!!

    • Thank yooooou Karla!! 😛 Yes, values are so important… I always try to keep enough white in my subject and to add really dark strokes too, to get the full range of value and the higher contrast possible on it. 😀

      I like, too, to think that there is not necessarily one paper better than another but several choices more or less suitable for your style, your mood, you subject. ☺️ 😉

      Thanks, I am sure Manchester is going to be a blast!!

    • Yeah, dripping watercolor!! I like this freshness and I am happy you like it too. ☺️

  5. I am considering making a sketch book that has different types of watercolour /watercolor papers as I agree each one changes not how you see things but how you capture it. Thanks for sharing Anne-Laure, enjoy Manchester!

    • Hi Nancy!! 😉 😉 😉
      That seems a good idea! ☺️

      Just some thoughts, though.
      -> If there is a paper change with each spread, you will get two different papers face to face : one paper for the page to the left and another paper for the page to the right. It can be weird if you paint on the whole spread but why not!
      -> It’s great to try several things but you also need to accustom to one paper to be able to paint on it so it could be a bit disturbing to change all the time. You could consider to change the paper not for every page but only for every signature or after a few signatures to be able to paint several sketches on one paper and beginning to understand better how to work on it before moving to another.

  6. This watermelon looks juicier and more beautiful than the real thing. I want to eat your watermelon. It looks sweet and delicious and oh so beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing your art! Very generous of you.

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