ARTISTKaren Schaaf

The HOW Only transparent watercolors to create my works. My primary palette is limited to six colors, a warm and cool version of each primary color.
Using a technique known as “wet-into-wet,” I drop each color onto already dampened surface allowing the pigments to mix on the paper. This allows me to achieve a smooth blended effect,
especially important when painting realistic facial features. I use the paper as my white and carefully layer my pigments, letting them dry completely, then repeating the process as needed to achieve my darker values.

Layering with watercolors is a difficult technique, probably more difficult than oil, as you must always be conscience of which pigments will lift off the surface and which ones will stain, and how each color interacts with the one underneath. Layer upon layer, the painting slowly develops, with colors reacting
to each other and becoming something new, and the glow of the paper still evident. It can take anywhere from 2-4 weeks to complete a single work; some areas of my paintings can have up
to 20 layers.

The WHAT I’ve heard other people say that I paint portraits or people. That’s somewhat accurate, but what I really love to paint is the moments in-between.

Not planned portraits of a smiling face, but that moment when a gesture or expression tells a story. The  pivotal instant when I can bring the viewer with me to experience a moment in someone else’s journey.So why do I prefer watercolor?

The WHY I trained in oil as part of my formal art education. Most portrait and figurative artists shy away from watercolor. Unlike other mediums, you can’t erase or cover your errors with more paint.

But that’s exactly why I think it is the most appropriate medium to represent the human experience. As I paint, the analogy between an untouched, fresh sheet of paper and the person I am painting is always in the forefront of my mind. Every person at birth starts out as a clean sheet of pure possibility. From that moment on, the layered, transparent process that I use most closely parallels the journey of life. I may be only capturing one moment, but I like to think that every color, stroke, and wash that I place down signifies the events that brought them to that moment.