© John Salmon.

Tutorial 3. Further Gradations

The object of this exercise is to demonstrate how to paint some gradations that could equally be considered as shapes with hard and soft edges. Using the charger, we can extend the softened edge, much further than with normal techniques, and this has led to the development of some interesting pictorial elements that can be used in your paintings.

The actual size of this is 7 x 5 inches. The numbers relate to the different gradations that I painted.

1 and 2 are full width gradations. I used a No. 8 brush and painted the gradation using horizontal overlapping strokes, root-charging the brush after each stroke. I allowed each gradation to dry before painting the next one.

3, 5 and 6 are also gradations painted with a No. 8 brush. This time I stopped the edge of these gradations on the sharp edge of gradation 2 that I had previously painted.

4, is also a gradation painted with a No. 8 brush. This time I stopped the edge of this gradation on the sharp edges of gradations 3 and 5 that I had previously painted.

7, is a circular gradation from the previous exercise using a No. 4 brush. The darker sharp edge of the gradations denote where I started painting.

It is important to note, that by painting layer over layer, I have not disturbed the underlying layer and created a mottled effect. This is due to the charger making the painting process quicker and easier. If I had fiddled, (particularly where gradations 2 and 3 overlap), then I would have disturbed the underlying paint and created a mess. I intentionally chose to use Paynes Grey for these exercises, because I used to find it notorious to glaze over due to these problems.

Here is a further example of how we can use gradations in our paintings.

I used the same technique as before but as you can see the shapes are more curvilinear.

Notice that some of the gradations have been layered and glazed over up to six times, and yet, there is still no suggestion that the underlying layers have been disturbed.

For this exercise, try painting some of these layered gradations and see what you come up with. Try some of the straight edged gradations first and then introduce some of the curved ones using the same technique but just curved instead of straight.


Charger No's. 4 and 8 ProArte Connoisseur Series 100 watercolour brushes 7 x 5 inch 140lb Bockingford Paper Paynes Grey Watercolour Paint pan

A useful tip to remember when painting these or any gradated shape. If after painting the first few lines of a gradation, you feel you may have too much paint in your brush, briefly touch the tip of the brush on your tissue. This will tip-discharge the brush. Now you can root-charge the brush again and continue painting. You may have to do this occasionally when you are new to using the charger. It's a means of modulating the paint/water ratio and can be very useful as you make progress. I tend to use it a lot when painting small difficult shaped gradations.

Nucleus. 7.5 x 10 inches.

Here is an example of a watercolour painting that is made up almost entirely of gradations. Although my work is mainly non-representational, there is scope for using charger techniques in virtually any style of watercolour painting.

I think you'll agree that layered gradations combined with colour, certainly gives a painting impact.