By Ruth Rowland
Journal: Creating Swatches, Palettes and Mandalas in My Watercolour Sketchbook
I started studying watercolour painting more seriously over the pandemic and have continued to enjoy this unpredictable medium.
To understand the different qualities of the pigments and to see how the colours mix together, I started creating swatches and custom palettes in my watercolour sketchbook.
My sketchbooks range in size from small notebooks for jotting down ideas to larger, handmade books for more expressive mixed media and mark making experiments. In the pages featured here, I'm working with Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolours in a Khadi sketchbook.
My swatching sketchbooks tend to reflect my interest in pattern, texture and the decorative arts. I loosely design the pages, gathering information as I progress and just enjoy the process.
Although creating a set of paint swatches is certainly useful as a convenient colour reference, I found I needed to do more study to properly understand the paints. To get a real feel for the pigments, I started painting watercolour mandalas to see how the tints and shades would interact.
As a form, I find mandalas complex enough to experiment with different colour combinations but simple enough to create without distracting me from the unique qualities of the paints. It’s also surprisingly relaxing once you get into the flow.
I use the mandalas to test out new paints and to see how different colour palettes work together, something that’s very handy when working on other projects. For example, you can see how swatching was an important part of my process while working on my watercolour calligraphy for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
If, like me, you’re interested in water-based art materials, I've posted a few projects which feature different products in my Journal folder. You may enjoy Collage, Gestural Calligraphy and Finetec Metallics or the Gothic Midwinter Watercolour Wreath with Derwent Graphitint. I enjoy experimenting with different media, so if you browse the folder you will find a range of inks, paints, pencils and pens used throughout my personal projects.