Jars & Bottles with Water Color Pencils

By Alex Whisman.

When I was young my uncle took me out “bottle hunting”.  He knew where the old migrant camps were in his home town and would dig to find old bottles.  I loved seeing the milky white, cobalt blue, medicinal brown and watery green curved glass coming out of the rich adobe clay.

Antique glass bottles remind me of my childhood and my uncle who passed away from cancer in 2002.  I wanted to find a way to replicate the magic and colored transparency of his glass bottles and jars.

In the April 2018 issue of Color On, I talked about using water color pencils. For this article I chose to recreate a blue-green bottle.   I used 2 colors: #156 Cobalt Green for the lighter areas & #155 Helio Turquoise for the darker areas.

I print my pictures when I want to use water so that I know I am not going to ruin my books.  I use a slightly thicker paper.  You can use water color paper, or you can use a thicker printing paper.  I don’t recommend using standard photocopy paper when adding water to your water color pencils, as you want it to stand up to being wet without ruining your picture.

To color my “Faeries in a Bottle”, I looked at the picture and decided what areas I wanted to make lighter and darker, and what areas I wanted to do as “thicker” glass.  I used the Cobalt Green to lightly color around all edges and out towards the middle.  I didn’t want to do the whole glass color evenly, but I started by coloring most of the bottle in my picture with a light, even layer.

I built up a slightly darker 2nd layer of the same color around the edges and towards the middle, but left lighter areas.  I used the second layer of the light color to create some darker areas in the middle of the bottle to represent thicker glass.

Next, I used the Helio Turquoise darker color to follow up along the edges and to create depth.  I also used it in the center of the ‘thicker glass’ sections.  You don’t have to focus on perfect blending when you use water with water color pencils.  The water will blend the colors for you.

Once I was happy with the color in the bottle, I used my water pens.  I added water to the pencils before coloring anything else inside the jar.  When I use my water pens, I partly dry them on a paper towel so there isn’t too much water on the bristles to flood the picture.

I first brushed the damp brush over the lighter colors at the lightest edges and brushed them into the areas without color to create a very light, watery look.  I do this slowly and a little at a time when I use water with my pencils.  I then brushed the water over the darker areas.  I brushed the edges of the darker colors into the lighter ones to blend it.

After my paper was dry I decided to put a little more color into some of the light areas so I colored lightly in those areas and added water to them, brushing them into the areas I had colored and put water on before.  I started coloring the rest of my picture when I liked the look of my jar and the paper was completely dry.  You want your paper dry before you tackle the rest of your picture because you don’t want the colors bleeding or running and you don’t want to ruin the structure of your paper.

When I colored my characters inside the jar, I wanted to maintain the illusion of glass, so I colored the pieces inside the bottle lighter.  This gives the illusion of being behind the glass and doesn’t cancel out the blue-green colors.  I wanted to color these areas so you could see what it was, but also allow the ‘thicker’ part of the glass to obscure some of the colors.

If you have chosen to do a ‘clear’ or white jar or bottle, color the areas inside the jar/bottle lighter as you would with a colored jar.  You can go over these areas with a white or cream-colored pencil to further lighten them and make the look partly-obscured.

Once you have colored everything inside your jar/bottle and are happy with your color, use a white or silver gel pen to create reflection marks on your jar.  If your bottle/jar is white or cream colored, use silver or a light blue for this.  Draw random scratches in the areas that light would hit your jar & reflect off.

Let your imagination run wild with your jars & bottles.  Find inspiration in your recycling bin – clean out different colored jars and bottles well.  Fill them with water and set them in a window. If you only have clear glass jars, add some food coloring.  Watch the sun move through them for inspiration in how to capture light and color in your next picture.


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