This week I started a new watercolor class with an artist named Karen Norman at Glen Echo. She had us do all these exercises experimenting with different watercolor effects (like spattering, scraping, dry brush, adding salt to a damp wash, and so on) and at the end of class had us make these ten-minute sketches, loosely imitating some designs of her own that she had brought in and using some of the effects we had learned.
I think it's fascinating how watercolor lends itself to creating effects rather than translating a subject in a very literal way; it seems that often the randomness in those effects is a much better communicator than a literal duplication would be. I'm also entranced by the idea that the water, paper and paint are sort of in charge of the process, with only loose guidance from the artist. I was reading that timing is everything with watercolor: knowing how damp your paper needs to be and how much pigment to use at exactly the right moment is what makes it work. Our teacher suggested that we try to do these kinds of quick studies regularly as warm-ups, to get into the swing of a painting session. An excellent idea.