I have no idea how this is going to work. I’m making it up as I go along.
This is the sketch I made of the snow leopard I’m going to paint. Yes, it’s a very light sketch.
Next is a small palette with two colors — ultramarine blue, and burnt sienna. Mixed together with water, these make a nice, clean gray. Depending on how much water you add — or don’t add, the gray can go clear to black.
A lot of watercolor purists won’t ever buy a tube of black paint. I’m not a purist. I sometimes need pure black for my attempts to paint outer space. But for shadows, it’s better to mix colors and go for gray. Plus, sometimes the pigments sort of separate out in the wash and you get areas that are a little more blue or a little more brown. In nature, shadows aren’t black.
Also, it doesn’t work as well with other shades of blue or brown. I’ve tried. You get “mud.” Like when you were a kid and had the grocery store watercolors and for some reason, decided to mix them all together. What did that look like? It takes a while to learn which colors mix well together and which don’t. Usually, if you go above two, you’re asking for mud. So much for the lesson.
And finally, the sketch after I added the background shadows. I have to let that wash dry completely before I paint anything else, so the gray won’t bleed into areas where I don’t want it. The trick in doing watercolors is only getting the paper wet in the area you are going to work on immediately, and then waiting for it to dry before working on an adjacent area — unless you just want stuff to run together, which is sometimes a fun way to paint.