Fiddling With Watercolours

fresh, no fiddle watercolors,

Watercolour artists like to fiddle. No, not the musical kind. The poking the bear kind! Where you know you really shouldn’t…but do.  The kind that causes cranky, tired, overworked paintings. What to do?

fresh, no fiddle watercolours,
Fresh Flowers


Stop Fiddling!

Watercolour Techniques and Hints


Painting Direct

I chose to Paint Direct,  a watercolour technique style that as a general rule, is a safe bet to eliminate ‘fiddling’ and overworking the paintings. It keeps the work fresh and lessens mud.

Also, by choosing to paint the watercolours direct,  it allows me to leave more white space and have cleaner colours.

The white space balances out the tonal ratios to create a high key painting. High key is predominantly Light. Low key is mainly Dark/mid tones.

High key paintings evoke a   happy  lighter, sunnier emotion than the Low key, which are much more somber, duller, darker.

Painting Direct means:  that I’m painting directly onto dry paper straight away without dampening it at all.



Alas, it also means harder edges than you know I like!   But,  I can always soften up those edges. Later once its totally dry, I merely have to dampen my finger and smudge lightly over the offending sharp edges to soften those edges to an acceptable level.  Easy.


Freshness – alla prima

I also painted alla prima… (i.e. all in one go.) Its a term normally used for oils, but its been used for watercolours before as well!  And, it does wonders for the no fiddling.

My little painting “Fresh Flowers”  emphasises minimalism.

A hint of Zen,  East meets West.  With a lightness and airy spaciousness thats visually appealing due to the amount of white space I’ve left on the paper.

Quietly joyful,  the painting  has a spontaneous feel to it that is cheerful and inviting.

Fresh, clean flowers and No fiddling.


garden petunias photograph, debiriley.oom
Garden Flowers

One of my reference sources I used as a springboard for my painting.



12 great Hints to Stop Watercolour Fiddling


  1. set my timer for 5 or 10 minutes for the watercolour painting
  2. paint a brushstroke – and Leave It alone.
  3. make each brushstroke count. less is more. stop.
  4. allot myself a finite number of brushstrokes to use in total. count each one.
  5. limit my palette, lessens my muddying up my mixes
  6. be very clear ahead of time, what correction is needed. do only that. stop.
  7. Two (2)  times for successful w/c corrections:  bone dry Or shiny wet
  8. watercolour is Happy when it Flows onto the paper
  9. watercolour gets Cranky when its scrubbed 3-4 times in the same spot
  10. watercolour reacts unpleasantly when I willy nilly slap more paint onto it when it is at the wrong stage, i.e. just about dry, but not quite
  11. beforehand, line up 3 more sheets of paper…that are ‘waiting for me to put paint on them too’
  12. write these down on a post it & stick to my easel, to glance at while painting




watercolour rose bloom, no fiddling,
No Fiddling Blossom

This blossom was a study in simplicity. I’ve used the bare minimum of brushstrokes for its blossom petals and stem, just enough to tell the story and provide light and shade. 10 brushstrokes.


Rileys Rose, photograph,
Rileys Rose


Final Thoughts

For Watercolour Beginners, if you can’t do all 12 of the above listed hints; then, the four watercolour hints to stop fiddling I might suggest are  (#4, 5, 7, 8).


Try them,  and see how much just those 4 help you!


You’ll be amazed at how the mud, overworking, fiddling, discordance gets eliminated.       #11 is one I still always use; as without doing this… I know I will overwork and fiddle.


Enjoy the wonderful watercolour Wednesday flowers!



Published by debiriley

The act of creation, in any media is a fascinating and magical process. I simply love to create. Expressing in color, line, tone, texture - as if, they were words upon a page. Creating a uniquely me, interpretation. Enjoy More of my "one-of-a-kind" expressive art at and,

42 thoughts on “Fiddling With Watercolours

  1. Debi once more a wonderful useful tip….don’t fiddle don’t fiddle is one of my motto’s…I’m loving your Page….have a wonderful day….Tricia u

    Liked by 1 person

    1. good morning Sharon, thank you for your lovely comments! the steps do work…. when I employ them! lol once again … hiding the ‘watercolours misbehaving’ in the closet 🙂


  2. Words of great wisdom all in one post: less is more – no fiddling – limited palette – make each stroke count – Definitely going to pin this on the studio wall 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hi Andrew, thank you!! will look forward to hearing from you how (if) it does help; thank you for stopping in 🙂 cheers, Debi


    1. well, goodness Jodi, you are making me blush 🙂 thanks for that! I must confess, its not really advice, as much as it is ‘Hints’ or TIPS, …. lol anyway, I thank you for your kind comment! cheers, Debi

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Nicodemas, good morning! and thank you so much for taking the time out to send me a comment. I appreciate the feedback, it definitely lets me know when a post has gone south or north. LOL

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a dangerous word, “fiddling” is. 15 years on, Debi, it still echoes in my head. One day I’d like to tell you “there is no such a word in my dictionary”!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. thanks a lot, Debi, I’m down in my cellar already for some days in order to produce some jewellery. Will be posted when I made enough. Have a nice day, regards Mitza

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Beautiful paintings to go with some excellent advice and tips on how not to fiddle. I love the small panting of the rose (in 10 brush strokes), so simple but incredibly beautiful and elegant 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re very welcome Debi, your painting are a pleasure to see. I’ve always really liked watercolours, and your particular style is excellent. As a photographer of sorts, I take my hat off to all of you true artists, we (the photographers) just point and snap! Lol!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. hi Sish, my pleasure! I’m glad to know that some of hints I’ve learned over the years can be of use! Thank you for stopping in and for your comments 🙂 Debi

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Laura Thank you very much, its great to ‘see’ you! and yes! I do remember!! I just used 3 – cobalt pb28 permanent rose pv19 and winsor lemon py175 – mixed them to get the colours, purples, green. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love what you wrote at the very top of your post….”Watercolour artists like to fiddle. No, not the musical kind. The poking the bear kind! Where you know you really shouldn’t…but do. The kind that causes cranky, tired, overworked paintings.” that part about poking the bear got a chuckle out of me! I am one to fiddle, I need to get it drilled into me because I am a fiddler, in pastel and watercolor! It is disastrous especially in watercolor! thank you for the advice and this post. 🙂


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