Category: beginners paintings

All Things Watercolor

All Things Watercolor

What do watercolor beginners want to know? What do beginners  need  to know?

I think we all wish to spend a little less, create a little more, and see greater improvements in our work.

That’s at the heart of our watercolor wants.   

So,  what can we do and what do we need to learn in order to make these happen for us?

watercolor beginner basics, tips and techniques for starting watercolours, everything you wanted to know about watercolor,
watercolor beginner basics –  simple easy loose landscapes


All Things Watercolor

Its about your selection of the Brushes, the Paints, the Papers.

Choosing the right material to accomplish the task as successfully as possible.


Beginners want to know

How To Get Started with Watercolors.

Watercolor Brushes 10 Tips   

A New Brush,   testing….

beginner Watercolor brushes, Hake, Rekab 320s #2, rigger,
Watercolor Brushes

Watercolor  –

Its a whole different ballgame to oils or acrylics.  In those, we are actively trying to ‘cover up’  the support, the canvas surface.

And in oils/acrylics we do, with gusto!


impasto Acrylics with palette knife
Buttery super Thick, Impasto Acrylics


The trouble comes, switching over to watercolors with that same idea.   That, then becomes a problem.

It creates mud.

Thicker, heavier wc applications aren’t so great. Neither is covering up the entire paper surface with paints, not leaving any white of the paper visible.  This, dulls the painting making it appear tired and over – worked.

Not ‘sparky’ or lively at all!



Watercolor Paint Colors – Absolute Beginners!

  1. Cobalt blue pb28       2. Permanent Rose pv19       3. Winsor Lemon py175
Watercolor easy color mixing chart, Beginners watercolor mixing, debi riley art,
Watercolor Chart:  Just 3 Tubes = Hundreds of Mixes   ©


Just for Beginners –   3 Tubes  to get you started,   its less overwhelming.

Plus, cost is less.

And you get less mud.

And you create a more unified painting.

Win Win!

Simple Greens back to Basics 

Watercolor Browns 

Watercolor Green Leaves 



Watercolor Tips

Lunar Black Daniel Smith watercolors, Debi Riley art, mixing green,
Colors of the Sea – pigments flow, merging
  • Watercolor likes to be diluted, to run free.
  • Let its pigment particles sink, flow, flare, merge &  To Create!
  • Think along the lines of ….  “WATER -color.”
  • Make the  emphasis on the Water.
  • Allow the Water to be the vehicle, that carries the Color, as it runs, sinks, melts.



Papers for Watercolor

For well over 25 years, I’ve been a strong advocate (bordering on compulsive?)  of Arches Rough 100% cotton watercolor paper for The Beginners especially.  I’ve written a few posts on Arches paper for beginners.

I still firmly believe the paper itself, is exceptional.

BUT, in Australia, the importation costs of Arches paper has now, in my opinion….  escalated Beyond any justification I can possibly come up with.


 (USA  Jerrys online art shop)  Arches 300 gsm paper pack of 10 $54.50

making each sheet  $5.40  – Which is reasonable.

However,  in Australia    ONE  Sheet of Arches 300 gsm   is      $17.50 +

A sheet 22×30 of 640 gsm Arches is   $38.70     


Therefore, I’ve changed  my recommendations for watercolor paper. 


Saunders   is a very good paper – and is now my Watercolor Paper Recommendation.

impressionist watercolor landscape, simplifying the subject, limited palette,
Impressionist Landscape –   Saunders Watercolor Paper


It is absolutely 100% cotton rag  and that is the foremost important consideration.

The Cold Press or the Rough surfaces will work well for beginners.  It will allow for enough lifting and rinsing off mistakes to resolve most faux paux.


Fabriano 100% cotton rag Rough is sheer delight for the intermediates, the Soft Press and Hot Press great for intermediates as well.

The Cold Press will be fine for beginners.

Winsor and Newton is a great paper, if you can get your hands on it.

But the Cold Press is a dream, and wonderful for beginners too.


Winsor & Newton Cold Press paper watermark Debi Riley
Winsor & Newton cold press paper –    the watermark


The book that is my favorite reference guide is  Watercolor Paper Handbook… Werner Mertz

Well worth the trouble of ordering.

Twice,  as it happened in my case.


Watercolour Handbook Werner Mertz,
Watercolor Handbook Werner Mertz




My thoughts

  • Be kind to yourself.
  • Start off nice and slow;  and easy.
  • Build your skills and techniques,  over time. 
  • Set yourself goals.    Goals…. are good.
  • 1,2, 3, 6, 9 month goals.  1 year  2 years  3 years
  • Look at this progress… that you have made.  Not Sue, not Bob!
  • Find some good spots, in each art work you do. Every time. Its important.   






Classes. Museums.  Books/magazines.


Generally, my first recommendation for Beginners is to take watercolor art classes.

Look for an encouraging, instructor with a like minded philosophy.

Research who is in your area. Make the calls and emails. Check them out in advance.

You’ll want to paint from physically tangible, touchable items.

You learn more and faster this way.


Art museums with the Masters would be a second suggestion.


Books and magazines. ….  many ‘beginners how to’  don’t meet criteria for accuracy or being adequate.

Using online sources to copy ie   “Pinterest” art –  This is a minefield, for a plethora of reasons.


Reference sources need to: teach basics and creative Self expression

If they teach replication, that isn’t truly helping us to fully engage and  ‘learn.’

How then, will the student learn how to design/simplify/create a painting all on their own,  if they’re not shown the basics of how these processes are thought out and done?


If the references show a painting with poor tonal values, poor edges, poor center of interest, poor aerial perspective and pass it off as  “ok”  –  How will the Beginning student learn the correct art basics?


The Australian Artist magazine,  The Pastel artist magazine,  The International Artist magazine, The Southwest artist magazine typically show high calibre professional work.

They combine the art basics with these critical factors…. Self expression, Creativity, Imagination, Interpretation.

They’re Great places to look and study art techniques. Not copying.

  (Online art Piracy,  is rampant.  Its not ok.

Painters are the same as writers.  A painting is the same as a book.  We… spent our money and our time, creating a product for purchase.)   And yes.  Its happened to me.


Tony Smibert …. any of his art books are simply fabulous.

Edward Seago,  we all can learn from him in watercolor and in oils.



Finally – The Featured Landscape

watercolor beginner basics, tips and techniques for starting watercolours, everything you wanted to know about watercolor,
watercolor loose landscape

My featured watercolor painting, while not perfect, does show some lovely watercolor attributes.

The flow and merging of paint pigments has been allowed to happen, without coercion.

The edges around the borders are so soft and blurred. It creates a calm and leads the eye inwards.

Only 2-3 paints were used. Some warm golden tones in front to infer its nearness. The colder colors receding, into the distance. Provides a sense of depth, even to this semi abstract landscape.

And lastly, the amount of white space was deliberate.

The viewer is now free to interpret the sky and foreground areas as they wish.

Its up to them.

This open ended invitation to the viewers, I think makes art so much more accessible. More Embraceable. Well, for me, it does.



watercolor landscapes 3 tips  

loose untamed watercolor 

watercolor hills 



Unified Palette: indigo and raw umber

Unified Palette: indigo and raw umber

A very simple watercolor landscape.

No bells or whistles. Just two paints.

Indigo for a cool, dark. Raw Umber for the warmer, lighter color.


impressionist landscape trees, golden trees in watercolors, indigo daniel smith watercolors, watercolor beginner tree techniques,
Unification thru Limiting the Palette




Impressionist Watercolor Landscape



My processes


Color Selection.

I decided to paint using a very reduced palette to help with unifying the image.

I needed to select a warm and a cool.  Making sure one would be super dark, and the other a lighter tone.

Having that criteria in my head,  then made the selection much easier.

Raw Umber fit the bill for the warmer and Indigo for the cool dark. Done!



Subject Theme.

“Easy.”  I wanted fast and easy.

So,  Trees.




Getting Started.

  • Mixed up and tested colors.
  • About 5 minutes or so.
  • Applied a pale sloppy wash of Raw Umber for the background area.
  • Flicked the brush, so it wasn’t as wet.
  • Loaded a much thicker, stronger, denser application of Raw Umber onto brush
  • Then charged that, into the still very damp background area.
  • voila !
  • trees  are beginning to emerge
  • Next, was the Indigo
  • this was a Dry Brush application across Foreground area
  • Last step, the “tree trunks”
  • Using a wooden skewer  point,  to unify
  • joined the Indigo into the Raw Umber



When using the skewer,  just make sure  that the trunks weren’t all “rigid, straight”

but had some movement going on in them.





You could try this, it is fun!


Most any color duet would do…..  one to be warm and lighter; the other is cooler and darker.

Burnt Sienna and Phalo?

Light Red and Prussian?

Prussian blue pb27  and Raw Sienna?


Its great for a fast and easy,  Simple, little play with colors.








Painting Depth: Advance – Recede

Painting Depth: Advance – Recede

Have you ever felt as if you were walking into the painting you were viewing?

The artist used a few, simple guidelines to help the viewer meander through.

I can share a couple of those tips with you.


impressionist watercolor landscape, plein air painting, cobalt blue pb28 watercolor, limited palette watercolors,
Sunlit Watercolor HIlls


As a beginner, it can get frustrating when our paintings seem flat.  When the objects, the shapes don’t seem to have adequate ‘form.’

When the transitions are too stiff.

When the Foregrounds should (but do not) ease their way back gently into the distance, receding in nice and easy, slow progressive steps.

When “Walking into the painting” is only a dream, and its just not happening for you.

That. Is frustrating!




5 TIPS For Improved Depth



Where possible,  do Graded Washes.  They’re the most successful at creating smooth, slow, transitions from front to back.

The Sky, Meadows,  Lakes, Roads…  are excellent examples in which the Graded Wash is perfect for.




Start, your paintings from the back first.  Backgrounds, then middlegrounds, then foregrounds. Last is the focal point.  You have a better chance of getting your tonal values and your edges applied correctly when you paint in this sequence.




The backgrounds..…… are lovely and soft, more blurred. Filled with haze and atmospheric blurring of edges.  Cooler colors prevail, greys and blues.




The middlegrounds….. are still soft, yet firming up in those edges, a wee bit.  Certainly not loosey – goosey, but not rigidly sharp. Color temperatures are slowly warming, like …Spring.  Gradual progression, not a big sudden leap.

I like to warm the color mix by adding a touch of warmer paint, with each and every, forward oncoming stroke.  This way it is a slow, perfect and gradual transition.




The foregrounds….. are very much more.

More defined, more contrasts, more textured, more strength.  The edges are now harder, crisp and sharp. For our eyes, in real life, can always see things with more clarity and definition up close.

The tonal values in the foreground are deeper, darker. As is the white lights, much whiter, much brighter as well.

The colors now in the foreground are Warmest.  Rich earthy reds, oranges, terracotta golden browns.  The foliage greenery warm olive and earthy.    In the foregrounds, remember – it is here, we touch the ground, the earth.  Here we see it in its deep rich colors, fully saturated vibrancy.




impressionist landscape watercolor, color study, prussian blue pb27, ultramarine blue pb29, loose landscapes,
Impressionist Watercolor Landscape, color study


The  main 3 Keys:

Colors cooler in back (recede),  warmer in front (advance);

soft edges, blurrier in back (recede) and becoming sharper edged towards the front (advance);

paler lighter tones in the back (recede), becoming stronger darker tones in the foregrounds (advance).



painting watercolor landscapes, watercolour tips, landscape techniques in watercolor, get better faster in watercolors,
Blue Hills, Watercolor Landscape,




We are Artists – Creators

We don’t have to, follow each and every guideline, with every painting we create.


Sometimes, using 2-3 of the tips will be enough.


Sometimes, we want…. a specific response from the viewer that following the guidelines will fail to achieve.

So we will then need to plan, which guidelines to go against, while still creating an image with sufficient depth to it for the purpose we intend.   



pale sky, watercolor landscape blue mountain painting,
Against The Rules…….







Colors of a Summer’s Day

Colors of a Summer’s Day

Brushstrokes of Summer Joy.  Radiantly bright and bold.

The colors, the flamboyance, the sheer energy and freedom of a Summer day.

Speak to us, in the enchanting voice of a childhood lost and found.


abstract expressionism, art from a child's eye, painting fresh and freely,
BOLD Summer Day Colors, abstract by Thomas



and Create.


How easy it is for some!


When we were still children, it was easier.  This imagining and creating.

It was  a natural part of life.

Like Breathing.




Bold Summer Day Color …..  Seen with a child’s eye.

Amazing how pure those brushstrokes are.


How fresh.

How unmuddied.


How fun!





10 Learning Points and What I enjoy about this:


  1. The small hints of foliage mint greens that ‘peek’ through.
  2. The very bold golden yellow at the top, hinting… at summer sun.
  3. Cobalt turquoise… just because, I like it.
  4. The alizarin in fluctuating tones, lighter and then so deep and dark.
  5. The colors are, all, echoed throughout the image for a wonderful sense of Harmony.
  6. WHITE Space!  that is so important, don’t fill it all in. It gives us… room!
  7. The energetic attitude of the artist as he painted is clearly visible, in those brushstrokes.
  8. It has a sense of design and movement; its not flat nor static.
  9. It has fabulous ranges of tonal values within this painting.



Imagine and Create

10.    Its very Abstractedness, invites the viewer’s imagination. 

And that is the secret thing, we artists all want…

To engage you, the viewer, completely into our world, even if only for just a brief moment!





We wonder.

What was this young man, thinking at the time?

Was he looking out into the bright gardens outside?

Was he remembering some gorgeous colored birds from a zoo?


Or …maybe he had a quick flash of memory and the colors popped into his head as he thought of the wonderful stained glass window he passes by so often?



bird photography, Perth zoo, bright colored birds,
Bright colors



Balmain NSW colorful stain glass window,
Colorful Window



A thank you goes to the young artist, Thomas,  for allowing his work to be ‘on show’ for all to see.






BOLD Summer’s Colors

BOLD Summer’s Colors

Topic: Boldness. Confidence. Being in The Moment and Doing what You Love.

Let’s forget about judging. Let’s forget about what other people are going to think. Let’s forget about ‘Likes’ and ‘Shares.’

Its Art.

That means….. its about self expression using whatever art materials you can find that will get your message out!


watercolor beginners painting, #worldwatercolormonth, art is fun,
Bold Summer Colors!    (W/C on HP paper + markers)


Summer Bold

No holds barred.

Bright, brazen colors that leap out and shout.

That’s July for you!!

A month full of celebrations, fireworks and yes,  a bit of 1776 rebellion.





World Watercolor Month

Its July.  #World Watercolor Month.

Courtesy of  our good friend, Charlie at

Charlie’s recent post shared some things with us, Important Things.



“…..there are a lot more people judging it.

I get  less likes  if I do something too quickly and fewer comments,

or occasionally even a  “you can do better” comment.


A part of me was worried and thought, I need to really

carve out more time and make sure I create something stellar.

The original part of me, the one that started this blog,

said, “screw it!” I’ve never been one to make masterpieces.


I just paint what’s in my head and in my heart.


This is something that we all should do first and foremost.

If a masterpiece appears, all the better!


But it should never be the goal.”






Strong Words

Charlie’s words –  are well worth sharing with as many other artists as possible.

If we want to really let loose and create, we need to rid ourselves of the pollution of doing art for someone else to like.

I’m sharing some strong words.   But sometimes I think we really need a good shake up to see the path in front of us.


Painting to please,  is polluting our wells of Creativity and Imagination.



“…but its true”

My heart slowly breaks.

Every time I hear a person describe how their artistic efforts were completely crushed.

By another person’s    “…but its true”  critique.


Please!  Keep those negatives. To your self.

If…. We are in a valid position to assess and to evaluate,  we owe it to that person to do so in kindness.   From a position of caring.

En courage someone.  Give them hope.  Give them a way.

Don’t use truth as a weapon that will dishearten them. and please, don’t say, “toughen up.”


I can still assess a beginner’s painting  & explain the many areas that are working very well, explain what isn’t and how they might solve that, and still finish that evaluation on an encouraging note.  It isn’t too difficult to do this, really!


Don’t destroy someone’s inner artist –  forever,

with hasty untempered,  words.


In classes,  I try, to restructure and reframe how they view Art,  how they view self expression, the validity of play, the invalidation of doing things to please.   This is a very long and difficult journey for most to try to overcome. I’m not perfect.  I’ve made a couple of people tear up.  Wrong word choice!  I was so sorry, and told them so. And then completely reworded the message using more sensitive words and encouragements.  I want these artists, to continue to create. They won’t, if under stress.






Lets return to Charlie.

“just paint what’s in your head and heart….  Masterpieces,  should never be the goal.”




Beautifully said,  Charlie.

Thank You.




Spring Greens

Spring Greens

Evelyn Flint has a wonderful art website and blog. So imaginative, creative, fresh, free, and Full of Artistic Adventures that are color magic! Her latest post was irresistible, I’ve had to repost it to share with you. You will, absolutely love Evelyn’s art – check out her website. : watercolour

Do you like eating your greens? Personally I love eating my greens BUT…. painting them is a whole lot more fun….. !!

Spring Greens - NB

I did these watercolour samples back in the spring (hence the title of this post). These lovely shades of green (and some neutrals) were created by mixing 2 blues and 2 yellows. The blues were indigo and Cobalt Teal Blue. The yellows were Lemon Yellow and Raw Sienna. There’s a lovely assortment of beautiful greens here but notice the lovely neutral tones in the two bottom left colour samples – they’re edging toward the grey side which I love….

Seaside Colour Mixing - NB

Above we have mixes of Daniel Smith’s Buff Titanium and Cobalt Teal Blue…

On the top line from the left:  Buff Titanium, Buff Titanium + White, Buff Titanium + Cobalt Teal Blue

On the bottom line from the left: Cobalt Teal Blue, Cobalt Teal Blue + White, Cobalt Teal…

View original post 45 more words

Inviting Imagination …out

Inviting Imagination …out

Flowers ought to be in color, right?!

I used to always, think so.

Beautiful bright, gorgeous Colors.

That’s normally, the very first thing that springs to mind when you think of “flowers.”

So you ask, what’s up with the Black and White Debi?




black and white flower photograph, changing the message in photography,
Black n White Flower


Changing The Communication


Stripped back and laid bare of the ‘pretty’ colors, makes room for more.

It provides more room for expression, mood, feeling, content, for your Imagination to emerge.



The Black and White tonal values changes the message.

We hear, see and Feel  something different in the image now.


We are conveying more, with less.

The Imagination is free to engage more.




Color distracts.

It really does.  And even though, Color is what I breathe –  the truth is, it is extremely distracting on many levels.


It gets many new learning artists into loads of dilemmas.



flower photography black and white,
In darkness and light



What I’ve done in photography, using only black and white for these flowers, can be transferred to your painting approaches.



I prefer to paint with an extremely limited palette.

Usually 3 works fine.  Sometimes 2 is just perfect….

And many times I suggest beginners learn, for a time, to paint in monochromes to build their confidence.

Doing this creates:  Less distractions.  And you can Say more, with less.



It also will do the same thing that Black and White photography can do –

Invite your Imaginations…… out.