For the beginner watercolorist, it can be, all very overwhelming to try to remember it all!
You don’t have to.
My thoughts on painting water.
Keep it super simple.
For Beginners: Short easy sessions, that you focus on just one technique at a time are the key.
Just one process you want to get down.
Not the whole shebang at once.
You can have a lot of fun, keeping it simple, learning to paint water.
Keep it nice and loose.
In an Impressionist’s approach.
Its really about Your impression of the subject you paint.
Its more about how you are feeling about the subject that makes the difference.
Its how you personally are interpreting it, what dialogue you have between the two of you… that counts most.
Just let us know, show us.
Sometimes the water appears bright and tropical, fun and summery. Light and easy.
So. Paint it that way.
Utilise white sparkles of the paper shining through, to accent and highlight this point.
Don’t allow it or yourself, to get all bogged down and tight; the work filled with hard edges won’t capture the fun loose and carefree vibe.
Sometimes the water appears dark. Choppy. Moody and Sullen.
Well, paint that feeling! cool, stormy colors with short choppy strokes will evoke this sensation.
Leaving white of the paper is a big help.
Painting a few squiggled lines for ‘ripples’ is another fast and simple method that works quite well many times.
Graded washes, light -mid – dark tones in your water, is another key factor to remember.
The other thing to remember about water, is that the farther away it is – white waves will be ‘greyed off’ not stark white, and the less detail, the less color intensity, the less contrast, the less strong dark deep tones it will have.
That right there, is worth jotting down!
Beginners at watercolor, may find it useful and easier, to begin with simpler designs.
Simple basic easy shapes.
Starting right at the beginning.
Nothing too complicated or complex, no matter how much our minds are leaping to do so.
We are yearning to…. paint that busy harbour scene filled with action.
Boats, sailors, shipping lines, cargo carriers, seagulls in flight, reflections shimmering, sailboats flying in the wind.
But, I have discovered, small steps.
One thing at a time, works.
So that week by week, month by month we do see incremental improvements.
Then, we can paint the more involved scene.
Such as the shadowed fir trees reflected in the misty early morning waters of the Pacific Northwest.
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!
Cobalt blue pb28 2. Permanent Rose pv19 3. Winsor Lemon py175
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
There’s been no heavy handed, rough harsh use of the brush.
Just enough brushstrokes, to accomplish the task intended – no more.
And then the pause.
A time for Reflection….
Understanding – that yes, enough was said and done.
Watercolor responds best, when it is understood.
When you Know, what each paint, each pigment you use, will and won’t do.
When the artist is fully able, to direct the brush and the pigment with that oh so delicate ‘kiss’ upon the paper.
Watercolor’s pet peeves and her loves ….
I have avoided any rubbing, scrubbing paint color in, dobbing and dab-dab-dabbing of the brush.
Watercolor dislikes intensely the dobbing and dabbing one could skate by perhaps, with oils.
Watercolor thrives under a more sensitive, softer, lighter handed approach.
The brush, fully loaded, just meets the uppermost top layer of the paper’s surface.
Is what Watercolor loves most.
That is when you get the best results out of watercolor.
It makes life easier, in this endeavor, when the brush you use is not a synthetic blend. They foster, the stiffer dobbing brush strokes. The 100% natural hair brushes, sable, squirrel, etc. provide a fluidity watercolor loves.
Now, I have to duck out real quick. The art shop is having a sale……..