DON'T BE AFRAID TO PAINT WITH WATERCOLORS Try this exercize.

Go ahead, slop on the paint and let it run. These flowers have red, orange, yellow, blue, purple all running over each other.
Go ahead, slop on the paint and let it run. These flowers have red, orange, yellow, blue, purple all running over each other.
Try taking a really detailed item and painting every tiny hair.
Try taking a really detailed item and painting every tiny hair.
This is a large painting and for something like this I have to sketch with a light pencil before I start.
This is a large painting and for something like this I have to sketch with a light pencil before I start.
I'm sort of in to bird nests.The eggs are a challelnge and take careful shading with light purple. Look at how many colors are in the flower, but still the white paper is showing through because you don't want it muddy.
I'm sort of in to bird nests.The eggs are a challelnge and take careful shading with light purple. Look at how many colors are in the flower, but still the white paper is showing through because you don't want it muddy.
This painting hangs in my house because I never could get anyone to buy it.
This painting hangs in my house because I never could get anyone to buy it.
This is the best thing I've ever done, but it took a decade to loosen up enough.
This is the best thing I've ever done, but it took a decade to loosen up enough.
For these grapes so they would  look like there was a lot of light, I painted a clear water grape first, then added a little color on one side,and another color on the other side and let it run.
For these grapes so they would look like there was a lot of light, I painted a clear water grape first, then added a little color on one side,and another color on the other side and let it run.
Strawberries make a good subject for learning to observe.
Strawberries make a good subject for learning to observe.
I used the same clear water then paint technique on this painting including the basket.
I used the same clear water then paint technique on this painting including the basket.
Without a little light reflection on this black vase it looked flat and really fake. Notice the reflection is not white, it is gray.Sometimes I like to challenge myself with adding a lot of patterns.This was Japanese kimono fabric.
Without a little light reflection on this black vase it looked flat and really fake. Notice the reflection is not white, it is gray.Sometimes I like to challenge myself with adding a lot of patterns.This was Japanese kimono fabric.

DON’T BE AFRAID OF WATERCOLORS

Twelve years ago I decided to get a grip and TRY to paint with watercolors.As usual I tensed up, by stomach got knots in it and I felt this sinking feeling. Well it's hard to master.

We are afraid of making a mistake, of doing something foolish, of looking ridiculous and we are afraid of FAILURE. I told myself I was afraid of wasting time, wasting paper, wasting paint and wasting my mind with worry but really I was afraid of failing.

Somehow I got through it, and painted this very neat, careful, pinched, teeny, restricted and very lame little safe watercolor of a white and yellow bowl with teeny, weeny little yellow flowers. It was kinda cute, not all THAT embarrassing, and I forged on.

In this article I'm going to give you an exercize that if you have never painted with water colors, will give you confidence to forge on, so stay with me.

Those little kids we send off to school come trudging home in the afternoon with their paintings of wild colors, peculiar shapes, eyes and ears that float across the page, and they are magnificent in their abandon and innocence. We need that same abandon. Honestly they are every bit as fine as Salvador Dali or Picasso. Don’t you think so? I have my grandson’s masterpiece on my wall right now, framed and everything, and it’s wonderful. Ask you child to tell you about the painting, and never ever discourage his efforts. Children's Art is perfect art.

Anyway here’s how you get started. Buy a big pad of cheap sketch paper, a lot of cheap watercolor paints,(one of those little boxes with cute little squares,) some big brushes and go in a room by yourself. Decide to waste time, paper, paint and your mind for at least two hours. Throw the paint on. Play with the water, dabble and dab and be a kid.

Here is a simple approach. On your sketch pad draw a big bunch of grapes. With your small brush paint a few grapes with clear water, (don't let the wet grapes touch) then lightly dab some colors around the edges of each grape, you can use purple, green, pink or anything that suits your fancy. You will see the paint spread and blend into something quite pretty. This is how water color should look, light, clear, clean and blended.

When you feel a little more comfortable with the paint, water and yourself, treat yourself to a watercolor pad of paper and find yourself a big flower. Get a real beauty from the yard and put it in a glass in front of you, then brush water all over your paper, and start adding color in thin washes. You may be really surprised at the results. I often start with a light pencil outline then I paint one petal with clear water. I may start at the outer edge of the petal with orange, let it spread, then add a little yellow and perhaps a little purple at the small center of the petal for shadow. This is a fun technique.

The grapes in the fruit picture were painted one at a time. I sketched in the grapes then painted each with clear water, dabbed a tiny bit of color on the edges and let it spread. Your results will surprise you. The secret is to not let your paint get dirty by applying too many coats to the same area.

Practice, practice, practice and patience and you will be surprised. Don’t worry about the results. One of the biggest helps in painting in any medium is learning to observe. Take a strawberry and really examine the surface. It is not a red blob, it is white, green, red, purplish and pink in spots and there are tiny little indentations with little fibers. It is amazingly complex. Try painting it. I do the same thing with a bird nest. You will learn to really see what it is you are painting and that is a big help.

For strawberries I paint them one at a time, first with water, then a very pale pink or pale green, then quickly add some reds and purple for shading.The shiny areas on these strawberries in the painting are simply pale pink areas. You also will see pale green to suggest a berry not quite ripe and then the tiny indentations are darker red and then a tiny little hair like fiber in mustard. I had to paint strawberries for weeks before I was able to really SEE these colors and gradations and details.

After you gain a little confidence you can splurge on a few tubes of Grumbacher water color. They are expensive so you will want to stick to basic colors, the primary, red, blue, yellow, and the secondary, purple, orange and green. Also buy a tube of black, brown and white. That should be all you need for now along with some little plastic mixing bowls so you can mix some different shades and hues. Watercolors tube paint does not dry out like acrylic paint so just use a little bit in your bowl and mix to get some different looks. In fact I take a big old dinner plate and dab colors all over the plate and I mix in the middle. When I finished painting I just leave the plate as it is. You can add a little water when you return to your painting and the paints will hydrate so you can use them again.

Here's another tip. Apply a wash of shadow such as the bottom painting of a vase with yellow spider mums. You can see a purple shadow to the left of the vase and at the bottom which I washed on after everything was dry. This is a little tricky, you need to practice it and use a lot of clear water to prevent a line.

May I brag a little bit? I went from teeny and tight to pretty big and pretty bold and was able after ten years of practice to sell my paintings on Ebay for $150.00 to $250.00. That ain’t so bad huh?

And honestly I have failures, a lot of the time. I quickly tear the failure into tiny pieces and shove them to the bottom of the trash basket just in case there are watercolor spies and judges in the area.

I really hate failure.

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Comments 27 comments

Magdelene profile image

Magdelene 5 years ago from Okotoks

Hello,

Beautiful watercolor artwork. I don't think I was ever afraid of watercolor, it seems I just never took the time to see if there was something out there that I would like. Like your Hub and love your artwork.


mslizzee profile image

mslizzee 5 years ago from Buncombe County, NC Author

Thank you Magdelene. Watercolor painting is a little intimidating to those of us that attempt to paint pictures because there is no going back once you put paint on the paper, unlike oil or acrylic.


jparke1 profile image

jparke1 5 years ago

I'm not sure if afraid is the best way to describe my relationship with watercolor, but I frequently have less than satisfactory experiences with it. At some point, I give it another try. I seem to forget how terrible I felt and give it another try. I feel inspired by your work and will give it yet another try. Right now I am staying temporarily with my daughter and have no materials with me. Hope to change that soon. Every year for our respective birthdays my sister and I go to a workshop with Fritz Shuler Briggs. That willl be for my upcoming big 70 March 10. The workshop is March 12 in Laurel sponsored by the Pautuxent Art League. Fritz is very talented and a great person.


lizzee dickman 5 years ago

Thank you for your comments. Try this. Take a pencil and lightly sketch a bunch of grapes. Get your paint ready, what ever colors you want to use. Paint one or two grapes with water, then lightly dab a little purple, or green, a little blue, maybe a touch of red onto your alreaady wet grapes. You will be amazed at how pretty the paint blends together. I wish someone had taught me this method. You can see it in the orange poppies, the grapes and in fact everything I paint, you can see the mix of colors. It's fun and the results are rewarding.

Lizzee


suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC

Found you by accident - love your art.


mslizzee profile image

mslizzee 5 years ago from Buncombe County, NC Author

thank you.


chipped teacup profile image

chipped teacup 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

These are wonderful tips and great instructions for a beginner like myself! Also beautiful examples of your work. Lovely!


mslizzee profile image

mslizzee 4 years ago from Buncombe County, NC Author

Why thank you. I'm flattered, teacup

I bet you like shabby chic stuff, right?


carol7777 profile image

carol7777 4 years ago from Arizona

I was looking through art hubs and found this. I did watercolors for a while but found them unforgiving. I now use acrylics with my handy gesso nearby. Your pictures are lovely.


mslizzee profile image

mslizzee 4 years ago from Buncombe County, NC Author

Thank you carol. I know, I have no idea why I persevered because some of the things I've painted are unbelievably horrible, but every now and then I get it right. Thank you for reading.


carol7777 profile image

carol7777 4 years ago from Arizona

I know what you mean..I often hate what I paint and get the gesso out. However I do love to paint and as you said, every once in a while we hit it.


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 2 years ago from United States

This is very inspiring. I want to do the two-hour dabble! If I could paint anything half as beautiful as you have, I would feel like a success. Gorgeous, gorgeous!!


mslizzee profile image

mslizzee 2 years ago from Buncombe County, NC Author

Thank you dirt farmer. Keep trying.


habee profile image

habee 2 years ago from Georgia

Your work is beautiful! I've worked with watercolors some, but I prefer acrylics and pen and ink.

Voted up!


mslizzee profile image

mslizzee 2 years ago from Buncombe County, NC Author

I know what you mean. There is so much control with acrylics and if you goof you can fix it. I think it was the difficulty factor about watercolors that intrigued me, but in truth it took at least 10 years to paint a decent picture and I've made several attempts at landscapes and find it overwhelming.

Thank you for visiting.


vidya agarwal 2 years ago

Very motivating. The best tip was to just have fun and throw all failed attempts to the trash can. I too feel nervous about starting to paint and so I keep putting it off. This inspires me to get going.


mslizzee profile image

mslizzee 2 years ago from Buncombe County, NC Author

thanks Viddya

Just dive in, try the water on the paper first and enjoy the way the paint spreads when you dot a little paint into the water. I was exactly like you when I started and I actually learned to paint/


Manisha 2 years ago

Thank you for the tips. I love water colours but they are so unforgiving. I want to create masterpieces and frame them and hang them, but mostly they don't see light of day because they are so embarrassingly mediocre. I should try to be more abandoned as you suggest.


Laura335 profile image

Laura335 20 months ago from Pittsburgh, PA

Those are such pretty pictures. I've been practicing with water colors by copying famous book covers to hang in my dining room. I'm still working on it.


mslizzee 20 months ago

Keep trying Laura:

Painting is like everything else, it takes practice.


Pat coyle 19 months ago

Just bought a box of water color paints.

Been searching the net for ideas and just found a lot here in Pinterest

I'm hoping the information helps me.

I'm a little afraid to start.


mslizzee 19 months ago

It' s our fear that keeps us from becoming fine artists. Just plunge in Pat, throw a lot of water on the paper and dab on different colors and watch the miracle as it blends. Take a pencil and make a bunch of fat grapes then start coloring them after you wet the paper. If you just keep experimenting you will learn and gain confidence.


marge 18 months ago

Your paintings are beautiful.


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 17 months ago from the short journey

A fun and interesting read from the mind of an artist! Your work is beautiful--thanks for sharing to give a real foundation to your words of inspiration. And congrats on your successes that stand tall among the little roots of fear!


Manrique, Mary 11 months ago

Thank You so much for your commentary before and during the instructions. FEAR is paralyzing and I have suffered from it for years. I have in my closet a little box of watercolors and a pad of watercolor paper. I have promised myself that tomorrow I will pull it out, dust it off and USE IT. If needed, I will tear up the practice pages. God Bless.


michal 9 months ago

ekstra polsko


Fiona Jean Mckay profile image

Fiona Jean Mckay 3 months ago from South Africa

I love painting with watercolors because you get such beautiful unexpected effects but I am afraid that I am taking an awful long time to learn :) My clouds that I did today turned into mountains because got the lighting wrong. I would love to be as good as you but I guess I will just need a lot more practice :)

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