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Painting with Watercolor

Updated on September 16, 2014
Gayle Dowell profile image

Gayle Dowell is a jewelry and watercolor artist. She currently teaches art to a homeschool co-op highschool class.

My Watercolor Painting Journey

When I first started watercolor painting, I didn't care for it. I took a class but didn't learn many techniques. It was basically a studio class where people met and painted together. I painted a few paintings, but nothing that really thrilled me. I gave up and went on to other creative endeavors only to get back to it years later when I moved and found a studio that offered classes...real instruction. Since then, I've been painting for almost ten years and really love the medium. The change in attitude? I learned that with watercolor, I should let the water do the painting. Leave behind the attitude that I control the process. Let the process flow. I'm just along for the ride.

Photo by Gayle Dowell

Most of these paintings can be purchased on cards and other items here: Designs by Dowell.

Letting the Water Do the Painting

What do I mean by letting the water do the painting? When I first started watercolor, I had been painting in oils and acrylics. Thinking that with watercolor I was to paint in the same way using the same techniques, I found myself frustrated that I wasn't achieving that watercolor look. I was basically painting with little water and forcing the paint around the paper with my brush.

When I did learn to use more water, I still tried to control every movement of the paint with my brush. I got overworked paintings as a result. It was only when I learned a few wet-in-wet and pouring techniques did I learn to enjoy the flow of the paint and to see how the painting developed on its own. Painting then became most enjoyable.

Tea and Lilacs

Tea and Lilacs
Tea and Lilacs
African Violet Collage
African Violet Collage

Starting Small Then Expanding

When I first started painting, I painted very small. I actually started out creating greeting cards. I think that the small size allowed me to work out some problems with composition, color mixing, consistent washes, and style quickly.

When I was comfortable with painting small and had gained confidence, I went very big, full size sheet BIG. Painting big is so much different than painting small. I used my whole arm more and stood up to paint. It created a looser painting style. I also had to overcome the problem of drying paint before I was through with my wash. A situation I didn't encounter painting small.

My All-Time Favorite Watercolor Paper

Arches 140 lb. Cold Press 12 Sheet Pad 9x12"
Arches 140 lb. Cold Press 12 Sheet Pad 9x12"

I've always used Arches 140 lb cold press watercolor paper. It stands up to water without tearing and is an overall good paper for many applications and techniques. It is all I use. In fact, I had a hard time finding watercolor sketchbooks with good paper, so I made my own using the Arches 140 cold press paper, but information on that will be for another page.

 

Created

Created
Created

Creating an Even Watercolor Wash

Like I said before, creating an even watercolor wash is a challenge especially if painting large portions of paper. The trick is to tilt your paper and your support and use enough water to get a bead of paint and water at all times between what you've already painted and the dry paper. Systematically work from top to bottom of the area you are painting and use the same ratio of paint to water mixing enough before you start your wash. See the video demonstration from Bob Davies below, Painting a Flat Wash.

Use a Good Learning Resource

I learned about painting with watercolor mainly on my own through informative books, magazines and online resources. Getting a magazine right to my home on a regular basis was not only informative, but also inspiring and kept me in the mood to paint.

BUY FROM AMAZON: Watercolor Artist (1-year) [Print + Kindle]

Butterfly Watercolor Collage

Butterfly Watercolor Collage
Butterfly Watercolor Collage

Watercolor Painting Techniques

Sometimes experimenting with different ideas in watercolor is the best teacher. But at times it is good to have direction and inspiration as to what to try. The following books will supply ideas and teach many techniques to use in paintings.

Are You a Watercolorist? Do You Have any Tips to Share?

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    • Gayle Dowell profile image
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      Gayle Dowell 2 years ago from Kansas

      Thank you. I like to spread the joy by teaching others to enjoy watercolor.

    • Charlino99 profile image

      Tonie Cook 2 years ago from USA

      Dear Fellow Artist - This is beautiful work. Thank you for sharing your gift with others.

    • Gayle Dowell profile image
      Author

      Gayle Dowell 3 years ago from Kansas

      @Joy Neasley: My father-in-law had Parkinson's. It can be debilitating. So glad that you found drawing to be therapeutic. I love watercolor and the beauty of the transparent color. I have recently found a new technique I'll be teaching my high school art class next semester using white wax crayons as a resist and adding the watercolor around the crayon drawing. It may be a technique that would work well for you.

    • Joy Neasley profile image

      Joy Neasley 3 years ago from Nashville, TN

      This is a great lens. With Parkinson's disease, I have been looking for an alternative to my drawing that would be a little more forgiving with the shaking tremors and the focus issues. Although I have noticed that wen I draw the symptoms almost diminish for a while. The doc said that is because for me, when I am drawing and get into that "zone", I am relaxed and the drawing is theraputic. I do think I am going to try watercolor painting though. I picked up some watercolors, brushes, and paper. Maybe trying to paint Christmas cards is a great way to start.

    • CrazyHomemaker profile image

      CrazyHomemaker 3 years ago

      Great lens! I've always wanted to try watercolor but didn't know how to start. I just may give it a try. Thanks for sharing your pictures with us.

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