Painting with Watercolor
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
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
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.
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.
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.