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Painting with Watercolor

Updated on June 20, 2018
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

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.



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.

Butterfly Watercolor Collage

Butterfly Watercolor Collage
Butterfly Watercolor Collage

© 2011 Gayle Dowell

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

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    • Gayle Dowell profile imageAUTHOR

      Gayle Dowell 

      4 years ago from Kansas

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

    • Charlino99 profile image

      Tonie Cook 

      4 years ago from USA

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

    • Gayle Dowell profile imageAUTHOR

      Gayle Dowell 

      5 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 

      5 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


      5 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.

    • girlfriendfactory profile image


      5 years ago

      So pretty! Love these!

    • Diaper Bag Blog profile image

      Stanley Green 

      5 years ago from Czech Republic

      Lovely lens! My wife creates beautiful painitngs in many different techniques... These pictures are superb!

    • paulahite profile image

      Paula Hite 

      5 years ago from Virginia

      I love your lens! Thanks for sharing...

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Beautiful lens

    • Art Inspired profile image

      Art Inspired 

      5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your beautiful artwork and talent. Make it a creative day!

    • MargaritasWorld profile image

      Margarita Boettcher 

      5 years ago from Morrison, Colorado

      Very lovely.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I am not an artist that lens is great .

    • Carol Houle profile image

      Carol Houle 

      5 years ago from Montreal

      I've painted many canvases using oils. When I tried watercolor I was also frustrated with trying to control it. I will try to loosen up. I didn't know this was an issue until you pointed it out. ThanX a Bunch! Love your artwork.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Great lens!

    • LeslieMirror profile image


      5 years ago

      I guess that watercolour technique is the hardest one, as it is hard to correct mistakes with it. =)

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      nice painting...

    • CrazyHomemaker profile image


      5 years ago

      I'm not an artist with this medium, but I'd like to try some day. I appreciate the beauty of it. It is so dreamy-looking and I never get tired of looking at it. You do beautiful work. Thanks for sharing.

    • Gayle Dowell profile imageAUTHOR

      Gayle Dowell 

      5 years ago from Kansas

      @Mary Stephenson: I've heard of becoming allergic to oil paint. I was too impatient with oils and switched to watercolor. I hated having to clean my brushes with turpentine.

    • Mary Stephenson profile image

      Mary Stephenson 

      5 years ago from California

      Lovely work. I really need to go back and try it again. I used to do oils but became allergic to them and had to switch to other mediums.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      nice paintings...i wish i could paint like that! :) i love painting too but im not an artist like u...

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Front page - sweet! (And well-deserved)

    • Northerntrials profile image


      5 years ago

      I always wanted to do watercolor painting. I need to find the time and space to try it.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      You are so good in paintings.i like all your paintings and congratulations for ur purple star.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Beautiful ! Thanks !

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Back for a visit. I really love this lens, and your beautiful artwork!

    • Judy Filarecki profile image

      Judy Filarecki 

      5 years ago from SW Arizona and Northern New York

      Loved your lens. It is like I wrote the first part of it. I still ten to push paint around instead of letting the water do the work. I'm pinning this article so I can follow your suggestions as I try to develop a better technique with watercolors. Thanks

    • makingamark profile image

      Katherine Tyrrell 

      5 years ago from London

      I couldn't believe what a difference moving from small to big sheets of paper made. Love your description of your watercolour journey!

    • Gayle Dowell profile imageAUTHOR

      Gayle Dowell 

      5 years ago from Kansas

      @hmommers: Thank you. I do stretch my own paper now using paper tape or staples. Stretching watercolor paper is an art all its own! I didn't start stretching my own paper until I got serious with my painting and started painting larger pieces. Now I stretch all my own paper. It is cheaper.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      WOW your paintings are great! What I like most about your watercolors is the part that is not painted (the white) being integrated in the image. Too often watercolor paintings are too far worked out (hope this is good English).

      My tip might be that you can also buy sheets of paper and adhere them with paper tape on plywood. I don't want to post a link here (since this is your article), but it's an Squidoo article of mine about DIY framing.

    • Sharon Weaver profile image

      Sharon Weaver 

      5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      No I paint with oils. Your work is lovely. I like the jewelry that you do too.

    • delia-delia profile image


      5 years ago

      Lovely!!! watercolor is not my medium but I prefer to teach it to the new to art students. I didn't learn watercolor till later in life. I was introduced to it in a strict manner not leaving any creativity, so now I teach create with imagination and style without restrictions.

    • oddobjective profile image


      6 years ago

      I have only dabbled in it a couple of times but I did enjoy it. I will have to get back to it.

    • kopox profile image


      6 years ago

      beautiful paintings...

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      You make me want to go back to water color painting as i love them. They are much lighter.

    • bikerministry profile image


      6 years ago

      You are amazingly talented and making something of it!! Wonderful!! Blessings.

    • dragonlildragon profile image


      6 years ago

      I wish i had talent to paint as the pictures you have shared here.

    • ismeedee profile image


      6 years ago

      Watercolour is my favourite medium, although the last painting I did in acrylic because I wanted a deeper colour. This lens is a great resource for amateur artists like me!!

    • bilafond lm profile image

      bilafond lm 

      6 years ago

      This is very good lens. I have been trying my hand on Water Colour Pencils, and still trying to be happy what I make.

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 

      6 years ago from Land of Aloha

      I love the look of watercolors; your work is astounding. I'm SO impressed. Wish I could do that. :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      A fortnight before I was reading an article about a professional who use to retrieve the old painting to original form. I was wondering how they could do that. I am wondering again after visiting your lens, how such paintings are possible. Very eye pleasing and crystal clear view of everything painted by the painter.

    • BLemley profile image

      Beverly Lemley 

      6 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Stunning work! I love how you have created such depth, like 3D ~ just beautiful. I am dabbling in watercolor pencils and having fun with that. Thanks for the inspiration and nice hints! SquidAngel blessed! B : )

    • SailingPassion LM profile image

      SailingPassion LM 

      6 years ago

      I love watercolours - plan to have a go one day. Always picture myself doing this when I have more time on my hands :-)

    • sheriangell profile image


      6 years ago

      I love your color choices! Angel blessed today!

    • Mandy Stradley profile image

      Mandy Stradley 

      6 years ago

      Absolutely beautiful, I love the style!

    • mariaamoroso profile image


      6 years ago from Sweden

      Wonderful paintings! lovely lens

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I was just showing my son your paintings, who is an artist too.

      Both of us are impressed with your watercolor paintings.

    • ForestBear LM profile image

      ForestBear LM 

      6 years ago

      Beautiful lens. Used to do a lot of watercolor painting and would love to get back into it. Thank you for inspiring me

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      This is a lovely lens about watercolor painting. Very Inspiring! :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      "Tea and Lilacs"just makes me want to be sitting by that window.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      6 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I have tried painting in watercolor but haven't had much luck with decent results. I love it though. Will try some of your techniques!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Beautiful paintings.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I love painting with watercolors. This is such a beautiful and inspiring lens. :)

    • Herman IV profile image

      Herman IV 

      6 years ago

      Very nice lens. I have enjoyed watercolors since I was a small boy with my first set! This brings back great memories and encourages me to try my hand at it again.

    • Doggitude profile image


      6 years ago

      Some good fundamental advice in your lens and your paintings are lovely. I have spent a lot of time getting to know my watercolor pigments, filling many inexpensive small watercolor sketchbooks with practice blobs of mingled and glazed colors. It's such an important step in developing confident watercolor skills!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Ah, I am not a watercolorist but a fan of it. I love the daisy and the butterfly.

    • Close2Art LM profile image

      Close2Art LM 

      7 years ago

      Lovely paintings, I love watercolors also, there are so many unexpected great images that sometimes can almost create themselves in a way, thumbs up and Blessed

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      like your pics in the lens

    • Pennyseeker LM profile image

      Pennyseeker LM 

      7 years ago

      Interesting lens!

    • goo2eyes lm profile image

      goo2eyes lm 

      7 years ago

      i love your works of art. i was making leaf prints with crayons at school. we also used watercolors. you're really talented.

    • SecondHandJoe LM profile image

      SecondHandJoe LM 

      7 years ago

      watercolors- scary! But lovely lens!

    • Image Girl profile image

      Image Girl 

      7 years ago

      Very nice...I would love to read more about this too. I've always feared watercolours... But my great grandma was a watercolourist.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I ain't artist either but I do enjoy looking and reading about what other people say about certain paintings. If you have a chance please check out my lens. Thanks.

    • MrsPotts profile image


      7 years ago

      I'm not an artist, but do like watercolor paintings. Tea and Lilacs is beautiful! The video on how to make a flat wash was really interesting. Thank you for the informative and lovely lens.

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 

      7 years ago from Vermont

      I adore watercolor as a medium. I abhor watercolor as a painter ... but I keep trying, as did you, to let the water do the work. My plan for my retirement is to really get into free watercolor and enjoy it rather than try to manage or control the painting.

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 

      7 years ago from UK

      I do love your paintings, beautiful use of watercolours. I count watercolours as one of my favourite mediums and have a number of lenses on sketching here on squidoo.

    • artbyrodriguez profile image

      Beverly Rodriguez 

      7 years ago from Albany New York

      I love painting in watercolor, and I learn something new with each painting. Even if a painting is a failure in my eyes, I've learned what NOT to do!

      Beautiful lens.

    • bharat01 profile image


      7 years ago

      Wow...., Such a Beautiful Paintings, and I must say Superb lens, I Love your paintings......:)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I have watercolor painting on my life list of things to accomplish. Thanks for the tips and motivation. Your work is beautiful.

    • PTurner56 profile image


      7 years ago

      I have always loved water colors and just downloaded the free e-book, so perhaps I can give it a try now! Thanks!

    • GoAceNate LM profile image

      GoAceNate LM 

      7 years ago

      Nice guide. I just picked up my watercolors again. So much fun.

    • curious0927 profile image


      7 years ago

      Great Lens! I love watercolor and have yet to get anywhere near where I need to be. This lens is a great help and inspiration!

    • bjslapidary profile image


      7 years ago

      Love your paintings. Your work is wonderful. I use watercolor and love it. It's always nice to see what another artist is doing. Thanks for sharing.

    • Titia profile image

      Titia Geertman 

      7 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

      I learned it when I studied Textile Art, but never went through with it. My hubby can paint beautifully, but he too doesn't do it anymore. Life and the reconstruction of our old farmhouse got in the way.

    • semas profile image


      7 years ago

      Beautiful Watercolors. I am also an artist and it is some time since I did a watercolor painting.Your works are inspiring and giving me the push to start painting this new year:)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I used to do water color painting but my work keep me busy these days. I really enjoy reading this lens. It sure brought back some memories.

      Material Handling

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      7 years ago from Colorado

      Beautiful paintings. I would really like to give watercolor a try. Thanks for the tips. Appreciated!

    • TheFalconPress profile image

      The Falcon Press 

      7 years ago from Los Angeles, California

      Nice lens. Your paintings are lovely. I'm just a beginner and the flat wash video was a great tip.

    • flycatcherrr profile image


      7 years ago

      I like the way you let the paper come through and carry the light, very nice indeed.

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice lens

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      nice paintings

    • lasertek lm profile image

      lasertek lm 

      7 years ago

      Thanks for sharing.

    • awestricken1 profile image

      Ken Parker 

      7 years ago from Tacoma, Wa

      they are very nice paintings of watercolor.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I've thought about trying watercolor painting at different times in my life. These are beautiful. I especially like the lilacs painting. This might be the encouragement I need to look further into watercolor painting to see if it is something I would like.

    • jadehorseshoe profile image


      7 years ago

      VERY Useful Lens!

    • Northwestphotos profile image


      7 years ago

      I am not into watercolor painting, but I wanted to comment how beautiful your paintings are!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I love your watercolors. You describe it so well - moving from oils and acrylics to watercolor, I had a very similar experience. Thank you for a wonderful lens.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I've done some watercolor but am no where near your level. I love how you share your journey of evolving make magic happen!

    • bikerministry profile image


      7 years ago

      Oh, my, now I think I have no tips. What a great lens. Thank you and blessings.

    • WildFacesGallery profile image


      7 years ago from Iowa

      Your work is delicate and lovely. Very nice.


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