Wanna Watercolour?

July 26, 2017

As some of you know, I started teaching myself to paint with watercolours. In this post, I want to share some tips and lessons learned, but I also wanted to encourage you, yes you, that if you have ever wanted to try doing watercolours, you should.

I am a big fan of pursing activities that make you feel good. Be it music, or art or dance or whatever. There is no need to be competitive and to feel the need to display or share what you do. If it feels good, do it.

So, I have not special skill or experience or training in painting. Even though my grandmother was an amazing artist, I haven’t done any painting since it was an obligatory activity in school. (Well, there was that time I randomly painted trees on the wall of our living room, but I don’t think that counts.)

So here is a list of things what I learned while figuring out how to paint:

1.Just try

yellow flowers

My painting journey started two years ago, I had signed up to do a course, that unfortunately, got cancelled. It surprised me how disappointed I was, so I took that as a good omen, that this was an activity I should pursue. My gorgeous lovely mother, send me a box of watercolour pencils and a how-to book, so I just started trying. In the beginning, it all looked pretty shit, but it got better fast. This was literally one of the first things I painted.

2. Start with pencils

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Watercolour pencils are like regular coloured pencils, but when you paint over them with water, they turn to paint. Basically, it is a way to transfer pigment on to the page. After a while I started using the paintbrush on the pencils directly, to get the pigment on the brush. With time, I started to notice things like how the different pigments floated on water differently. It allows you to sketch with colour, and even erase the lighter lines with an eraser.

 

3. Choose colours wisely

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It’s all about colour really. I realised early on, that a very important part of constructing a good picture was the choice of colours. Bright pink and light green is a combo that looks great and I would probably never have thought of on my own. Seek inspiration on Pinterest and by observing colour combinations that please you.

 

4. Copy simple designs that already look good

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I used Pinterest to find pictures that I liked the look of and then tried to copy them. None of the paintings I have made so far, have been original ideas, they have all been copies of the art of others. These birds on a branch? Exact replica of a picture I saw on Pinterest. Make a light pencil drawing first. Spend some time thinking about the order that the painting was drawn in, and then copy it.

 

5. Avoid faces

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Because I am not really good at drawing things with great detail, I avoid images that rely on a high level of accuracy to look good. In this case, to avoid the face, but include a human figure, I simply pictured her from the back. This was based off a photo I saw on Pinterest. Using a thin pen, I added in the final lines to add some definition.

6. Save paper (it’s expensive!)

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Watercolour paper is pretty expensive, so I would buy the big block but then rip each page into four pieces. This meant, I had to make smaller paintings, but I didn’t feel as bad if one didn’t turn out well. It also meant I could share my paper with my kids. I even painted on the back of some of the paintings I didn’t like. They would make nice cards too.

 

 

7. Practice layering

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A big part of successful watercolour paintings is when you layer paint over previous layers. You can either add several layers of the same colour, or with a different one. Caution: The paint must be dry for you to “layer” otherwise you are mixing, which is also a delightful effect. See point 8 regarding mixing.

 

8. No need to stay in the lines

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There will be times when this advice isn’t applicable, but unless you are going for realism, by it’s very nature watercolour is messy. This daisy looks charming with the colour bleeding across borders. Consider it a feature not a problem, of the medium.

9. Blend your colours

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And sometimes don’t. This picture shows a background that I painted and deliberately allowed the colours to blend into each other. Once the background was dry, I painted the trees over it, layering the different tones of brown.

 

10. Tape off a border

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By using masking tape, you can create a border on the page which won’t absorb paint. This allows you to frame your image nicely.

 

11. Try painting on wet paper

Whale

This allows you to blend colours and create a wonderful bleeding edge effect. Perfect for underwater imagery. In this image I blended the background and used layering to paint the whale. The sunlight was done by wiping a dry tissue across the wet page. Add a little dry brushing with white to create the rough skin effect and I would say it’s a pretty good outcome!

 

I firmly believe that everyone can get better at painting if they only practice. There is no end to the amount of tutorial videos you can find online so I highly recommend viewing those as inspiration as well as a way to improve your technique.

Just try it. Worry less about how it looks and more about how it feels. When you have fun, you’ll discover ways to play with the paint and create different effects.

Paint, if it brings you joy.

 

 

 

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