What I am learning about watercolors.
*I am writing this while I am letting a painting dry, so you get to benefit from my thoughts on this subject. This is in no way exhaustive, comprehensive, or authoritative. You just get to be my captive audience. You’re welcome, dear internet people.
I get it right about the same amount of times I get it wrong, but not always on the same day.
I’ve had days where it seems that I forget all the rules and I make mud. I’ve had other days where I feel like I am mastering a technique and frankly, I feel a little cocky. This happens to me in cooking, too. One day I feel like Julia Child — the next day I burn my toast. Trying something new means you run a good chance of making a complete mess of things. Sometimes my instinct to deviate pays off, other times it goes down in a burning inferno.
If you’re not in love with something, walk away and let it dry.
Just leave it alone. Some of the most beautiful nuances in watercolor only appear once it is dry. If you try to make the watercolor look exactly what you see on a screen, you can overwork the paper and really regret the results.
You may walk back and still not love it, but I bet you’ll find something in there that you like. Remember that part and try to recreate it.
You’re going to enjoy it more …if you allow yourself to enjoy it.
Sounds ridiculous, right? If you’re like me, you might run along the lines of being a perfectionist. There’s no room in watercolor for absolute perfection. The beauty is in the blur, the smudge.
A few weeks ago I helped with an art project for a group of kindergarteners. They were learning to draw a bird and color it with oil pastels in the style of Frida Kahlo, (which is an interesting task when many of these sweet babies are still learning pencil grip.) My favorite moment was when the instructor told the kids to draw an eye with a circle and dot and this sweet boy drew an “i.” Don’t you love how literal five year olds are? I digress. The point is, I tried to encourage them to enjoy how it feels to put your pencil to paper. Art should feel good! Who cares if your bird is small or big, or if it doesn’t look just like a bird? Sometimes getting into the feel of art is more important than anything else.
Every person has a different perspective on how to watercolor…
I personally started with Wonder Forest tutorials on YouTube, then I discovered Jay Lee. I watch both of them regularly, and I also like to get on Pinterest and I click and click and read everyone. The “rules” often vary from artist to artist. Find someone who does the style you gravitate towards most, and start there. If you prefer actual books, do them. I have Everyday Watercolor and No Excuses Watercolor, and both have given me some great tips!
…and that includes you.
There’s no one I follow exclusively, because my personal style varies. The more you learn, the more you’ll feel the urge to try something “just a little different.”
Follow your instincts! That’s what makes your watercolor special. I’m not good right now at creating something out of nothing. If I’m in the mood to paint flowers, I look for flowers on google and pinterest. I find what I think I can do, and start there.
Well, the piece I just tried to “fix” is dried… and I still don’t love it. I’m not sure I’m going to try this particular scene again. I think I either want it more abstract or something. You see? Occasionally you just don’t like what you create. I do like parts of one painting, and parts of the second. I learned that I overworked the first one, but I like parts of the smudge in the first (left) one. I also like that I made the green parts smaller. I prefer the clouds and the fact that I respected the paper more in the second.
Don’t be afraid to try something new, and don’t beat yourself up if it isn’t what you pictured. Walk away. Look at it in a few hours. Or just throw it away. Try again.
Happy Saturday, friends!