Learning to Paint in Watercolor

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Like most kids, I liked to draw, and like most adults, I stopped drawing. But recently, I was bitten by the watercolor bug. I’ve found a lot of great information in books–some of my favorites are by Zoltan Szabo. Youtube, however, has remained one of the best places to find  numerous, generous artists who publish free tutorials. Because there’s so much out there, though, one tip I can offer is to stick with one or two artists for quite a long time. Read a lot, too, and start numerous painting journals so each time you decide to sit down and paint, it doesn’t have to be an important painting. It’s practice. Another tip is try to avoid too much time watching reviews; it’s a bottomless pit of time comparing one brand to another. Get your gear and go! I’m using student paints (Cotman) and 140 lb. paper. My brushes are inexpensive. When I use it all up, I’ll consider upgrading, but in the meantime… It! All! Works! Great!

Here are my favorite Youtubers. Although I routinely find new channels and artists, I lean toward landscape artists:

  • Grant Fuller: These are some of the best tutorials I’ve watched. They can give you a lot of confidence to try the basics in landscape. Sadly, Mr. Fuller passed away in 2016.
  • Patrick Ley-Greaves: This artists offers up a ton of wonderful landscape tutorials. On his website, he even has a special set of lessons arranged for beginners. Start with “The Basics” and move forward.
  • The Mind of Watercolor: Steve Mitchell is funny and a wonderful painter. His style is inspiring. You will realize why watercolor is a medium meant for water. This sounds strange but watch this and you’ll understand.
  • Millie Gift Smith: From what I can tell, Ms. Smith is about 97 years old. She paints with watercolors and other mediums. Her abstract landscapes are gorgeous. She refers to her style of painting as “loose and easy.” Love the tunes.
  • The Painting and Drawing Channel: Other than the strangeness of having 30-minute tutorials broken into three sections, this is my favorite all-around channel for lessons. The artists featured here are awesome teachers. A few of my favorites are Geoff Kersey and Keith Fenwick.
  • Art Painting Workshop: This unnamed (I think) artist posts speed-painting videos. This is a fun way to watch a full painting come to life.

Watercolor Journals and Practice

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This past week I’ve painted lots of sketches in all three of my journals. Some are super tiny, but others are more substantial. The en plein air ones always look hurried and unfinished (which they are):

I spend more time on the tutorials and the ones I paint using photos as a reference:

My favorite of the bunch is the stone building above. It’s from a photo my husband took, and I really like how the colors turned out.

More Watercolor, Mini and Journal

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A drawback to painting in a tiny journal is that it gets a little tiring working in a little space. There’s a point when I think it’s just practice and stop. So, this little painting, a step-by-step following Ralph Avery and in the book Watercolorists at Work, needed a final detailing, and I skipped it. Much of my journal painting happens with 9″x12″ pages, but this is about 3″x5″.

I’ve spent some time thinking about different ways to paint trees. Here are a few attempts, some pretty weak, but I like the birch trees.

Mini Watercolor

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I’ve discovered an intriguing book, Watercolorists at Work, by Susan E. Meyer and Norman Kent, published in 1972. There are 25 artists and a painting by each, broken into five steps. All begin with a sketch, but the process from there changes quite a bit. I’m finding it absorbing to follow along. My finished little painting of Tore Asplund’s moody street scene in France is pretty silly looking, but it was such fun.

Watercolor Journals and Cotman Field Box Set

Painting outdoor is really fun, but my eye for detail disappears and I head over into a blurry world. I bought the wee Cotman Field Box Set, which is adorable and clever. It has 12 colors, a flask, and a teeny brush. I also bought two small Pentalic journals. It’s truly painting on the go.

And here are pages three and half of four in my 12″ x 9″ practice journal.