My watercolor journal choice for practicing, not taking outdoors, is a Strathmore 9″x12″, 140 lb. pad. It’s spiral bound and fits nicely into my rugged clipboard case. I’ve just finished my second one, and that means I’ve filled 24 pages.
Here are the final practice pieces of journal two, both tutorials from Patrick Ley-Greaves. The first one has a nice perspective of looking down into a little valley and across the ocean. The second one was going pretty smoothly until I decided to add in the figures. The paper is buckled, which may be hard to see, and the poor people look a little bit like zombies. If I flatten out the paper, they are more like people. If I cared about flattening out watercolor paper, I discovered a great method that works well. However, with these practice pieces, I’ll leave them as is.
And I spent some time painting this, trying to create a moody sky. The rocks in the foreground were scraped in using the edge of a plastic card.
Practicing painting skies and clouds has become one of my favorite things. Mostly, I use the wet-on-wet technique and then drop in other colors/shades as it dries. I often lift off areas to create more lights and darks, although some of the light areas are from leaving white paper in the beginning. Lifting out color with a damp brush or tissue is also a great way to create mist or fog, which I do on the final sheet.
There’s a big mistake on the first sheet (bottom left) where I blotted out everything but forgot to try to paint over. The paint stained the background and I thought it would make a cool, stormy sky. I’ll try it later.
I followed a tutorial by Keith Fenwick that focused on creating a summer sky. With hindsight being 20/20, I wish I would have used a darker shade of blue for the sky and skipped the purple highlights in the water.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This little Pentalic journal is 3.5″ x 5.4″.
I added detail to this log cabin sketch, but I may have overdone it.
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.
Sometimes, a super tiny painting is the way to go. All of these can fit in a 9″x12″ rectangle. Painting on the go is fun. I use four colors and water brushes.