April 7, 2009

Learning to Watercolor

After two weeks I had borrowed and bought 10 how to watercolor books, read half of four of them and scanned the others, but still I was hesitant to try again. I know deep down that you have to use the paints to learn to watercolor, but that didn't help. Along came my favorite water colorist (and photographer), Carl at Artistic Balance, offering inspiration and challenge to join him in painting a lighthouse. He offered a lighthouse photo presized including partition lines for drawing our own version. However, this is not a simple lighthouse. It is also a large building with shadows, angles and windows, but after taking a deep breath I decided it was offered as a personal inspiration and I needed to do this. He had said a painting should not be a copy of a photo, but more our creative interpretation of it. With that in mind, in my drawing I totally changed the position of the additional building to avoid some windows and lines as I tend to have shaky hands, and the white lighthouse alone looked a little strange. I am learning a lot as I attempt my second watercolor.
1. As a former (35 years ago) painter in oils, I have trouble adjusting to the fact that you don't paint white (usually). White is the paper showing through. In oils you wouldn't leave any canvas unpainted. It is difficult to totally remove mistakes that encroach on white, shaky lines especially, without leaving marks or moving the line in a little, then a little more (the incredibly shrinking window).
2. It is best not to draw in clouds. Should you have to change their position (see #1), it is difficult to remove the pencil lines from light blue sky. Also, if using light colors draw as lightly as possible and erase thoroughly unneeded lines. They will show.
3. You should probably mix a little more of a color than you think you will need. It is difficult to get the exact same color for the other side of the picture if you run out.
4. If you are right-handed and are wearing long puffy sleeves, you should paint the lower half of the picture from left to right, not right to left. I am sure the opposite is true for you lefties.
5. I have difficulty not trying to finish a painting in one sitting (I have the same problem when reading novels). Sometimes you have to let the paint dry before you can go on. It's a good thing I'm not painting in oils, now.
6. Finally, be careful not to spatter after dipping a brush in water. You will find yourself adding seagulls all over the place.
I'll keep you informed of my learning progress and share my second painting, maybe.


Janice Thomson said...

Hi Pat. Love that number 6 - have done that a time or two myself when first learning watercolours. :)
Wonderful post!

Pat said...

Thanks Janice. I always enjoy your posts, both the digital paintings and the poems.

Carl said...

3 and 5 are the toughest lessons to learn.. ok the part about thinking backwards coming from oils too. You are well a=on your way!

Wenderina said...

This post made me laugh out loud at work. The seagulls comment was priceless.