I spent so much of 2017 talking and writing about creativity, that I hadn’t produced anything of my own. I want to change that for 2018, so I’ve dedicated each month to start a project and spend the month learning about and practicing that creative endeavor. I spent the month of January watercolor painting. For the other projects throughout the year, head back to my Introduction post. Join in, or just follow along as I work my way through each inspiring project.
One of the reasons I chose this project first, was that I stumbled upon a Royal & Langnickel watercolor painting set, that usually retails for about $50, at my local Marshalls for $25. You might also be able to find a version of it from a 3rd party on Amazon. Or you can get a completely different set at a similar price range. I found the watercolor tube paint to be more fun to work with than watercolor pan sets. I’d be willing to also add watercolor crayons to the mix in the future, but I haven’t used those in a long time. Other supplies I purchased were two large paint palettes from Amazon for about $6 each, and a “Premiere Fan Blender Brush” from A.C. Moore for a few dollars. The latter didn’t see a lot of use.
Before doing any sort of learning or reviewing classic watercolor painting concepts that were likely rattling around my brain from high school art classes, I just started painting! The first thing I instantly realized, which you will easily see below, is that painting takes time, and requires some commitment if I want to slowly work through the blending of colors. Depending on the paper I was using, I’d have to wait several minutes for a layer to dry before I could add my next adjacent color, or be doomed to smear the colors all over the paper. I ran out of time (and patience) and did a very poor job on the “dilapidated building” to the right. I also started to realize a few other problems, which I will get to later. In the mean time, check out my first painting that I made using the prompt “sad robot.”
At this point I knew I was not a master watercolor painter, and relented by way of looking at some painting tutorial videos on YouTube. My recommendation for any beginners is to first check out a short series of videos by Kelly Eddington Watercolors: “Watercolor Tips to Improve Paintings.” There are three videos in the series. The first two, titled “5 Beginner Mistakes” and “5 MORE Beginner Mistakes,” demonstrate a comparison of what not to do, and the effects upon making small adjustments to your technique. The third video, “How to Improve Your Painting – 5 Techniques,” follows a similar format but from the perspective of common bad habits. These videos helped me learn how to control the flow of water so I didn’t have massive discontinuities in my gradients (such as the sky in the above painting). Using the right brush for the right job is probably the most obvious advice, but I would occasionally be lazy and not want to clean so many brushes. I was always promptly punished with more work in the actual painting process. Heed this advice!
My second painting was a marked improvement over the first in many ways, but I could still see many flaws. Primarily, I learned that paper quality matters more than I was willing to admit. The paper I was using was quite old and was not able to hold water as well as newer and higher quality paper could. This both increased dry times and limited my ability to layer colors. While I was happy with the coloring of the Moorish Idol, I was dissatisfied with the background. The colors remained inconsistent and still showed telltale signs of brush strokes. Had I spent some time masking the foreground, I suppose I would have seen an improvement, but the paper wasn’t doing me any favors.
I had planned on doing four paintings, but time constraints set me back and I was only able to do three. My third painting, of a bowl of fresh garlic bread, I am mostly happy with. I used some newer paper (the paper that came with my kit, instead of some old scrap watercolor paper from years ago) and took more time with the coloring. Unfortunately I still faltered with parts of the painting that were not the centerpiece. You can see how poorly the bowl was painted. After spending hours on the main attraction it is hard to keep up the energy for the supplemental parts. With my unsteady hands, I suspect that using a larger canvas will also do wonders to my paintings, as even here some of the detail work is spotty. And, yes, I wanted to try to take one of those cliche pictures showing the tools with the painting. I’ll have to get a light-box next time I attempt to pull this off.
The nice thing about painting, is that I was able to be fairly proficient within the first month, as long as I dedicated most of my weekends to the task. This is in direct contrast to next month’s project, learning to play the piano, which requires constant vigilance, and not something that my weekend-warrior attitude is going to have a great time with. But that’s for next month. I’m glad I invested the small amount of money into getting some supplies and working through this exercise. It is something I am absolutely going to return to throughout the year, assuming my life can stay on the tracks. Watercolor painting isn’t “easy” per se, but it sure is a lot of fun.
Did you follow along and do your own watercolor paintings? If so, comment below and tell me about your experiences, and show off some of your work. It’s okay if the paintings aren’t stellar, this is the first month after all.