Are You New to Watercolor? Me too . . .

My watercolor experiences started a few years ago when I was introduced to watercolor for the base of my colored pencil projects. I was amazed how watercolor made the background and base layers of a drawing go down so much quicker with a brush!

Did that make me a watercolorist? No.

Next, I took an online class and learned I could create my entire project with watercolor and achieve realism. The only problem is that it wasn’t any easier for me than colored pencils or Copic markers, and I really had no idea how to do anything outside the tutorial I was following. Trust me, I tried. Plus, the two brushes I used most were 0 and 1, so as you can imagine, it wasn’t quick.

Fast forward a couple of years and my Practice Partner Frankie started water coloring. Her enthusiasm was infectious. I just had to pull out my watercolors and try again. There I was dipping my brush into a jar of water with the anxious anticipation that with a few lucky dips into the paints on my palette and before I know it, I will have something beautiful will undoubtedly appear magically on my paper!

That’s where the happy story here takes a dreaded turn. There was nothing beautiful in front of me. Once again, I was reminded why I put these paints away. But Frankie was still having such great fun. I knew I was missing something. So, I did what I always do, I headed off to the land of the internet in search of another watercolor class.

I did find a class that would teach me the basics. I had no idea that my choice of watercolor paper mattered. I now know that I must learn about water management for both my paper and brushes. I learned that just like my colored pencil projects, you build watercolor up in layers. But the biggest thing I’ve learned so far is that I do like the freedom of watercolor, especially for backgrounds. My goal is that I get comfortable making watercolor pieces that still have realism but are a little more relaxed than what I do now with colored pencils.

Because learning the basics of watercolor is really new to me, I thought that it would be a great time to share with you a few things I’ve encountered while it's fresh in my mind. First off, it’s the water containers. We’ve probably all read or heard of someone that is water coloring and they pause for a sip of their beverage just to find out that wasn’t a drinking glass they just picked up; it was their rinse water.

There are a few ways to avoid that. One easy one is to not drink and watercolor at the same time. Okay, that doesn’t work you say. So, then another is to use water containers that are bigger than your drinking glass. You might be thinking, “hey Kathy, why not put your coffee to the left and the watercolor water containers to your right?” Well, let’s just say, they switch sides without my even knowing it.

After sorting that out, the next issue I encountered was mixing up my clean water with my rinse water. I don’t know, there must be a missing link between my brain and my hand when I am moving from my paper to the rinse water. I swear I’m looking right at my rinse water container but before I know it, I just rinsed my brush in my clean water container . . . again. Arggggg, off I go to dump and refresh my clean water. So, I tried several tricks in hopes I would stop doing this. Finally, I found something that works for me. I have pipets here that I use to hydrate my paints. Well, I found that if I keep one sitting in my clean water, I no longer dip my dirty brush in it! The smallest things can be of such big help.

When I start a project, I tape it to a board. I’m told that is supposed to help control the warping of my paper. I dutifully do that. What I’ve learned so far is that Post-it Note Labeling tape doesn’t cut it. The wetter it gets, the sooner it lifts off the paper. I was using it because it never damages my paper. But now I’m using painter’s tape. I know, I know. It’s called painters tape for a reason. The good news is that this tape does stand up to the water. But it can also damage your paper when you take it off. I learned to stop when it doesn’t want to release nicely and warm it up with a hair dryer. The heat loosens the adhesive and it comes off clean as I pull it off at a 45-degree angle.

I know this is just the start of my watercolor adventure. I hope that if you are thinking about it, you just dive in too. As they say, come on in the water is fine. I don’t know who said that, but it’s true. When you jump in, consider practicing before trying to create that first masterpiece. Get used to the water, the brush(es) and just enjoy the act of painting. It’s quite possible that when you start you will feel awkward, and possibly just not very coordinated. But as you become familiar with your tools, it will begin to feel as natural as your pencils or markers do now.

What's happening in the Corner . . .

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why you are attracted to an image, so much so that you want to color it too? Whether it is whimsical or realistic, chances are it's the shading of the image that caught your attention. Join us this month as we focus our practice on the creation of clean edges and smooth color transitions.

If you are reading this after we moved on to the next technique, you can find the Work-at-Your-Own-Pace Practice for Clean Edges & Smooth Color Transitions here.

You can see more of my work or follow me on Instagram.

Follow the Practice Corner on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest for more inspiring stories and tips to help you keep practicing and finding new joys through your coloring.

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