Diving feet first into watercolor . . .

Have you been inspired by watching someone create art using a medium you have never tried before or one you don't know much about? You were so inspired that the thought crossed your mind I think I can do that, and in minutes you have bought all the supplies you need to give it a try. Well, that has happened to me just recently. I have fallen in love with watercolor. I don't know much about watercolor. I don't know the techniques or how much water to use or how much paint is appropriate or even how long to let it dry, but I am excited to try.

I decided the other day that I wanted to add watercolor to my drawings. I am not sure what sparked the interest exactly, but I do know I wanted to create backgrounds on the portraits I make, and I simply do not have the patience to color a background in colored pencil. Funny I say that because I have patience to color hair, which is requires more patience, but I just cannot muster the energy to create a background in colored pencil. I saw someone create a beautiful colored background with watercolor and thought hmmm I think I could do that.

I have never taken a watercolor class and don't know what I am really doing besides putting water on a paintbrush and dipping it in my watercolor pan. So, there I sat with my new watercolor paints new brushes with my project taped to my drawing board ready to get started. I swished the brush in my clean water and then it hit me--I don't know what I am doing. I don't have a clue how much water to use or which brush is the right one to pick up. All these questions flew through my head. Do I soak my drawing with water first and then add paint? I had seen a YouTuber talk about painting wet on wet. I started to do that and then thought how much water do I put on the paper do I just go one section at a time? I found myself not painting but spinning wondering what in the world am I doing.

At that moment I could have easily given up and just put everything away. I felt a lot of anxiety about what made me think I could do this, because I had no training. It would have been easier for me to stop and say I would not watercolor until I enrolled in a class to learn something. This is where I am glad I didn't stop. I realized that it is ok that I didn’t know anything about watercolor because now I had the freedom to explore. Trying stuff out to see what works is the best way for me to learn for several reasons.

Having some experience with a medium before taking a class will help me know and better understand what the teacher is talking about. For example, I had no clue what each brush type was for. But playing around with each brush to see what type of stokes they create helped me to know what size brush and the type of stroke the brush could make. When I took my first watercolor class, I had limited experience with the brushes. But when the teacher talked about a particular brush I was now familiar with I had several "aha" moments. In one instance, I now understood what he meant because I had experienced how the brush flowed better when I experimented with it and now that he was explaining why it works better it made sense. I am the type of person that when I start something new or get a new toy, I explore every part of it, without reading the instructions, just to see what it will do. It’s only after I think I have explored enough I look through the instructions to validate what I figured out. I am sure that may sound strange to many people but that’s generally how it works for me. I feel like I learn faster that way.

Yes, it is true I may be breaking all kinds of watercolor rules here because I don’t know what I am really doing. Here is the thing, in art we are told to break rules, right? If you use paint to express what you want on paper and you love it isn't that all that matters? Currently I am using watercolor as a starting point when it’s time to start adding color to my drawings. I am experimenting with layering colors. It is really fun too because to me it is just like the process I use when layering colors with colored pencil. I am having fun mixing colors together to see what color I can come up with and layering them on top of other colors to see what color I can make with that. I am nowhere near creating amazing works of art with watercolor, but I am really enjoying the process and learning something new each time. All of this has sparked a new fire in me where I am obsessed with seeing what I can create with watercolor.

Now my process is like this - I draw the portrait on watercolor paper and use a Prismacolor Col-erase pencil to mark in the darker areas. Then I apply the watercolor over the drawing and using the shading as a guide for layering colors to create the areas of darker shade. Then when it is completely dry, I smooth things out and add details with colored pencils. I am really surprised by the difference the watercolor makes. Maybe it’s because the watercolor fills in the gaps on the paper and the skin looks so smooth or maybe because I am finally adding color to my backgrounds or simply it’s because I am just having fun experimenting with this process. No matter what the real reason is I am really enjoying where this path is leading me. I am positive this experimenting will help me to become better at water coloring. I am confident that eventually I will not need to use as much colored pencil on top of my watercolor base to blend out my blotchy water rings. With each watercolor experiment I get so excited that I just want to keep going. Don’t get me wrong here my experimentation has not been all wonderful, I have some really embarrassing creations but that is all part of experimenting. When you make something ugly you have the chance to learn from it and create something better.

If you have been thinking about trying a new medium . . . don’t wait, start experimenting today. Then take some classes about it. I am sure you will have more fun than you think.

What's happening in the Corner . . .

Has colder weather arrived where you live? Do you find yourself inside trying to stay warm? Why not pick up some knitting needles and start knitting a warm scarf. Hey, hold the presses, we don't knit here we color. So join us this month as we pick up our markers, colored pencils, and/or watercolors and learn to create a knit texture on paper!

If you are reading this after we moved on to the next technique, you can find the Work-at-Your-Own-Pace Practice for Texture:Knit here.

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