Last night kicked off my return to teaching watercolor workshops at our local art supply shop in downtown St. Pete, Whim-So-Doodle. If you're local to Tampa Bay, you should DEFINITELY take an afternoon to explore all of the happy, fun, colorful art supplies, stationery, artisan pens, books, fabric and so much more that the shop has to offer. Aside from my watercolor workshops, Whim-So-Doodle offers an array of crafting, fine art and even bullet journalin' and mood board makin' workshops. It's every creatives dream - and every person who wants to be a creatives dream.
Watercolor Basics is one of my favorite workshops to teach because it really gets into the nitty gritty of how to get started with watercolors at the most basic (as the name implies), and foundational level - before you even learn how to actually paint something. When I was first learning watercolors, I delved deeply into the basics of watercolor and in my workshops I teach you about my list of "tips and tricks" that I have gathered over the years, also sharing with you all of the materials that I have found to be best when working specifically with watercolor!
Lucky for you, I'm going to share that list for you here today! For any of you who maybe don't live here but are trying to learn watercolors, or those of you who do but aren't able to attend my workshops - this is my best advice for helping you feel more confident in your watercolor practice!
TIPS AND TRICKS:
1. An investment in your materials is an investment in yourself! Watercolors do not require a ton of fancy supplies, you can get away with 1-2 really good brushes, 6-7 tubes of professional paint and a decent grade paper that you'll replace maybe a few times a year. Crap materials = a crap product, and is literally the difference between having success with this medium and never touching it again.
Brush: Princeton, round, series 4050 in sizes 2 and 8
Paint: Winsor & Newton, Holbein, Kuretake or Daniel Smith professional watercolor tubes; you only need: scarlett lake, opera rose, cadmium red, lemon yellow, prussian blue, and sap green to really get started. You can mix all your other colors from those (take my workshop to find out how to use these!)
Paper: Fabriano Artistico Blocks (for a more professional grade) or Fabriano Cold Pressed Studio Watercolor Pads (when starting out); I also like paper by Legion, Winsor and Newton, and Arches. ALWAYS use cold pressed paper, never hot, and never less than 140 lbs (300 gsm). 100% coton is typically better, but not necessary.
2. When beginning to sketch something out - always draw REALLY lightly, otherwise your pencil marks will indent the paper and show through your watercolor. I like to use a 2H graphite pencil - which means the lead is harder, and therefore lighter than 2B which means bold. Use a white vinyl eraser to get rid of any remaining pencil after everything dries, never pink otherwise you risk leaving behind residue.
3. As the name implies - these are WATER-colors, without plenty of water - they will not work. Your brush should never be dry, or covered in goopy paint. When in doubt always use MORE water than paint. Do not be scared of using plenty of water! The more you practice, the better you will get at understanding the paint to water ratio needed for fluid movement on your paper (also, better materials will help with this!)
4. Build up your layers. Unlike other painting mediums, you cannot take back the paint you put down or cover it up. Watercolors are meant to be transparent, which means you need to add layers on top of each other, and details on top of dry layers. Professional grade paint will also assist in your colors being their most vibrant and saturated version from the get go.
5. Hold your brush closer to the bristles for more control, just like you would any other writing utensil. For some reason, when people hold a brush they hold it all funky and then wonder why they can't control where the paint goes - your grip should be the same as it would be with anything else! It makes a HUGE difference just altering this one thing.
6. Use the belly of your brush at a 45 degree angle to cover wide areas and get thicker lines, and use the point of your brush at a 90 degree angle without any pressure for small areas and thin lines. This is why I used a pointed round brush - it's more of a dual purpose tool and allows me to work big and small without switching brushes if I don't want to.
7. If you have a puddle of water on your painting, or you make a mistake and put down the wrong paint color - DO NOT TRY TO WIPE IT UP. I see students make this mistake in my workshops constantly out of instinct. Leave these things alone, let them dry and then work them into your painting. Wiping it up with only make it worse, and will ruin the texture of your paper which will no longer allow water to grip its surface.
8. Avoid using a blowdryer to speed up the drying process. Blow dryers can ruin the natural texture of watercolor paper and it risks you ruining your painting by spreading paint into unwanted areas. If you are using higher quality materials, it shouldn't take your paint long to dry.
9. Have patience! Watercolors are a deliberate, intentional and slow paced painting medium, they are not meant to be rushed. The more you try to rush it, the less likely it is that it will work for you. Take this time to really be present in what you are doing, and pay attention to where you are putting your brush and moving your paint to.
10. Don't be afraid to make mistakes, mistakes are part of the learning process. Without mistakes, you won't know how to evolve or grow ! I still make mistakes, and it's what has lead me to some of my greatest discoveries!
Above all, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! I say this frequently in my posts and on my IG because I really mean it - without practice, you can't expect this skill to come easily! Even those of us with a knack for creative things have to practice everyday it so that we can continue to grow as an artist. You have to COMMIT to your practice to master anything in life, and watercolors are no exception.
Happy Painting and I hope to see your local or traveling faces at some of my upcoming workshops. Follow me on instagram @themessypainter to keep up with new workshops, or visit: https://whimsodoodle.com/collections/classes for currently offered ones and sign up!