3 Watercolor things you just learn by doing

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Watercolor is my favorite medium. Sure, you can say I’ve never even dabbled in oils or acrylics, so I can’t really have an opinion, right?

You can say that. But I’m having too much fun to switch over right now. It’s like you fall in love with a musical instrument and call that instrument your favorite instrument, despite not ever touching the 1000 other instruments out there.

I’m not a likely watercolor evangelist. Usually when you think about watercolors, you think about Great Aunt Hilda who painted flowers and birds. While that’s great and all, that’s what almost everyone thinks of when they think of watercolors.

If I told you I painted nude women, you’d probably list watercolors dead last as the medium you’d think I’d use. But watercolors could surprise you. Some of us push watercolors past their limits, and our watercolors often don’t even look like watercolors.

The best thing about watercolor? The more you do it, the more you learn. And the more you learn, the more you can offer newer watercolor artists.

So here are three things you learn from just painting. As I’ve mentioned last year, I’ll do one of these articles at least every six months. (The possibilities are infinite).

Some colors are more opaque than others

Watercolors are always transparent and gouaches are always opaque, right?

Sure.

Well, not really.

Some watercolors are a lot more opaque than others. The general rule of thumb is that the darker the color, the harder it is to cover up. Black? Forget it.

That’s not always the case though. Hansa Medium Yellow by Daniel Smith does a great job covering up something else. You’d think, a yellow? In this case, yes.

It’s just one of those things you learn by working with the same colors over and over.

I’m not a hardcore brand stickler. I got my Daniel Smith, my Winsor and Newton, my Blick Artist paints, my M Graham, and most recently, my Sennelier paints. Love most of them except for an occasional color that has me scratching my head why they even made that. So far, I probably like my Sennelier the best.

But back to the point, you really need to paint with each color and learn everything about it, including its opaqueness. They vary between colors and even between each brand’s interpretation of that color.

How much water is enough and how much is too much

You could ruin a painting with too much water. You can also not get anything done with not enough water.

Where’s the happy medium?

That’s something that comes with time.

It also matters your painting surface. I absolutely love painting on watercolor boards because you can go absolutely crazy with water. The only drawback of a board is it’s easier to draw on watercolor paper. Other than that, you don’t have to worry about too much water.

With paper, you do. And 140 lb paper? Some is better than others, depending on the brand.

The lovely Allie
Allie

I haven’t used 300 lb paper yet. Just haven’t. I’ve even experimented with watercolors on wood before, but still haven’t gotten around to 300 lb paper.

Why? Who knows?

How much is enough and how much is too much is something you learn with time. I sometimes go too crazy for 140 lb paper. It’s one of my faults. I get so used to painting on watercolor boards that when I go back to paper, I often try to push the paper past its limits.

You don’t have to make this mistake. It’s just a personal thing. (I do the same thing with my musical instruments and cars too).

Muddiness

So many things can cause watercolor muddiness. I wrote an article on that awhile back but I really should go back and update that article.

Too many layers of paint can cause muddiness. Mixing the wrong colors together can cause muddiness. Heck, not changing your water often enough can cause it.

What is muddiness? You’ll know when you see it. And when you see it, you’re more often than not wanting to throw that painting straight into the garbage.

So just paint more. And take notes. Take lots of notes.

I have watercolor journals where I write down everything I learn. I also do my experimentations in them. Or on cheap watercolor paper.

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