If you are starting out as a watercolour painter

If you are starting out as a watercolour painter

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It’s astonishing in some respects that, as we reach the third decade of the twenty-first century – a period distinguished by almost as many ‘new’ media as there are individual artists – watercolour painting maintains a sizable portion of its conventional fanbase. However, the enduring appeal of watercolour paint should come as no surprise given the medium’s continuous efficacy at capturing the landscape’s transience, mood, and interest.

Therefore, if you wish to maximize these qualities when painting the countryside, sea, and sky, what advice can we offer to get you started?

Immersion in nature

While John Constable (1776–1837) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) are credited with elevating landscape painting to its current status, many of us today associate landscape painting more with the practice of Plein-air painting than with specific artists.

The French Impressionists endowed this practice – specifically, outdoor painting – with additional credibility. However, this may seem irrelevant to artists in an era when even casual visitors to a beauty spot are somewhat more likely to capture the scene on their smartphones for posterity.

Nonetheless, outdoor painting as a discipline has a number of potential benefits, including the fact that it requires an artist to look closely at a subject while also making quick decisions about how to depict it. As a consequence, immediateness and spontaneity are often created that are not as readily accomplished in an indoor context.

Watercolour paint is a very well-suited medium for outdoor painting due to its modest weight and mobility. However, regardless of the media chosen, painting outside may provide a plethora of practical challenges.

On warm days, the watercolour paint may dry immediately after application, however on cold or wet days, your hands may get numb. And if a shower strikes unexpectedly, your work may get coated in unattractive blotches if the picture is not completely wiped away.

Accept the things over which you have control…as well as the ones over which you have no control.

Of course, overcoming many of the inherent difficulties of outdoor painting is a large part of its attraction – but you will be much more efficient at it if you are properly prepared.

This involves packing all necessary items, such as additional clothing in case the weather turns unexpected, as well as a plastic bag or carrier big enough to keep your board in the event of rain. Consider other goods that might increase your comfort when painting en Plein air, such as a portable outdoor radio and a thermos of tea or coffee.

And while we’re on the topic of hydration, it should go without saying that you should always pack enough water to last many hours, if not an entire day, of thirsty labour!

Additionally, it is important to just enjoy the process of painting the environment outside. It is really beneficial to select a topic that fascinates you rather than one that you feel you ‘need’ to paint.

Additionally, keep in mind that apparently basic and humble themes, such as a neighbourhood park, a garden, or even a garage, maybe just as legitimate as the more grandiose ones associated with Romantic artists of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

If you’re painting with watercolour paint in an unknown geographical region, it’s a good idea to do an in-person ‘reconnaissance’ of the subject or set before pulling out the paints. If you are already familiar with a particular location or landscape, you should consider which subjects or features of the scenery piqued your interest during previous visits.

Additionally, attempt to work quickly but not hurriedly; this way, you’ll hopefully be able to complete significant portions of the painting before the light changes. Indeed, changing light conditions are frequently overlooked by painters attempting to get their initial drawing and composition ‘just right. Visit http://michelleedmonds.com/selecting-the-best-watercolour-paintbrush/ to read about Selecting the best watercolour paintbrush.

Even inexperienced painters can successfully paint outdoors.

Most importantly, my advice is to have fun! This includes refraining from excessive guilt over perceived ‘failures’ such as starting a painting one day and finishing it the next or creating quick colour sketches outdoors that you then flesh out with the aid of accompanying photography in the comfort of your home studio.

After all, this is your journey to take in your own unique way.

Should novice painters stay away from watercolour paint?

In a recent ArtWeb blog post on where to begin when learning to paint, I stated that “despite their hobbyist-friendly image, [watercolours] should perhaps be approached with caution by newbie painters, given their high level of transparency, which makes it difficult to conceal mistakes.”

Was my assessment accurate? Did I make a mistake? In either case, it’s true that for many novice and amateur painters, even those who have achieved a high level of proficiency in other mediums such as oils, a certain school of thought has long prevailed that watercolour paint is best avoided.

It may be more approachable to novices than you believe.

The aforementioned perception has long been based on the belief that watercolour paintings cannot be altered in the way that oils can. Once a particular colour or wash is established, it is permanent and must be accepted.

That is, however, not entirely true, as watercolour paint allows for considerable flexibility in the course of a painting’s development. If a particular colour wash does not come out quite right, for instance, you can apply another wash on top to achieve a dramatic transformation. Other troublesome areas can be worked over or sponged away, and if the entire painting becomes a disaster, it can simply be washed away with running water.

Final thoughts

Consequently, what advice can we provide you to help you make the most of those characteristics while representing the countryside, the sea, or the sky via watercolour paint? Many aspiring artists are hesitant to experiment with watercolour painting because they believe it would be too tough to perfect. 

We know that getting started is frequently the most difficult aspect, so we’re here to inform you that it’s also one of the most straightforward! With only a few simple equipments, such as watercolour paint and water, a pallet of colours, and a paintbrush, you will be well on your way to creating your masterpiece.