I certainly do not consider myself a “master” when it comes to watercolor. I love to paint with it and I am good at it, my work sells and with each painting I get a little better at this medium. There are some subjects I am better at than others, but the whole point of me writing today is to share what watercolor painting does for me and encourage you to try it. If you like watercolor paintings and you have a pinch of creativity… does not take much to enjoy watercolor and you do not have to be good at it to get the benefits of what it can do for you. I want to share this medium as a way to relax rather than a way to become a selling artist.
Master? Does it matter?
I say no, it does not. You do not have to be a watercolor master to enjoy painting with it. My work, the work I am known for and sell in galleries is my mixed media abstract work. It is my love, what I can’t wait to do when I wake up in the morning….. what makes me giddy excited every time one sells – they are like a journal, a piece of my heart, soul and life itself…. but there is the watercolor too. Am I am “master”? No. I know what I am doing and each painting my technique gets better. I like to paint small, simple composition pieces because when I work that way it is relaxing. I could spend time focusing on it and become a master watercolorist, but that is not why I paint watercolor. I do sell watercolor paintings but the main reason I paint watercolor is for how calming it is. So It does not matter if you are master or you can’t draw a stick figure, you can enjoy watercolor anytime!
The basics of watercolor are pretty simple. Watercolor is a transparent medium which means that the first color you paint onto your paper will influence the second color and so on. If you first paint yellow, then a wash of red that overlaps in areas you will end up with orange. This means that you need to understand the color wheel and what the colors do to each other when mixed or painted over one another. There are three primary colors: red, yellow and blue. These are the three colors that you cannot make. They are the three colors you start with to make all other colors. There are three secondary colors: orange, green and purple. These are the colors that are made by mixing primary colors – red and yellow = orange, yellow and blue = green and blue and red = purple. Tertiary colors are the muddy colors you get when you mix different combinations of primary and secondary. Complimentary colors are what is exact opposite on the color wheel = each is one primary and one secondary = red and green, yellow and purple, blue and orange. This is a huge reason for frustration when trying to paint with watercolor. People get muddy colors and do not know why. It is the lack of understanding of what colors do when mixed, specifically complimentary colors.
How do I get started?
I recommend you find a local painter who teaches classes. If you don’t like that teacher, find another. Not everyone who teaches will be a good fit for you. When I started taking lessons on watercolor specifically I felt like a failure. Seriously. I had been a painter for years but when I started watercolor I felt very stuck and like I could not grasp it. Then someone suggested I take a class with a different teacher… I did. I sold my first painting under her instruction for a couple a hundred dollars. Just goes to show that finding the right instructor makes a huge difference. That one teacher changed the course of my art career just because she was the right teacher for me and I learned a lot from her method of teaching. I know you may not be looking for a career in art but even so, finding the right teacher can make the difference between you enjoying watercolor or giving it up.
if you can’t take lessons then get some supplies and just practice at home and play with colors… write down the colors you combine and what they do – make notes of what you like and what you don’t. That will help you learn colors, how they work together and that…. is a huge step toward understanding watercolor and enjoying painting with it.
You do not even have to know how to draw well in order to enjoy watercolor. It helps, yes… but you can paint without ever putting pencil to paper! Look at a photo, something you have or look online for free stock photos that you can look at if you do not have the right photo. The images below are an example of painting without drawing first. It can be simple and does not have to be a masterpiece for you to enjoy doing this!
I did this little painting in a few minutes. You do not have to include every detail of the photo you are looking at. remember you are creating a painting, not a photo copy duplicate of your photo, so it does not have to be perfect. In fact, it is better if it is not perfect. The point I am making is to have fun. If you are having fun and not worrying about being perfect you will get better over time. Just enjoy yourself!
In the end…
You may find out that you are better than you thought. Relaxing and enjoying yourself through this process will not only help you relax but relaxing will help you create a better painting. The truth is that I have learned more from the paintings that were technical failures than the successful pieces. I learned what not to do, what colors not to mix… when to step back and let the painting dry before adding another layer and when to let the colors bleed together. If you are looking to get better at watercolor then keep a watch for our YouTube video demonstrations and lessons. If you just want to use watercolor for fun and relaxation then all you have to do is gather your supplies and get to painting……