A Guide to Watercolor Painting September 7, 2018 Earlier this year, I asked a friend to give me watercolor lessons. I’d never done anything like this before, but I was drawn to the freedom that watercolor embodies – the way the colors meld when they hit the paper, imperfect and out of bounds. So much of my day-to-day work can feel very literal, while watercolor is anything but precise. In my first few lessons, I was throwing away more attempts than I was keeping, but as I’ve continued to learn and experiment with this art form, it has become something that really allows me to forget the rules and acknowledge the beauty in the midst of routine. Watercoloring has expanded my understanding of what I’m capable of, and I love how it’s able to pull me out of the daily grind so that I can see myself and the world around me with a new perspective. It’s been such an exciting process to learn the fundamentals of how to watercolor, so I asked my friend who’s been instructing me to take us through her step-by-step guide to watercoloring. If you’ve ever been curious about trying your hand at it, I encourage you to follow along! You can follow these steps to watercolor just about anything, as they explain the general process of adding color and shading that can apply to any object you choose to paint. Gather the materials you’ll need Choose a spot with a lot of table space so you can really spread out your materials. Here’s what you’ll need: Artist’s apron or old shirt Rags or paper towels 2 wide-mouth jars of water, filled halfway (one for clean water + one for blending) Pencil for sketching Watercolor Paper (Strathmore Watercolor Paper) Drawing Pad (Strathmore 9×12 Drawing Pad) Plastic Palette tray (Master’s Touch 6-Well Plastic Artist Palette) Round watercolor paintbrush (Royal and Langnickel Watercolor Brushes) Note: For this guide, you will only be using the round paintbrush from the set, but if you’re planning on watercoloring often, purchasing a variety pack of brushes gives you a lot of options to experiment with. Watercolor Palette (Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolor Pocket Box) Note: You can also use tubes of watercolor instead of a palette. On a drawing pad: Make a light sketch Once you have chosen what you want to paint, use your sketchbook or a loose piece of paper to practice a few sketches. Lightly sketching the object or picture helps train your hand to move on the paper and make the shapes before you apply any color. On watercolor paper: Make a light sketch and add a light layer of color Once you’ve practiced a few times in your sketchbook, make a light sketch on the watercolor paper. This outline will help guide you once it’s time to paint over it. When you’re happy with the sketch, grab your round paint brush. This brush is good for broad brushstrokes, making it perfect for covering your sketch in the first light layer of color. (Note: Something to remember throughout this guide is that the trick to watercoloring is layering colors. In the beginning steps, you’ll paint with light, watery versions of different colors and work your way into using darker, more concentrated (less watery) versions of those colors in final steps.) Go ahead and dip your round brush in water, then in the color of your choice. Before bringing the brush to the paper, mix the color with a few more drops of water in your palette tray. This step assures that you paint a soft shade on the paper, light enough for more shading and layering afterward. After you’ve mixed your color with water in the palette, cover your sketch in one layer of paint. Cleaning the Brush: Before switching colors, you’ll want make sure the brush is completely clean. Move it in a figure 8 motion in the jar of water several times to remove the color completely. Reserve one jar of water for dipping the brush to blend paint hues together and the second jar for rinsing brushes. Add another layer of color Closely look at the object you’re painting and notice where the colors appear. On the pear, yellow appears in the middle of the shape, and orange and brown on the top and left side. While the first layer is still damp, apply light, second shade(s) of color as you see them on your object. Be careful to avoid letting the color on the paint brush get too dark too fast, as you will continue to darken and shade slowly throughout the next few steps. Define shapes with darker colors Let the watercolor dry completely. Then, using the fine tip of the same round brush, define the edges of the pear with darker, more concentrated (less watery) shades of orange and yellow, followed by brown and black for the branch. Continue to define the edges of the branch and pear, which deepens the natural lines of their shape. Final Addition of color Make sure the paper is completely dry before adding the final layers of color. At this point, add yellow and brown as you see it on the pear. These colors add warmth, which continues to develop the shape and natural color of the pear. Once you’re happy with the colors, let the piece completely dry. Trying any new creative outlet is a process of learning by doing. I’ve been practicing watercolor for a year now, and still for every good piece there are ten throwaways. But every mess-up along the way has been a lesson in what it means to create something I’m really proud of. I’ve learned that it’s the mess-ups that lead to the real wins. If you find that you like this art form as much as I do, I highly suggest taking lessons for more hands on instruction. Don’t forget to tag me, @joannagaines in your next masterpiece. I can’t wait to see what you create!