Watercolour painting is often associated with child art so perhaps you have happy memories of using water colour paints to create scenes of meadows and sunshine or happy stick figures at pre-school.
During these early childhood education years, we were all watercolour painting experts. However, just because watercolour painting is well suited to young learners does not mean that it is not a respected and challenging form of painting. In fact, painting with watercolour is even more challenging than working with acrylic and oil paints.
Thanks to their thicker consistencies oils and acrylics are readily absorbed into canvas making them easier to control than water colour paints. One only has to look up the work of the watercolour painting artists from the South African Society of Artists to be in awe of their accomplishments.
If any of this extremely talented work evokes a desire in you to find watercolour courses then Superprof could be your answer. Watercolour tutors on Superprof have all the tips, techniques, resources and tricks to help you master one of the most fundamental forms of art: painting with watercolour.
Watercolour Courses for Beginners
If you are an amateur artist who is looking to improve your skills and take up a serious hobby, then painting with watercolour for beginners is a great option. If, however, you are destined for life as a professional artist who exhibits from time to time, there are tutors who could help you to refine your advanced work or help you to prepare a portfolio for acceptance to a prestigious art school.
If you are advanced then you probably already have a few techniques, tools and watercolour courses under your belt. So whether you want to wield a paintbrush for profit, fun or improved grades, this article is for you.
“Start out with a kid’s paint set, just to see if you like it.” – Marjorie
It’s human nature to want to try things out before committing to a wholehearted pursuit. In this sense, Ms Marjorie has good advice when it comes to investing in a watercolour painting set.
Having said that, the unique challenges and idiosyncrasies of painting with watercolour demand that you invest in proper water colour paints and paper.
Let’s start with the paper to illustrate our point.
As an experiment, take an ordinary sheet of paper from the printer or out of a notebook. Wet your fingers and run them along the surface as though you were fingerpainting. Now watch what happens.
As you will notice this type of paper is resistant to water and does not absorb colour well. This means that is will make it hard to keep the paint where you want it. Even worse, if you tried to tape this paper to an easel to work standing up, you’ll find that the water will run off the page.
If you try leaving the wet paper for a moment, you’ll notice that it will start to buckle and create a wavy effect. You could try slightly heavier craft paper which is more absorbent, but you will likely end up with a similar scenario that renders your water colour paints useless.
A good watercolour painting set should contain paper that is especially designed to absorb moisture and maintain a flat surface. It is also characterised by a certain texture and density that is designed to work with watercolour paint.
In terms of paper, there are two types to choose from: student quality which is aimed at the beginner and costs a bit less, and artist’s quality which is acid-free and made to stand the test of time.
Paint is also graded for student and artist use.
Water colour paints for students are more affordable because they contain fillers and binders. Artist-grade paint on the other hand is richly pigmented. Make sure that you choose a watercolour painting set to suit where you are at in your painting ability.
Brushes too are subject to different quality grades. At the very top of the line, you’ll find Kolinsky sables while synthetic bristle brushes suffice if you want to try out beginner watercolour courses.
Once you know if you would like to continue with intermediate or advanced watercolour courses, you could try buying your brushes from the natural bristles selection.
Watercolour Techniques for Beginners
Watercolour artists have a way of making it look really easy, don’t they? From landscapes to portraits, they make art seem effortless.
The reason they are able to do that is that they spend hours mastering important techniques like wet-on-wet (brushing paper with clear water before using colour) and dry-brush.
They also know in which order to apply their paint and how to block out white space using masking fluid.
For instance, if acrylic or oil is your medium, you would want to paint the dark colour first. However, one of the first things you will learn in your watercolour courses is that the opposite is true when it comes to water colour paints where you will paint the light colours first!
The challenge with painting light before dark means that you need to visualise your design upfront. It is helpful to try and consider which parts of your design will be light and which will be dark. Sketching it out first is one way to help. For example, you would know to paint those translucent looking flowers before attempting to tackle dark green foliage.
Of course, things don’t always go as planned. What if you mistakenly end up with forest green paint on your perfectly painted yellow daffodils?
Fortunately, there are a number of techniques to help correct that mistake:
- Lifting: use a clean brush, paper towel or sponge to simply ‘lift’ the misplaced droplet away. This is also known as ‘scrubbing’.
- Scraping: use a razor blade or painting knife to gently remove unwanted paint.
- Use a magic eraser which is very effective!
- Use Watercolor Ground: essentially this is a type of liquid paper that restores your accidental blotches to white; don’t forget to repaint the flower once it has dried.
Of course, deliberately flicking droplets of paint onto paper is a technique in itself. So while there are methods to learn in watercolour courses, there are also no rules to expressing yourself individually through art!
If you do want to learn traditional methods, then you should try to learn various beginner watercolour techniques. Some of these include dry versus wet methods, washes and grading to help you advance.
Watercolour Painting Resources and Tutorials
These days you can find just about anything online including watercolour tutorials.
Ideally, free online content should not necessarily be the single go-to resource for beginner watercolour courses, it can however make for useful supplementary content under the guidance of a private painting tutor.
Finding the right teacher is always foundational to the success of private tuition. It can be helpful to consider what got you interested in watercolours in the first place.
Whatever it is that piqued your interest, there are plenty of tutors to help you make your dream to become a watercolour artist come true. There are also dozens of YouTube channels and blogs dedicated to the amateur artist but bear in mind that to truly master using your water colour paints you need a concrete source of information in the form of books and tuition.
Some might snort at these antiquated ideas in a digital world and in some ways that is true when there are many digital books and online resources that are highly commendable. At the same time consider using that argument carefully lest it be countered with: why not use Photoshop to create digital art instead of brushes.
So with that point made, you could check out the highly recommended book, The Tao of Watercolour by Jeanne Carobonetti.
In a similar way to how athletes talk about the zone that is needed to deliver superior performance, Carobonetti does the same for watercolour artists. In this zone, artists become so fully immersed in the piece that the work itself becomes the ultimate inspiration.
Of course, there are many other watercolour painting books to be considered too. The trick is to find a balance between all available resources as this will broaden your perspective and help you to harmonise your own unique style.
To this end, don’t miss the article dedicated to tutorials and resources for watercolour painting.
Finally, remember not to over-invest in a fancy watercolour painting set before you have sufficient knowledge to know whether it is something will enjoy. Let your watercolour paints and brushes colourfully mark each stage of your journey.
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