A Watercolor Painting Tutorial
From time to time, people ask if I can do a tutorial on my watercolor painting process. Though I am not brave enough to do a video yet, nor do I feel “expert” enough to teach, I thought I would share a little step-by-step process of some of the ways I go about doing a painting and some of the tools I use.
I am a completely self-taught artist. Everything I learned over the past almost five years in my adventure in discovering watercolor painting I learned by watching YouTube videos, reading blogs and books, and experimenting. (You can see and read about my very first watercolor painting here.)
This past Sunday morning, I woke up early with a burning desire to paint. I had to get up and go to my art room and paint. Early morning hours on the weekend are my most creative time. I think I might dream about ideas, because I wake up thinking about something I want to paint and how I want to do it.
The muse woke me at about 3:30 am. I tossed and turned until finally getting out of bed at 5:00 am to just do it.
A friend had mentioned penguins the day before. So a penguin painting it was.
I started by searching for some photos on the internet, and I saw a cute Christmas tree ornament of a penguin daddy and baby. It was my inspiration. I drew a rough pencil sketch on plain copy paper where I also created the shading for my lights and darks and medium values.
I wanted to create a colorful cool-feeling background. Creating granulating effects and blooms with watercolor pigment is one of the things that gives me the greatest joy in the watercolor painting process. I chose a blue (Daniel Smith Mayan Blue Genuine) and purple (Daniel Smith Quinacridone Purple) to go with a little of the black (Daniel Smith Lunar Black) I knew would be the main color I used for the penguins and practiced with them on a scrap of watercolor paper to see how it would look.
Time to transfer all of these ideas to my painting. I most often paint on an 11×14 inches piece of Arches 140 lb. Cold Press Watercolor paper. I buy the paper in large 22×30 inch sheets and tear them into fourths to paint on.
Instead of re-drawing the penguins, I simply cut out the outline and lightly traced it onto the watercolor paper. I then painted the shape in with masking fluid, so I could create the background effect first.
The masking fluid resists paint and water allowing you more freedom to splash and tilt your paper and assure you don’t get background paint into the place you want to paint the main object. It only takes a few minutes to dry – about the time it takes to grab a fresh cup of coffee.
I then taped my paper to a board to prevent it from curling too much since I knew I was going to make it quite wet. I spritzed it lightly with water and randomly dropped in my watercolor paint. I spritzed it some more and tilted it back and forth and sprinkled a few grains of salt here and there.
Then the hard part….. waiting for it to dry.
So off on a walk I went – with Charlie and a friend – in the crisp dawn of daylight.
After a walk and breakfast with hubby, I returned to my art room to a dried background.
I removed the masking fluid by gently lifting with an eraser, and began painting in the penguins.
There really wasn’t a lot of paint needed since penguins are basically black and white.
One of the most important and hardest things to learn in watercolor painting is to allow white, unpainted space. It is the light, and it adds so much to the painting in the end result. It cannot be added back in and takes restraint!
The only colors I used were the same Lunar Black as in the background and a tiny bit of Daniel Smith Quinacridone Gold. And isn’t it amazing how much you see that gold even though such a tiny amount was used? The black and grey were done using the same color, but in varying ratios of water and paint.
One of the most fun parts of finishing a painting is peeling off the painter’s tape creating a crisp, clean line on the edge of your painting.
The last step is signing my name.
And here is the finished painting when fully dry.
I take high resolution photos of my paintings for prints and cards, which I sell on Etsy and in a local gift shop.
Matting and framing adds so much (though it is hard to photograph without a glare)!
An important thing I’ve learned about watercolor painting is the importance of using good quality paint and paper and brushes. I love Arches watercolor paper and Daniel Smith watercolor paints.
The brushes I used for this painting are ones I use most often: Princeton Neptune Quill #4 for the background wash, Escoda Versatil #10 for the penguins, and a Creative Mark Mimik #3 Rigger for a few of the very thin fine lines. With these three brushes, I can do most any painting.
I hope this was informative for those who have asked about my process. I am still learning, and I continually try different methods and products.
I don’t always do the background first. Sometimes I paint an object and then decide to paint a background around it. Sometimes I don’t paint a background, but just an object. Other times I paint complete abstracts. I never try to do exact photographic duplicate type paintings. I prefer painting looser and more impressionistic.
I’m not sure I’ve refined my style into any particular area yet. I may never. But the journey is filled with so much joy.
And that is what matters most… finding joy… at life in between.
Cheers & Hugs,