Process: Struggling with Watercolors

I was able to carve out a day to play with my new watercolors from Daniel Smith.  Having good watercolors makes a huge difference in my finished product, the viability and brilliance of the colors and the way they lay on the paper.

W14 3 23 MISSION SAN GABRIEL 1 copyI chose Mission San Gabriel Arcángel for my practice material.  I have some images I took long ago, and I worked off a few vintage sepia toned images, one of them by Carlton Watkins, 1829-1916 (right.)  These were my third and fourth attempt at actual watercolors (not Neocolors and a water brush, which is MUCH easier.)

What I learned after my intense and sometimes frustrating day:

  1. I have NO control over watercolors.  They have a mind of their own, and will do as they please.
  2. I can’t really use the same brushes for acrylics and water colors *sigh* and must buy some watercolor brushes.  With acrylics I usually use flat brushes, but with watercolors I understand what fat wet rounds are for!  And I need a good mopping-type brush.
  3. It is SO easy to overwork.  Water-colorists make it look so easy to lay the paint into those charming quirky interpretive (that’s what I am going for, not realism.)  I definitely overworked the image above.
  4. Did I say I felt like I had no control?
  5. Balance is harder with colors because they dry a bit lighter.  Acrylics are exactly what they look like in the pot, except may be matte instead of shiny.
  6. I have to become a mixologist (I think this is a term for bartenders but it is good here.)  With acrylics, and I painted big canvases, and mixed colors as I needed them in jam or baby food jars.
  7. Finishing is important.  I wanted to walk away from the piece below but am glad I persevered, as I learned a LOT, which is the point right now — learning.  Maybe always.
  8. I need to develop patience or learn to work well in lots of wet water that runs everywhere.
  9. And then there is the warped paper.
  10. Again, out-of-control, so so very out-of-control

So why do it?  I love acrylics, but don’t like tubes, like 4-oz pots of paint, and cannot carry them everywhere.  I have a fantasy whereby I can have a small workstation on the return at my desk (installed now), and work small seven days a week for a couple of hours in the morning.  Or even three.  I can journal/paint, two of my favorite things!  I can take them on the road with me when we travel.  I vaguely remember a learning curve with acrylics, and so, I will persevere.

I like the two details in the one below, but I’m not happy with the overall.  The composition is fine, but the palm became so dark, overpowering the lighter mission.  I tried laying in darker color on the mission, but it just doesn’t take before it would be way too dark.  So, the palm needed to be lighter.  This is where understand how the watercolors dry would be invaluable.



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About dkatiepowellart

hollywood baby turned beach gurl turned steel&glass city gurl turned cowgurl turned herb gurl turned green city gurl. . . artist writer photographer. . . cat lover but misses our big dogs, gone to heaven. . . buddhist and interested in the study of spiritual traditions. . . foodie, organic, lover of all things mik, partner in conservation business mpfconservation, consummate blogger, making a dream happen, insomniac who is either reading buddhist teachings or not-so-bloody mysteries or autobio journal thangs early in the morning when i can't sleep
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6 Responses to Process: Struggling with Watercolors

  1. Sammy D. says:

    Perhaps watercolors are a metaphor for life – that out of control struggle and finding balance. I have no knowledge of painting, but I can see what you mean about the palm trees being too dark and overpowering. But the first painting of the single, lighter palm tree is gorgeous! Now I know why I think about a watercolor class and turn the page in the class schedule. Maybe someday acrylics!


  2. I hear you! I love to paint in watercolor and I think I love that they are out of control. If you use a thick paper to some extent you can lift color off if things are really going crazy! I like the fact that the colors can ebb and flow and drip. I think you will learn to love it if you give it a try. Happy PPF


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