20 Mar

Several days ago, my art books arrived. I’m returning Illustrating Nature: How to Paint and Draw Plants and Animals because it was a big disappointment. It’s more of a book of pointers and advice than a genuine how-to. I also ordered The Colored Pencil, which looks great, but I haven’t really looked at it properly yet. No, I’ve been too taken with Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Watercolor. I’ve fallen in love with watercolour painting. I’ve barely put paint to paper, but I love it.

For those of you who know me, or have been reading this blog for a while, you probably know that when I do something, I never do it casually. I go all out, or as far out as my budget and time will allow.

Watercolour painting doesn’t require an enormous amount of supplies, but the supplies you do need are expensive. Decent brushes, decent paint, and decent watercolour paper are very dear.  A 24-whole pan set of decent paints will set you back nearly £40…and that’s for the student-grade paint, not the artist quality stuff. 12 sheets of small watercolor paper? £5. And don’t even get me started on brushes.

A few of the supplies I already have: I bought a pad of watercolour paper when I was in the States last time, as well as a few ok-ish brushes. I have some watercolour paints, but they’re cheap. Really cheap.

As if the cost weren’t bad enough…that expensive paper? It’s got to be stretched. Yeah, stretched. As if you (or dh) haven’t slaved away long enough at work in order to buy the stuff, you’ve also got to devote more time to stretching it, otherwise it will buckle when you paint. And dang it, I’m not one of those people who can just say, ‘Oh, forget it, I’m just gonna paint!’ And, of course, there’s stuff to buy for that as well. One of these days, I’ll be able to buy The Perfect Paper Stretcher. But for now, I’m settling for using long tacks and a folding tray, so I’ve only invested £1.45 for this stretching business. I may invest in some gummed tape to keep the edges from buckling.

So why don’t I just use the cheap stuff? After all, you can get a set of 24 watercolour tubes for £4, a set of brushes for £3, and paper for £2. Obviously, there’s an astronomical difference in quality. Cheap paints are less transparent, don’t blend as well, dry up in their packaging more quickly, can look chalky, and can fade. Cheap brushes are rough, fall apart, the bristles bend more easily, and you cannot get the same results as you would using something better. But the biggest reason: it’s more enjoyable, satisfying, and rewarding when you use the good stuff stuff. I’ll just have to be patient and save my pennies. 🙂

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Watercolor isn’t what I’d call a beginner book. It is, but it’s not a pick-up-and-go book. It has lessons, but they’re difficult (for me anyway). It’s not a beginner’s lesson book. The book is full of amazing information, but I need bare-bones lessons, too. Which is why in place of Illustrating Nature I’m getting Watercolor Basics – Let’s Get Started. This is a book for absolute beginners, and I can’t wait for it to arrive so I can get cracking.

Not that I haven’t started painting. I think my nature journal is going to be more of a flower journal. I love painting flowers. Today I painted this tulip. I know my painting isn’t good, it’s too flat, and I have blending issues, but I think it has a prettiness about it and I like looking at it. (It looks better in real life.) It’s probably just the colours. Two things I learned from this painting: the paint is easier to work with when it’s really wet and you should use the biggest brush you can. This was painted using a cheap pan set on heavy-weight printer paper.

What other goodies have I purchased? A colour wheel, a folding palette, a pocket sketch book, and the Winsor & Newton Cotman Sketcher’s Pocket Box. The pans are tiny and it doesn’t include black (I found a black pan at Hobby Craft). I bought this for 2 reasons:

  1. Maybe this is a passing thing and I’ll decide I’m not really that keen on watercolour painting, in which case I can pass the set on to Esa. (Highly unlikely as I’ve always been drawn to watercolour paintings, paints and other artist paraphernalia and I get a huge thrill out of painting).
  2. It’s so portable and great for travelling and field sketching.

Once I know for sure I’m going to stick with this, I’ll spring for the 24 whole-pan set. When I’m rich, I’ll buy the large pans.

I know most people prefer tubes, but for now, I like the pans. I see myself using both. I’d probably use tubes for washes and when I want darker value.

What else is on my wishlist?

Here is a delightful YouTube video I came across.


4 responses to “Watercolour

  1. Wonder in the Woods

    March 20, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    This is a great post. I have it bookmarked for when I start painting… one day! =)

    • whimsyway

      March 20, 2010 at 7:41 pm

      Thank you. Go for it, Cori! 🙂

  2. Subadra

    March 21, 2010 at 7:39 am

    Hi Michelle,

    I *love* watercolors. I actually started to paint in my late 20s after I came to US, as a mom to my then young toddler dd:) And I fell in love with it.

    You have done a beautiful job there with the Tulip:) I have to tell you that the painting techniques and sceneries I first fell in love with was ‘simply painting’ series.

    I am not sure if you would like his style or not, but I loved the UK nature scenes he painted, especially Scotland. I also visited Scotland and fell more and more in love with it:) Most of my watercolor paintings so far have been set in Scotland:) I am sure you can find his DVDs or Videos in the library.

    I also liked Susan Scheewe’s work. I use to watch hers on PBS and later found DVDs in the library. I later moved onto Acrylic and Oil. Here is a link on her videos

    Here are a few more links

    I am going to doing an Oil painting with a friend on the beach next month after a very long long break. I am so excited just thinking of it:) Especially because I have been ill most of last couple of months and home bound; and I had to undergo surgery about a couple of weeks ago. So this would be a wonderful way to be getting back on my feet(I am still recovering in OH at my sister’s :))

    Thanks for this great post. Before I left for OH, I sat and did some abstract art with my kids, which was so much fun that I almost fell ill over doing it…just could not stop:) These are simple pleasure of my life which just brings me so much joy:)

    Good Luck and have a ton of fun with it

    • whimsyway

      March 21, 2010 at 6:14 pm

      Thank you so much, Subadra! These links are great! I just found a 10-disc set of Frank Clarke DVD’s on Amazon for £15!!!! And this Captain Watercolor site is brilliant!!! This is just what I need; you’re a star! 🙂

      I hope you feel better soon. I’m from Ohio (Mansfield) originally. 🙂


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