*This post contains affiliate links. I receive small commissions for purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you. These commissions help me keep this site up and running, in order for me to keep providing helpful and inspiring art content. :)
Why is having a designated space for art creation so important for artists? How can I create an inspiring area to work in when I'm short on space at home and/or barely have the budget to invest in my art supplies?
Lets be honest.
Staying consistent and productive can already be really hard for artists for a number reasons.
For a lot of aspiring artists I meet, their art tends to take back seat to more "urgent" priorities such as keeping up with classes, a full-time job and juggling all of this with adulting and family/social commitments.
I totally get it.
Even as a working artist myself, sometimes I look back to the last few weeks and it's pretty surprising to realize how much of that time I actually spent working on my art when compared to administrative tasks such as accounting and invoicing, marketing, emailing customers, preparing classes, providing students feedback, etc.
This is a big problem because not only is continuing to develop my artistic skills very important to me, but it's the foundation for everything else that can come from them, whether it's being able to sell my art, teach classes or workshops, or practically anything else I decide to do in my business.
If I'm not prioritizing my art creation, then I'll not be able to create the quality work I want to be able to offer and I won't have the ability/confidence to be a great instructor for my students, either.
Some time ago, I shared a blog post titled Time Management for Artists: My Secrets for Staying Consistently Productive, which I highly recommend checking out after this one if you're having trouble prioritizing your art and setting goals as a creative.
I also have this blog post/YouTube video, in which I provide my best tips that'll help you make more time for your art, even as a crazy busy person.
These are the things I set in place myself when I was still working at my last, "normal" highly-demanding full-time position in order to get to a point at which I was able to start selling my art and teaching others from my own home studio.
Remember that consistency is numero uno when it comes to making significant progress in any area of our lives, and our artistic journey has to be made a priority if we're looking to become more proficient and/or do this full-time in the future.
After setting this priority and committing to consistency, preparing a designated area where we can be productive in, even if it's just a few days a week for a short period of time, is instrumental in us continuing to take those steps forward.
No matter how big or small, or how fancy or scrappy (I'm still super scrappy and proud!) our personal creative space is, knowing we have that area to work in will make it much more likely that we'll stay consistent over time.
Not to mention, having our art supplies on hand, as opposed to stored away in a closet or drawer, will make it a lot more likely that we'll actually use them!
In today's guest post, emerging freelance writer Ruby Clarkson who's written for Jackson's Art and is absolutely obsessed with writing, theatre and visual arts, is sharing some awesome tips that'll help us create an inspiring space to work in.
Let's get into her article!
5 Tips for Creating the Perfect Art Studio Space at Home
by Ruby Clarkson
Whether you’re an aspiring artist or trying to make some money from your paintings, crafts or other creations, you’ll need the right space to make the magic happen.
Whatever your medium or your aspirations, it can be incredibly inspiring to prepare a studio for yourself where you'll be able to work consistently and where your ideas will have the opportunity to really flourish.
If you’re on a budget or short on space – or both – try some of these ideas to create your dream home studio.
Carve out your own space
If you can, try setting apart a space that’s just for you and your creativity. Psychologically, you need to know that when you sit in your studio, nothing will get in the way of your work.
Try communicating your priorities to your family, friends, flatmates, etc. Let them know when you've scheduled in time to continue building your artistic skills. This way, there's less of a chance of you getting interrupted while you're in the flow.
A spare room, attic or repurposed basement can be brought to life as a workshop or studio with even a modest budget. If you don’t have a spare room, you could consider renovating a shed or garage, and turn it into your new creative office!
This said, even a corner of a room can be turned into a studio space with a little imagination! Do you have an old desk or table somewhere in your home that can be re-purposed as an art desk?
Sometimes, working on old tables or desks is even better because you don't have to worry about damaging them with paint or cutting knives!
Whatever you go for, designating a space to your art will tell your brain that this is a priority for you and seeing it on a day-to-day basis will remind you to get to work.
You might be surprised at how much you can get done when you set up your studio away from domestic distractions!
If you’ve been creating for a while, you may already know that there’s not much truth in the “crazy-chaotic artist” stereotype, and that you’re far more productive and happy when you’re properly organized.
Whether you have paints and brushes, musical recording equipment, beads, fabric and sewing tools, camera equipment or a stop-motion plasticine film set – you’re going to need a strategy to keep everything organized.
Staying organized means that we'll not only be much more inspired to get back to work, but that we'll waste less time looking for things and/or cleaning up accidents.
So set aside a day to prepare a system that will work for your needs and do your best to check in each week or month so that you're still keeping up with it or making any changes that need to be made.
If you need to buy supplies or furniture to get organized, create a list for yourself and devote some time to researching best options according to your budget.
If you don't have money to invest in this, think of ways to re-purpose glass jars or containers from your kitchen, old boxes, shelves, tubs and baskets to keep track of your supplies and keep your finished (or in-progress) work safe.
Chances are you already have tons of stuff you can use!
And if you don't like the look of old stuff, think of ways you can clean them up, re-paint them or refurnish them so that they'll fit in with your style.
*This post contains affiliate links. I receive small commissions for purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you. These commissions help me keep this site up and running, in order for me to keep providing helpful and inspiring art content. :)
How do artists choose the colors they'll be using for a new watercolor painting? What can I do to keep my color mixtures better organized on my mixing palette throughout the painting process and steer clear of accidentally creating mud? Why is it important to invest time in planning the colors we'll be using before starting a new painting?
In this blog post, I'll be sharing three reasons why I love using a limited amount of colors (usually 3-7) to create my watercolor paintings and how this practice has helped me make deeper, faster progress as a painter.
Color is an Element of Art that plays a huge role in making a visual composition look harmonious and cohesive. As with all other Art Fundamentals, use of color is something that most skilled artists continue learning about and improving upon throughout their journeys.
It's absolutely essential for the beginner starting with any kind of painting medium, to learn about Color Theory and the Color Wheel, as this knowledge enables us to not only create successful color mixtures throughout the painting process, but also to plan great color schemes that work for the piece on hand.
Because skilled artists know how important color and value are, they take time to prepare for a new piece via the creation of thumbnails, swatching colors, and thinking of how they'll be creating the color mixtures needed for a new painting prior to actually starting.
Either this, or they've already prepared a custom color palette to work from that has all of the colors they love and know they're going to need. They know exactly what's going to happen when two or three of those colors get mixed together.
Artists know that making time to think about color before starting to paint will enable them to move forward more smoothly and will lead to an outcome that is impactful, harmonious, and also communicates their message more clearly.
And how each artist goes about selecting his/her colors is completely dependent on the artist's personal creative process.
Artists who are looking for very high-levels of realism often go by specific colors they see in their reference pictures or in the subjects they have in front of them when working from direct observation. They make time to observe and put in the work to ensure their colors/color mixtures match what they actually see.
Others work from references loosely and manipulate color to bring a certain level of expression, contrast, etc. into the picture. Sometimes they change specific colors altogether or alter some of them to bring their style in.
And others, such as abstract artists, at times start their paintings based on a specific color scheme they found inspiring, designing an entire visual composition around it. Or they create their own color schemes that are meant to transmit a specific message or emotion (putting Color Psychology to use).
Of course, there are tried-and-true color schemes that have been used by artists throughout history that will always lead to very visually pleasing results.
In lots of Van Gogh's work, you'll see use of Complementary Colors, in Monet's you'll see use of Analogous Colors, etc.
Some artists take hours preparing the colors they'll be using for a new painting and others take minutes, but they always bring in their knowledge of the Color Wheel and Color Theory.
It doesn't really matter how you do it. The more you paint, the more your own personal style and creative process will become clearer.
The point here is to make it a habit to start thinking about color before starting to paint.
Color is a huge, complex topic and I believe it's important for beginners to build upon a solid base of knowledge and take their learning a step-at-a-time, as this helps avoid overwhelm and keeps their art journey enjoyable.
This will help them stay consistent, which is key in making significant artistic progress.
By the way, of you haven't checked out my free Drawing and Watercolor for the Total Beginner Mini-Courses , make sure to become an art email insider to get access to them ASAP.
These courses are absolutely jam-packed with all of the information I wish I knew when I was first getting started.
3 Reasons Why Limited Color Schemes Are Awesome
Even as a more experienced painter, I absolutely love using limited color schemes because of the points I'm going to be sharing next.
This said, keeping things simple can do wonders for beginners and can help them make much faster progress than being drowned and overwhelmed with a wide array of different colors, and even paper and paintbrushes.
*We're not getting into paper and paintbrushes today, but I highly recommend checking out my blog post titled Watercolor Supplies for Beginners and Things You Must Know if you'd like more in-depth information on watercolor painting supplies.
1. They help us get comfortable with color mixing
By taking time to plan and prepare a limited amount of colors, we'll be putting our knowledge of color to the test, as this forces us to give thought to how we'll be creating our different color mixtures with the least amount of colors possible.
A couple of quick examples of how to work with a less amount of colors:
-If you've already selected a yellow and a red for a new painting, and all of the sudden realize you're going to need an orange color, why not use a mixture of your yellow and red instead of reaching for an orange?
-If you've already selected your Ultramarine Blue and your Burnt Umber for certain areas of your painting, why not use a mixture of these two to create your dark gray, instead of reaching for another gray?
In my many years teaching art, I've found lots of beginners are afraid to mix their own colors and are looking for instructors to provide very specific "recipes" and even color-to-color ratios for their mixtures.
Also, lots of beginners feel they need the specific color that the artist in the tutorial they are following is using.
By learning about the Color Wheel, Color Temperature, etc., and making time to play with color (intentionally of course), they'd be able to create any needed color without much guidance at all.
Make time to learn the basics. Don't skip over them because they'll improve everything you choose to do in the future.
Make time to explore and get comfortable with your medium, before attempting to create a polished masterpiece.
As beginners, it's important to keep things simple.
Most often than not, keeping things intentionally limited will help us make faster progress than jumping between a bunch of different things and overwhelming ourselves with lots of supplies.
2. They lead to harmonious paintings
When we're just getting started, most of us are anxious to begin with the painting process. We tend to skip over any sort of preparation and move forward randomly picking colors.
I did this when I was first getting started in my painting journey and was so confused as to why my paintings always ended up looking amateurish and incohesive.
Unless we have a very colorful art style or are going for this look intentionally, randomly picking colors throughout the painting process is a surefire way of ending up with a painting that is very overwhelming to look at or that is "all-over-the-place" in terms of the message it's transmitting to the viewer.
By limiting our colors and repeating colors as we're creating our different paint mixtures, we'll end up with much more harmonious results. Our color mixtures look like they belong together and are working in unison to transmit one same message.
It's similar to the "Mother Color" method that some artists working with oils and acrylics use to unify and provide color harmony in their paintings. What they do is choose one color to be the "Mother", which is going to be added (in a small degree) to every color mixture. This makes the different colors look like they belong together.
All part of one same "whole".
And this is what we want when we're designing a visual composition. We want the different parts to work together as one "whole".
The "Mother Color" method doesn't quite apply the same way when we're working with watercolor, as the color mixing process when using this medium is a lot more organic and free-flowing.
We're constantly shifting color ratios, paint to water ratios, etc. as we move along, but the principle of re-using the same colors in our different color mixtures in order to unify the overall outcome still applies.
Give thought to how you can use this idea in your own work to both make your paintings more cohesive and also to transmit your message/emotion/idea in a more powerful way.
3. They help us stay organized throughout the painting process
When working with watercolor, it can be very easy for our colors to start mixing together due to the amount of water we're using throughout the process, which can certainly be frustrating! *This paint mixing palette has certainly helped me in this department.
Loosing control of our color mixtures on our paint mixing palettes can lead to creating mud (brownish/grayish/desaturated colors that we weren't actually going for).
By having made the time to actually test out our color mixtures on scrap pieces of watercolor paper prior to starting with the painting process, we'll be avoiding undesired colors.
Also, by limiting the amount of colors we're using and knowing exactly which colors we're using throughout our painting (at least in loose terms), we'll be making things a lot easier for ourselves along the way.
It takes out all of the guesswork as we'll know exactly which color to reach for whenever we need to create more of any specific mixture.
I don't know about you, but it's very easy for me to start accidentally dipping my paintbrush into a paint pan I wasn't intending to use during the painting process (especially when I'm using a larger paint set that includes several different blues, reds, browns, etc.).
To make things easier for myself, I often love removing the paint pans I have selected from my watercolor set and only have those with me as I'm working.
Over on Patreon, I share step-by-step watercolor painting tutorials in which I explain everything, starting from how I select my paint colors and create my color mixtures, to how I develop my color, values and details in layers.
Watercolor supplies used in video:
I hope you found this post helpful, and wish you tons of progress and enjoyment in your artistic journey!
Is going to art school a waste of time and money? Can a person even make a stable living with an art degree? What paths can an art major open up for us?
No to the first (depending on the school you go to). Yes to the second (I'm living proof of it!). Whichever path you desire would be my answer to the third, as long as art is truly your passion, and you're willing to step out of your comfort zone consistently and work really hard.
*Most of the time while holding a regular job that will enable you to pay your bills and put food on the table while investing in art supplies, developing your skills and building your name/audience.
In today's guest post, emerging freelance writer Ruby Clarkson who's written for Jackson's Art and is absolutely obsessed with writing, theatre and visual arts, will help shed some light on the many paths an art degree can help open up.
But, before getting into her article, I'd like to share a few things with you.
The myth of the 'starving artist' totally irks me.
So does the myth of the crazy/depressed artist and the myth that artists create their best work from a place of pain and misery.
I create my best work when I'm in a calm, positive state of mind. And, like I shared in this blog post, I believe in taking care of myself mentally and physically because this enables me to consistently make forward progress.
But I digress.
If you want to make a living as an artist in the future, know that it's possible, whether you decide to go to art school or not.
Today more than ever. There are lots of people doing it all around the world.
This said, even artists who do spend years building up those solid bases in art school know that they have to keep learning and improving their skills/knowledge continuously throughout their journeys.
Not only when it comes to cold artistic skills, but also in terms of business, marketing and personal development.
We're incredibly lucky that, with the Internet, we're able to connect with artists who're further ahead in their journeys, join communities of like-minded people looking to share and encourage each other, and get access to valuable courses created by skilled artists that will boost our knowledge at very low costs.
My advice? Take advantage of these tools and opportunities! Because, the reality is, you're only going to get so far holed up in your studio and following free tutorials.
Though the Internet is full of information, it's a vast place full of contradicting advice and lots of people just getting started skip over fundamentals or simply don't know where to start based on their current skill level.
To grow at a professional level, we need to invest in ourselves, connect with others, get feedback from people who are knowledgable in art, step out of our comfort zones, talk about our work, etc.
In past blog posts, I've shared how I was lucky to have had the opportunity to attend art school on scholarship and graduated with a BA in Graphic Design.
I'm thankful to have had that chance, as there's nothing like being surrounded by other artists and creatives consistently, learning about Art Fundamentals through-and-through, getting comfortable talking about art, obtaining useful feedback from professors who have been in the field for years, and getting used to meeting deadlines.
All of these are things that helped me tremendously in all the 9-5 jobs I held after having graduated and have made starting my own business a lot easier. I still had to invest in business courses and complementary creative classes, though.
Let's get into Ruby's article!
What Can You Do With an Art Degree?
One of the most persistent myths about a fine arts or design degree is that it’s difficult to find lucrative employment once you graduate. In fact, there are countless opportunities for talented creatives out there, it just takes, funnily enough, a little creativity in exploiting those possibilities!
If you’re considering enrolling for an art degree but are worried about your future prospects, read on for seven career paths you might not have considered before.
If you have a natural eye for color, harmony and proportion, and can work with the latest home décor trends, you might enjoy being an interior designer.
But it’s not all just picking out scatter cushions – several exciting niches exist, including office or educational space design, textile, furniture and product design, and even styling and planning bespoke kitchens for luxury homes.
Illustration and Multimedia Art
Whether it’s children’s cartoons, TV and film animations for advertising, special effects or fashion drawings, a career as an illustrator is bound to be rewarding. You can work independently or as part of an in-house creative team for corporate.
Creating compelling and original images for merchandising like t-shirts, calendars and product packaging is also a field with plenty of potential.
If you possess the right balance of artistic expertise and business savvy, you might do well in the art gallery world. Working with artists, art dealers and the general public, you’ll need to wear many hats to make sure that exhibitions are properly organized and profitable.
You’ll need to know your industry inside and out, but sales, marketing and networking will also be a big part of your daily life.
Graphic design is an exciting and competitive area, but one in which it’s more than possible to distinguish yourself. You’ll work with a range of clients to bring their design briefs to life, using classic fine art media, a host of design software and plenty of marketing acumen.
This line of work offers the possibility of freelancing or remote work, as well as the option to design in-house for big brands – a more niche but likely more profitable line of work.
Lecturing or Teaching
Of course, you could teach art and design as a subject at any level, which is a great option for those who enjoy working with people and might appreciate the more predictable schedule. Bring your love for the arts to secondary schools or sixth form colleges, or consider applying to teach a course at university.
Another option is to offer more informal painting, drawing, decorating or design courses at your local community college or privately.
You don’t necessarily have to use your art skills directly.
Art therapists use visual arts media to help people communicate or work through their issues non-verbally. Artistic expression can be incredibly healing – if you’re artistic but also have a lot of empathy, patience and a desire to use art for good, this role could prove extremely gratifying.
After further training, you can specialize more in psychotherapy, work with children, social work or even nursing contexts.
Fine Artist, Sculpting or Mixed-Media Art
If you have a knack for creating beautiful items that people want to own, consider doing it independently via local art fairs, galleries or online stores, and selling your hand-crafted wares directly to art collectors.
Many people are happy to buy and gift art objects that are unique, custom made, locally produced or simply beautiful to look at.
But what if I can’t get into art school?
For many, earning a degree in art and design is a far-off dream they can’t imagine actually achieving for themselves. But even if you think that certain options may not be open to you, bear in mind that art education is more accessible now than ever.
Consider an apprenticeship, or a bridging or foundation course to prepare you for higher education. Thankfully, there are many options for those who want to work up to a higher degree in art and design, and plenty of ways to finance your choice.
Chat to your chosen university to discuss funding options and possible scholarships, or directly contact funding bodies who seek out and reward upcoming talent.
While it’s true that careers in art and design are not as “cut-and-paste” as other more conventional occupations, there is still enormous scope for a talented creative to make a rewarding living doing what they love.
It might take a little planning and thinking ahead, but the world always needs people with strong aesthetics, no matter how they apply their talents.
I'd like to thank Ruby for sharing all of this helpful information with us and inspiring us to work towards building a fulfilling life around our passions.
To get in touch with her, you can email her here.
I hope you found this post helpful and thanks so much for reading!
Is there a specific process to follow when using watercolor pencils? What things should I do to ensure a better outcome when using this medium? What are some good watercolor pencil options for beginners just getting started?
In this blog post, I'll be providing five key tips that will help make the learning process less frustrating and enable you to create amazing artwork as soon as possible. In the video included here, I'll also be sharing how I personally use watercolor pencils by painting a yellow rose.
Watercolor pencils are not only an extremely versatile art medium, as they are simultaneously a drawing and a painting tool, but their practicality makes them ideal for many beginners that are short on time and space.
They also allow for much more control when compared to regular watercolor paint and can help us start getting a feel for what it's like to work with watercolors without having to master water control.
Watercolor pencils are basically watercolor pigment that has been encased in wood, in the form of a pencil.
They can and can be used either with or without water to create different effects, which can range from a heavily-textured colored pencil look, to a smooth and painterly watercolor paint look.
To create marks and colored pencil textures, we simply use them right on our paper, which can be completely bone dry or pre-wetted with clean water.
Of course, the type of paper used has a great impact on the amount of texture created. Smoother paper will lead to smoother effects, while rougher paper will create more texturized effects, as the pigment isn't evenly distributed throughout the tooth of the paper.
On the other hand, to create painterly effects, we lay down our color on our paper just as if we were using regular colored pencils and then smooth it out by going in with a dampened paintbrush. There's no need to use heaps of water for this. *You can also use the impromptu paint mixing palette method I demonstrate in the video included below.
When using quality watercolor pencils, water really activates the pigment and makes the color look a lot brighter and bolder.
These techniques can be used alone or in combination. For example, if you were painting a landscape, you could use more painterly techniques for your background, and more textured/detailing techniques for layers in your foreground.
There is no specific process to follow when using this medium. It's use is going to depend on the specific style and effects you are personally going for with the piece on hand, which is why it's important to give thought to the overall look you want to create before starting.
All this said, many of the regular watercolor "rules" (if they can even be called rules) apply.
In the following video you'll see how, even though my general method is different to what I would do when I paint with regular watercolor paint, I still protect my highlights throughout the process, work from light and translucent to dark and saturated, and allow my paper to dry in between layers.
In this past blog post/YouTube video, I do a comparison between regular watercolor paint and watercolor pencils, and share a complete demo in which I paint the same apple using both mediums. They are very similar, but very different at the same time!
Watercolor Pencil Tips for Beginners
Using regular printer paper for watercolor or watercolor pencil work will most likely lead to frustration during the process, as well as undesired results. Not to mention, the learning phase will last longer, as the beginner artist isn't actually able to get a sense for what the medium is like.
This said, I don't believe in necessarily going for the highest quality watercolor paper right-off-the-bat (if you have the budget- then by all means go for it).
I'd much rather you practice consistently on decent quality (and accessibly priced) student-grade paper, as opposed to not creating art because you're afraid of wasting your supplies.
Check out my blog post/YouTube video titled Watercolor Supplies for Beginners and Things You Must Know to learn more about my opinions and suggestions on specific watercolor painting supplies.
I always recommend working with watercolor paper that is at least 140 lbs. or thicker/heavier in weight, so that it's able to take a bit of a beating. Thinner paper not only warps a lot more easily, but it doesn't allow for layering and scrubbing techniques and is very easy to damage.
And when we're just getting started (with any medium), most of us tend to overwork things, often damaging our substrate and/or tools.
Stay mindful throughout your painting process in order to ensure that you're not scratching your paper with your sharp watercolor pencils and that you're allowing layers of paint to dry in between if you're using a dampened paintbrush to smooth out your color.
Lay down your colors gently and patiently, without pressing down to hard (this will create scratches and burnish the paper-creating an uneven sheen/finish).
2. Create your preliminary sketch lightly
One of the main characteristics that sets watercolors apart from other painting mediums such as acrylics, oils and gouache, is its translucency.
Because of this, if we create a preliminary sketch prior to starting with our painting process that's not very light, it will likely show through our paint.
There are lots of watercolor artists out there who like their line work to show through their paint, but if you don't want this to happen, it's important to make sure that you're outline sketch is created lightly. I usually use an HB pencil for this phase of the process and make sure I'm not exerting much pressure at all.
Being light-handed when creating your preliminary sketch will also help ensure that the graphite left behind on your watercolor paper won't dirty up the colors you start placing on top. You want your colors vibrant and fresh.
Something you can also do, is use a light colored watercolor pencil to create your preliminary sketch. This way, once you start using water, your line work will disappear completely as you go!
3. Plan the colors you'll be using before starting to paint
It's incredibly important for people starting on their painting journeys, to look into the color wheel and Color Theory.
Color is an Element of Art that not only plays a huge role in making an artwork look harmonious and cohesive, but knowledge about the color wheel enables us to create color mixtures effectively throughout the art-making process.
Over at my Patreon site, I offer sequential classes that cover all must-know Art Fundamentals. You can also get immediate access to my Drawing and Watercolor for the Total Beginner Mini-Courses by becoming an art email insider here (the third class in the watercolor course is all about color).
Instead of randomly picking colors throughout the painting process, take five minutes to observe your reference picture and pick out the specific watercolor pencil colors you'll be using. Take them out of your package and place them beside you as you prepare for your new piece.
Don't only think about the colors of the subject in and of itself (ex. if I'm painting a gray cat I'm not only looking for different grays), but also think about what colors you'll be adding in to create your darkest values, cast shadows and background colors.
Take time to swatch your colors on a scrap piece of watercolor paper, as they really tend to look different once they are applied vs. the color shown on the pencil. Test any color mixtures you're planning on using.
Keep things limited and as simple as possible.
I promise, it'll make a huge difference in terms of both your organization during the process, as well as the outcome.
4. Use a good reference photo
If you're looking to create higher levels of realism, make sure you're stemming from a good reference photo (or have your subject in front of you in good lighting).
Not only will a good reference photo enable you to see details and the tiny nuances that will make your drawing or painting more realistic, but it will also provide you much needed information in terms of light behavior and locations of highlights, midtones and darks.
Remember, it's these different values (highlights, midtones and darks), that make drawings and paintings look three-dimensional. If you're unable to locate them in a photo reference, you'll have lots of trouble trying to recreate them.
Always make sure your reference photos have a great resolution that will enable you to see details and zoom in (if necessary), and that they show good lighting.
You'll know a photo has good lighting if it shows a good play between lights and darks. *Photos taken with flash are usually washed out and make everything look very flat, which makes the drawing and painting process a lot harder.
If you don't have a good reference to work from, you're basically guessing at what things look like and have to make your own conclusions in regards to where highlights, midtones and darks are located.
Unless you've been drawing or painting a specific subject for years, you're drawing or painting it the way you think that subject looks like, and not what it actually looks like in real life.
Learning to observe and learn all we can about the subjects we're interested in improving at by actually taking in all sorts of references (photos, life subjects, videos, etc.), is so important, as artists!
And, remember, just because you're using a reference, it doesn't mean you can't bring in your own creativity into your work.
5. Give thought to what kinds of effects you want to use in each area of your painting
Because watercolor pencils allow for so many different types of techniques, it can be very easy to get lost during the process and end up with effects we weren't intending to create.
Give thought to the specific techniques you'll be using, as well as when and where you'll be using each, throughout the painting process. This will make it much more likely that you'll end up with an outcome you'll love.
Think of how you can combine different techniques to create impactful and contrasting effects in your different layers (foreground, middleground, background), as well as how you can use them to bring more attention to your focal point.
There are so many ways you can go with watercolor pencils!
Explore, have fun and don't forget to bring in a bit of yourself into everything that you create. :)
Great watercolor pencil options for beginners:
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