*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. :)
What's the actual reason behind swatching watercolor paint (aside from the satisfaction of laying pretty colors down on paper)? What specific things should we be looking for when testing out a new watercolor paint set, besides differences in color? What are the different variables that may affect watercolors' behavior and their final appearance?
In this blog post, I'm going to explain the most important characteristics that you should start taking note of when it comes to watercolor paint. By understanding these different aspects and how they vary from pigment to pigment, you'll be able to make more informed choices when it comes to picking your color palettes/schemes for your paintings, which will make everything go a lot smoother.
I'll also walk you through my own personal method for swatching out a new paint set and share why I like testing my paints on two different types of paper.
It's very useful to explore a new paint set before actually attempting to create a painting with it. This is especially the case when it comes to watercolors, as this painting medium's inherent characteristics make it tricky to use.
For one, watercolors are translucent, which means we can't simply cover up our mistakes like we can when working with acrylics or oils. Secondly, due to their water-soluble properties, they tend to have a mind of their own. Finally (and something that was very hard for me to wrap my head around in the beginning), behaviors and effects can vary greatly from pigment to pigment, even within a set manufactured by the same company.
There are also many external factors that can affect our watercolor painting process and the final outcome of a piece, such as how clean our water is, what kind of paper is used, and even the temperature of the room we're working in!
Always remember that, as artists, we have to learn to embrace the exploration process. It may seem like a waste of time and resources when we're just starting out, but these smaller studies give us confidence and allow us to find ourselves as artists, so that we're then able to create more effective finalized works.
If you're a beginner just starting out with watercolors, I highly recommend checking out my blog post titled 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting With Watercolors. By understanding these ten ideas and applying them in your painting, you'll be able to progress your watercolor skills much quicker and waste less supplies in the process.
Let's get to the swatching!
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There is no right or wrong way to test out a new watercolor paint set. The whole point of swatching and testing out colors is for you, the artist, to have a better understanding of different color behaviors. This way, you'll be able to select the colors you like best depending on the particular subject you paint, your personal techniques and the overall effects you're going for.
If you're just starting out and haven't found your style, no problem! As your artistic journey progresses, you'll discover your own way of working and the specific paint qualities that are important for you. Later on, you'll be able to modify your swatching process to whatever fits you best and perhaps leave out aspects that aren't as important.
Watercolor Paint Characteristics
a) Mass tones
A color's mass tone tells us what it looks like when it's straight out of the tube and at its fullest saturation. Basically, it's the color at its purest and undiluted self.
-This is usually the first rectangle I fill in below the hue's name and I make sure to use the least amount of water possible.
b) Staining qualities
A color's staining quality refers to how difficult it is to remove from the paper when lifting, scrubbing or attempting to reactivate it once it's dry.
-To test this out, I like lifting paint from a small section of my Masstone square/rectangle when it's still wet with either a rag or a paintbrush. I also like coming back to my color swatch once it's dried completely to see if any color can be lifted or reactivated because I personally use this technique a lot in my work. There are some pigments that are known for being extremely staining, such as Prussian Blue, and others that lift up quite easily.
A color's opacity tells us how opaque or transparent it is. Usually, you're looking for transparency when it comes to watercolors, as this is the quality that gives paintings created with this medium their distinctive glow.
-For faster swatches, I like drawing a couple of ink lines in this square/rectangle (allow them to dry completely) and painting over them with each color to see if there is any chalky residue left behind.
-Another option is painting a couple of lines or shapes with a different color (a different color from the one you're testing) and seeing how much the subsequent layer of color allows the bottom to shine through.
d) Level of dispersion
A color's level of dispersion refers to how easily it expands and/or intermixes with other colors when dropping on damp paper. A high level of dispersion means a paint color expands quickly and intermixes a lot with colors around it. A low level of dispersion means it mostly stays in place.
-For faster swatches, I like simply wetting this square/rectangle with clean water and dropping the color in in several different places to see how fast it expands.
-Another option is dropping a different color in first and then placing the specific hue you're testing out to see how much it expands/intermixes. I do recommend preparing a larger square/rectangle for swatching if you want to test this out. Because I don't do a ton of wet-on-wet work myself, this isn't I take too much time doing. However, if you do a lot of landscapes or even abstracts, it may be very useful for you to spend time testing out this particular one for your different colors!
A color's granulation level can be identified by laying down a flat wash, allowing it to dry completely, and observing how even and uniform it looks after. Pigments that have a high level of granulation separate from their binder when mixed with water and tend to settle into the texture of the paper it is placed on. This leads to white dots and a patchy look in some areas. *A high level of granulation isn't inherently bad, as it can be used to create great effects in areas that require them. Many artists use highly granulating paints to their advantage!
-I don't usually create a separate square/rectangle to test out granulation, but come back to observe this later on after my paint has fully dried and settled into the paper in all my sections.
A color's permanence refers to how resistant it is when exposed to light. In other words, how quickly does it start to fade out? Usually, manufacturers include this information somewhere within the packaging of the product with the following codes: AA (Extremely Permanent), A (Permanent), B (Moderately Durable) or C (Fugitive).
-I don't usually create a separate square/rectangle to test out permanence, but come back to observe how much the color has faded out a few months later.
g) How do colors react on different types of papers?
I usually like seeing how different pigments react on at least a couple of different types of watercolor paper because I know how much of a difference the right paper can make!
-For the swatching of this particular Winsor and Newton set, I used both higher quality Arches watercolor paper, as well as cheaper Canson paper. Both of these were 140 lb. Cold Press papers, but the Arches had much more of a texture to it. Another option could be testing your paint out on both Cold Press and Hot Press papers.
Check out my blog post/YouTube video Watercolor Supplies for Beginners + Things You Should Know. In it, I explain everything you have to know about watercolor paper and demystify a lot of common thoughts beginners have in relation to watercolor supplies.
Swatching Outcome and My Conclusions
The colors included in this Winsor and Newton 12-piece tube set are:
Cadmium Yellow Hue
Cadmium Red Pale Hue
I enjoyed testing out this Winsor and Newton watercolor tube set and look forward to painting a piece with it. Even though this brand's Cotman line is described as being their affordable/student grade option, this particular tube set offers an excellent color payoff, contains a good amount of paint and is quite comfortable to work with. The paint's texture is just thick enough when squeezed out of the tube and onto the paint-mixing palette. Each tube contains 8 ml of paint and the manufacturer has included relevant information on its packaging such as each color's level of Permanence and Pigment Code.
A few things I noticed in regards to the differences between the swatches created on the two different watercolor papers:
a) Overall, the colors painted on the Arches paper are more vibrant than how they appear on the Canson paper.
b) The degree of this varies from pigment to pigment, but I was able to lift up more paint from the Canson paper, especially once the paint had dried. This probably has to do with the fact that the 100% cotton Arches paper absorbs the pigment a lot more effectively.
c) Wet-on-wet effects were much more beautiful on the Arches paper, which allowed them to disperse a lot more fluidly and gradually. On the Canson paper, the paint pooled in certain areas and left a patchy effect.
d) All colors, except for the Chinese white are completely transparent (which is a good thing). Transparent watercolors allow bottom layers to shine through and give paintings a unique glow. If you zoom into the ink lines below the Chinese white swatch, they appear to have a bit of a chalkiness over them.
Watercolor Supplies Used:
*I buy most of my art supplies online through ConsumerCrafts or Amazon. Both of them are excellent options for finding great supplies at accessible prices. Click on images below to learn more about each product.
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Are you struggling with saving your whites when painting with watercolors? Have you been considering the use of masking fluid but are unsure about how to use it effectively and whether it's really necessary at all? Have you avoided using masking fluid in your work because it makes the process longer and more tedious?
One of the most difficult things to get used to when starting with watercolors, is planning where the lightest areas of our paintings will be and keeping them protected throughout the painting process. Watercolors are quite different from other painting mediums due to the fact that they are translucent and require us to work from lightest to darkest values. As opposed to acrylics, oils or gouache, this painting medium doesn't allow us to simply cover up mistakes.
By doing a bit of planning beforehand and knowing what tools/techniques to use for each project individually, we can ensure that we're using watercolors to their full potential. When used effectively, this artistic medium is able to create very striking paintings that have a "lighter" feel to them than those created with acrylics or oils, and also seem to glow from within. Protecting our lightest areas is essential in order to achieve such qualities.
In this blog post, I am sharing the steps I personally go through when using masking fluid in a watercolor painting. I will also provide some essential tips that will help you avoid accidents. To illustrate each step, I have included a beginner-friendly masking fluid exercise. It's very important to do a few explorations with new tools before actually trying them out in a painting!
Even though many watercolor sets contain white paint, traditional watercolor artists avoid using it. There's no need because the watercolor paper itself IS the white and the areas left free of pigment will stand as the highlights of the painting. Whether the artist decides to use masking fluid or not, he/she makes sure to protect those whites because, once pigment touches paper and is absorbed, there's no way to get that white back.
Traditional watercolor artists also avoid using black, but that is a story for a different day.
To learn about the ten most important things you should make sure to apply when painting with watercolors, read my blog post titled 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting with Watercolors.
Now-a-days, there are TONS of amazing artists who use watercolors in combination with other types of mediums, creating beautiful mixed-media artworks. There are those who complete a watercolor painting without paying much mind to highlights until the end, when they add them in using white gouache, acrylic paint, paint pens, and/or other drawing mediums.
I'm all about exploring mediums and creating one's own artistic style!
However, I've found it invaluable to study each medium individually and challenge oneself to create desired effects using that medium alone. I noticed the biggest improvement in my painting quality when I pushed myself to complete a project using only one medium. So, I really recommend making time to explore each medium on its own once you're at a certain skill level, especially if you find that you're continuously reaching out for a second/third medium as a crutch because you were unable to create the effects you were intending to.
Once you've learned the characteristics of each medium and the general "rules", THEN go ahead and combine them, if you wish to. But let it be because it's your stylistic choice, and not because you needed another medium as extra support. It's hard! But I PROMISE you, that it will help you improve A TON.
Masking fluid is NOT NECESSARY to create a great watercolor painting, but it sure is a great tool to know about, especially when painting certain kinds of subjects that have shiny, reflective surfaces and/or tiny areas you want to block out. If you don't have masking fluid or wish not to use it, you have the option of carefully working around your planned white highlights, but because watercolors are so fluid, it may be a challenge.
Here is an example of a painting I created by very carefully working around the areas I wanted completely white at the end (no masking fluid). See all those tiny white spaces? I consciously made an effort not to get any pigment in them! If I had accidentally covered up those spaces, my painting would look flat and wouldn't have that "glow" to it.
So, what is masking fluid, exactly?
Masking fluid (also referred to as liquid frisket) is liquid latex that dries to a rubbery/waterproof film, allowing us to block out areas in our paintings that we want free of pigment. It contains ammonia, which makes the liquid very smelly and makes it necessary to work in a well-ventilated room.
Usually, we're presented with masking fluid options at art supply stores that look white while in the bottle and dry to a transparent/yellowish film. However, pigmented varieties are available, in case the artist requires a greater visibility throughout the placement process.
Though the use of masking fluid entails adding in a couple of extra steps and makes the painting process longer, it does make protecting the whites a lot easier and is a great tool to have when painting complex, detailed subjects!
How to Use Masking Fluid
You will need:
-Cup of water
-Old rag or paper towel
-Bar of soap or dishwashing liquid
-A tool for placing your masking fluid (old paintbrush, wooden skewer, paper clip, cotton swab, etc.)
-Rubber cement pick up or soft eraser
1. Create your initial sketch
As always, start with a good, light pencil drawing. Once you're done, map out where you want your highlights to be. Usually, this will entail having a good look at your reference picture and pinpointing lightest areas. Then, we would lightly outline these small shapes.
*Illustrative exercise (recommended for beginners):
For the purpose of this little abstract exercise, we will be blocking out lines. Create a simple design using straight or curved lines and keep them as light as possible (so you can erase them later)!
2. Select a tool to place your masking fluid with
Depending on the effect you're going for in your painting, this tool can range from a paintbrush, to a wooden skewer, to a cotton swab, or even a toothbrush (for splattering). If you DO decide to use a paintbrush, make sure you use an older one that you don't mind damaging because it doesn't take much for masking fluid to kill those bristles!
Personally, I've already ruined at least a couple of paintbrushes and have gotten used to applying masking fluid with paper clips!
*For this exercise, you'll need a pointier tool so you're able to trace your pencil lines.
3. Take your time placing your masking fluid on desired areas
Do this carefully and take your time! Make sure your not scraping or otherwise damaging your paper, especially if you're using a sharp, pointy tool to place your masking fluid with. If you're creating a finalized painting using a reference picture, try to look at it constantly so you make sure to block out all areas you want protected.
*Carefully trace your pencil lines. It's totally normal to have to re-dunk your paper clip into your masking fluid every few seconds! When you're done, allow it to dry completely (this can take up to 30 minutes depending on the thickness it was placed in. Make sure it's completely dry to the touch before continuing with the next step.
4. Paint as per usual
Move on to the painting process, starting from lightest and most translucent values to darker values, allowing each layer to dry before applying the next. Don't be afraid of painting over the masking fluid. That's what it's there for!
If you're creating a finalized painting, take your time developing those values and get your painting as close to being done as possible before removing the masking fluid. What I personally do, is to make sure I've arrived at a point at which I feel I can't advance any further until my masking fluid is out of the way. Once you're done, allow your painting to dry naturally and completely.
To see how I create striking paintings working in layers, visit my blog post Realistic Watercolor Sandwich Process
*For this beginner-friendly exercise, explore different colors and effects until you arrive at something you like.
5. Remove that masking fluid!
This is the time we've all been waiting for! Once your painting is completely dry, carefully and gently remove that masking fluid with a rubber cement pick up, a soft eraser or using your fingers. Rub gently until part of it lifts and then gently pull the rest off. Make sure you remove it completely and lightly dust your painting off so no pieces are left behind.
6. Soften hard edges and finish any last details
Once your masking fluid has been removed, you'll notice that you're left with very stark-looking, sharp white shapes. If you're creating a painting that's more on the realistic side (like in the car painting time lapse video I've included in this post), you'll probably want to soften at least some of these.
To do this, simply wet your paintbrush in clean water and do some gentle scrubbing on those sharp lines, moving the pigment around on your paper. However, be very careful not to cover up all of your white!
Now is also the time at which you can further deepen values in your painting if you need to, or carefully create any washes you feel would improve your painting.
Allow to dry completely before removing any masking tape.
*For the purpose of this abstract exercise, I left my white lines as they were after having removed my masking fluid because I liked the look of it. If you'd like to explore softening some of them or even adding in extra washes of color, go for it!
Masking Fluid Pro Tips!
1. If you want to use a paintbrush for masking fluid placement, soak its bristles in dishwashing soap (or rub them gently on a bar of soap) before dipping it into the masking fluid. This will make it easier to remove the masking fluid when you're done.
2. Never shake your masking fluid bottle before starting with its application. This creates air bubbles and may lead to coagulation, which may make it harder to place on desired areas and may affect the outcome of your work.
3. Only apply masking fluid on bone-dry paper and only remove it from bone-dry paper.
4. When using masking fluid, resist the urge to speed up drying times using a hairdryer or any sort of heat tool. Warm air can cause the already-hardened masking fluid to stick to your paper even more, which can later lead to rips and tears as you try to remove it!
5. Never allow hardened masking fluid to be on your paper for extended periods of time (over two days). Whether this is a problem or not will depend on a number of variables such as masking fluid and paper brands/types, environmental temperature, etc. However, be wary of leaving masking fluid on your paper for long periods of time because it can get to a point at which it may be impossible to remove!
6. Explore different ways you can apply and use masking fluid! There are so many ways to do it, from placing it carefully the way we did in today's exercise, to splattering, smearing, etc. Experimenting with different tools and techniques can definitely open up your horizons about what's possible with watercolors and will also allow you to have different tricks up your sleeve whenever you're painting complex subjects!
What method do you personally use to create highlights in your watercolor paintings? Do you have any negative experiences with masking fluid? I'd love to know in the comments section below!
Hey there, creative friends!
In this week's blog post, I'll be sharing some of my recent sketchbook entries and finished paintings (both watercolor and oils).
As far as sketchbook work, I continue challenging myself whenever I'm able to, focusing on subjects that are difficult for me. For these last entries, I practiced female figure studies and a male portrait (I rarely draw men!).
The oil paintings included here are two in my new landscape series. I have now completed three out of the five I will be selling. Very soon, I'll be sharing progress of the fourth one. So do follow me on Instagram if you wish to know how that goes! Once I complete these five landscapes, I'm going to be working on five still lives. I currently sell my original artwork only in Mexico, but have plans of opening online shops to ship to other countries in the near future! So due stay tuned! :)
The watercolor paintings included here, are part of the group of illustrations I created for the June calendar design I will be sending over to my e-mail subscribers very soon! At the end of each month, I send them free printable calendars in both Letter and Tabloid size featuring my illustrations. :)
If you'd like to become part of my insider group and receive these exclusive freebies, as well as helpful art content and news about offerings that will help you progress artistically, subscribe here:
Thanks so much for visiting and checking my work out! I really appreciate it!
If you're a beginner/intermediate artist looking to improve your work, do check out the posts below! I constantly produce helpful blog posts and YouTube videos with art tips, tutorials and encouragement!
Have a beautiful weekend!
Have you reached a point in your art journey at which you feel relatively confident about your skills but are anxious to find your own style and voice? Are you stuck with your art and feel that your own perfectionism and/or fear of failure is keeping you from moving forward?
"Create your own visual style... let it be unique for yourself
and yet identifiable for others."
There is a point in every artist's journey at which a substantial amount of time and effort has been dedicated to developing artistic skills, but the artist has yet to decide what ideas he/she wants to share with the world and what mediums, techniques and style will set him/her apart from others. It takes an immense amount of work, exploration and introspection to push through this point, but it's important to keep on until the breakthrough happens.
In my opinion, it's exactly THIS desire to push through the initial phase that differentiates a hobbyist from a pro. It's a point at which perfect rendering and technique becomes just as important as (or may even take back seat to) having an artwork transmit the ideas or feelings we are striving to transmit.
In this blog post, I will be sharing five very useful tips that will help you loosen up and express more of yourself through your art. It's this exploration that will help you discover yourself as an artist. If you're at this point, it's time to experiment fearlessly and push your limits!
I wrote a blog post several months ago in which I share an excellent method that you can apply to start discovering your own art style using other artists' work as inspiration. This strategy will be very useful for you in this stage, so make sure to check it out after this post.
How to Effectively Use Other Artists' Work as Inspiration and a Great Method to Start Developing Your Own Artistic Style.
Currently, I'm doing a lot of exploratory work with oils on canvas. If you've been following my work for any amount of time, you probably already know that I love working on smaller-scale watercolor illustrations. However, I've had the pleasure of creating larger decorative fine art for local clients and have really enjoyed it! I'm making time for oil painting as much as I can and am planning on selling my artwork internationally in the near future.
I'm working on a series of five large landscape oil paintings. I will be sharing these with you throughout the upcoming weeks so stay tuned!
5 Tips That Will Help You Become More Loose and Expressive When Creating Art
"Regularity, order, desire for perfection destroy art.
Irregularity is the basis of all art."
1. Gain confidence in your skills by learning and practicing
In order to draw or paint freely, you need to have a certain level of confidence in your skills. And the only way to truly gain confidence in anything, is by practicing first-handedly. Knowing Art Fundamentals inside and out is going to help you IMMENSELY, and is the basis for everything else.
Things like composition, harmony, proportion, color, perspective, texture, value, etc., have to be engrained in your head so that you can apply this knowledge naturally and organically as you are creating your artwork.
Aside from knowing Art Fundamentals, it's also imperative for you to have some experience working with whatever medium and supplies you're thinking of using. How are you going to paint or draw freely if you feel like you're constantly fighting with the medium?
The saying "Learn the rules before you can break them." applies here!
In my blog post titled Why Sketchbooks Are Essential Tools for Artists and A Few Usage Tips
I share how I personally use my sketchbooks on a daily basis to make sure I'm progressing continuously.
2. Prepare yourself mentally before you begin
It's absolutely essential to start a challenging piece in the right headspace. Once you have arrived at the idea of what you'll be creating, start with positivity and confidence. I've mentioned this before, but our minds are EXTREMELY powerful! Remember, if you think you're going to fail, you most likely will.
Now is the time to embrace experimentation and throw perfectionism out the window! Allow the magic to happen as you work with your medium and tools. Do your best to give up some of your control and allow your medium to do some of the speaking for itself.
3. Paint with larger brushes and, if possible, on a larger substrate
Painting/drawing at a larger scale will not only encourage more arm movement (which in turn leads to more dynamic work), but allows you to focus on larger shapes. Using a larger brush, or drawing tools like chalk or charcoal, also make it more difficult to obsess over tiny little details. This, in turn, challenges you to think about what is actually needed in your composition and what can be left out.
Not to mention, larger pieces are also (usually) meant to be viewed from farther away. At the moment of drawing or painting, step back and continuously remind yourself that the piece is meant to be appreciated from a distance.
If you're creating a painting, remember that your paintbrush is not meant to be held as a writing pencil or pen! Try holding it with your thumb and index finger, and keep the rest of your hand relaxed. Beginners have a tendency to hold brushes very close to the bristles to feel more in control. Try holding your brush farther up the handle, anywhere from halfway up to the tip.
Explore the different types of brush strokes your brushes are able to create, and the shapes and textures their bristles naturally leave behind. Load your paintbrushes with a good amount of paint so that there's more of a chance for interesting "natural" occurrences to happen.
4. Use music
Music can have such a deep impact on our mood and inspiration levels! I love creating a good, long playlist for myself prior to starting with a painting. Music helps keep my creativity flowing and my energy high for hours.
Our taste in music will vary from person to person, of course. Perhaps an artist looking to create an extremely dynamic abstract painting would be inspired by music with a faster/upbeat tempo. Whereas, another artist might find more relaxing, classical music more helpful.
Regardless of your taste in music, create a playlist that will help you stay positive, inspired and motivated to continue.
5. Learn to leave your brushstrokes alone
Do your best to place your brushstrokes (or lines if your drawing) with intention and then leave them alone! Allow the organic occurrences to happen and think of how you can use these effects to your advantage instead of trying to correct them or blend them out.
Stop yourself from pushing forward with actions that are really not really necessary. Try to do more with less and don't obsess over every tiny little accident!
Let go of the mental need to control everything!
I hope that you found this post helpful and that it encouraged you to keep exploring and moving forward with your art! I wish you all the best and remember to enjoy the process!
"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.
Art is knowing which ones to keep."
Are you in the process of finding your art style and voice, or do you feel you still need to practice your basic art skills? What type of artwork are you most drawn to, and how do you think this will translate into your own artwork? I'd LOVE to hear from you in the comments section below.
*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. :)
Do you frequently experience phases of low creativity? Are you currently unmotivated to continue pushing your artistic skills forward? Does a lack of inspiration stop you from creating and progressing as an artist?
"Inspiration and work ethic, they ride right next to each other."
- Jack White
All artists are bound to go through some kind of creative block from time to time, no matter how talented or experienced they may be. This makes it absolutely essential (especially for us working artists) to have some sort of effective system set in place to keep us productive and moving forward consistently.
Though we may consciously decide to take breaks from our art from time to time, being an artist is synonymous with constant creation. Keeping creativity levels high day-in-and-day-out can certainly be exhausting, and it's impossible to be in the perfect headspace for creation ALL of the time. However, taking long breaks from our art will most definitely affect our progress.
In today's blog post, I will share the method I personally use to re-engage with my art in difficult times. This strategy will help you whenever you're feeling uninspired, unmotivated, frustrated, or even just bored with your current art routine. The goal is to ensure that you're moving forward, even when you're not at your best. You can make the exercise as easy or difficult as you'd like at any given point in time. I'll explain in a bit.
But first, there's something we have to touch upon!
I find there are two main reasons that we can hit creative blocks as artists:
1. We may not feel like creating because we feel insecure or simply bored with our current art routines. In these situations, we have to learn to suck it up and get to work. Sometimes we have to be okay with just showing up and doing what we can.
2. We can be mentally and physically drained by everything we have going on in life, and will very likely hit a wall even if we DO show up. Each one of us is in a different situation, but it's imperative to make time for self-care. It should be our priority above all else.
If you're in the first camp, I encourage you to power through. The more you push yourself to create in these times of low inspiration, the easier it will become. If you're in the second, I really recommend you take a few days to plan out how you'll be prioritizing your mental and physical well-being from here on out. I truly, 100% believe that if you're not taking care of yourself, EVERYTHING else will suffer, including your artistic progress.
Read my blog post titled How I Find Inspiration as an Artist and Some Ideas to Keep You Going. There, I share the mentality I have adopted that helps me stay inspired and keep creative blocks at bay!
Practical Life Tips to Get You Back Into the Flow of Creation
Before we actually get into the creative exercise, I'm going to give you a few general tips that you should try. I find when I apply these in my daily or weekly routines, I'm less likely to get into an art block to begin with.
1. Clean and organize your working area
I don't consider myself a neat-freak by any means. However, I have to admit that when things start to get messy around me, it starts affecting me mentally (and thus my productivity suffers). By staying organized, there's much more of a chance you'll feel like getting to work.
2. Get moving
Guys, I cannot stress the importance of physical exercise enough. Some of my best ideas come up when I'm moving! Not to mention, as artists/illustrators, we sit and/or hunch A LOT of the time and it's absolutely IMPERATIVE to stay healthy and work on our posture! Exercise has brought me a level of mental clarity and energy that I didn't have in my younger (and most sedentary) years. At the VERY least, make sure you're taking stretching breaks throughout the day!
3. Go be social or get out of your usual environment
As artists, it can be easy to stay holed up in our studios all day long. Although we primarily work by ourselves, it's important to remember that our inspiration comes through actually LIVING experiences first-handedly. Sometimes, just going out for coffee with a friend or taking a walk around the block will do! Keep in mind you never want to get to a point at which you forget how to talk to other human beings!
4. Set aside some "me time"
I don't know about you, but I feel like life gets so busy sometimes that if breathing wasn't absolutely automatic and necessary to continue living, I think I would forget to do it. Understandably, there will be periods of high stress in our lives, but these should be the exception and not the rule. Make sure you're setting aside time to do what you want to do in life and ENJOY IT! Make time for proper rest and to be alone as much as you feel you need to.
5. Start taking notes
I carry a small sketchbook or notebook everywhere I go. I got in the habit of doing this a while back because ideas randomly pop up in my head throughout the day and I don't want to end up forgetting something that could lead to a good artwork or creative project in general. It's awesome to have a little bank of ideas in the background because, even if you don't use them immediately, you can come back to them when you can't find anything to work on.
Check out my blog post titledWhy Sketchbooks are Essential Tools for Artists and a Few Usage Tips.
6. Get inspired by the other art genres
Don't limit yourself to only getting inspired by the visual arts! Reading good literature, watching movies/documentaries, listening to music, and even cooking can lead to amazing ideas for new art pieces! Finding ways of mixing and matching things we love all across the board can lead to the most personal and unique art pieces!
7. Create a Pinterest Inspiration board (or a folder on your desktop)
Collect artwork that appeals to you and use it as inspiration. However, never EVER compare yourself to other artists! Try to target and make notes of specific characteristics you like (maybe it's the colors the artist used, the line work, how effectively emotions are transmitted, etc.) and try to implement it in your own way.
Check out my Pinterest inspiration board here.
Read my post titled How to Effectively Use Other Artists' Work as Inspiration and a Great Method to Start Developing Your Own Artistic Style to learn about my personal approach of getting inspiration from artists I admire, while making sure I'm creating something truly original.
8. Ditch the perfectionist attitude
Many times, we keep ourselves from even starting because we're afraid of wasting supplies and/or producing something that won't measure up to our expectations (or the expectations of others). I honestly believe that being a perfectionist is one of the worst mistakes an artist can make. It wasn't until I understood that creating art is more about the process than the end product that I started to really improve my skills and make progress towards finding my style. Not everything is supposed to be a masterpiece!
My Secret Tool for Staying Creatively Inspired and Challenged
As artists, we should embrace exploration and challenge. It is through exploring different techniques, supplies and/or subjects that we not only expand our abilities, but are able to learn about our personal likes, dislikes and areas of improvement.
I like taking moments of low inspiration or motivation to step out of my comfort zone and do something that will challenge me in a way that I haven't been in a while, whether it's a shorter pencil sketch or a painting using mediums or styles I haven't explored.
See, even if you've already discovered your artistic medium of choice and are set on your subject or technique, stretching your boundaries is a great way to stimulate your creativity, reinvigorate yourself and reignite your passion for art. Through explorations uncommon to you, you're able to arrive at ideas you wouldn't have thought of, ideas that can later be applied in your larger pieces.
When I'm truly in a tough mental state, I don't pressure myself to generate an amazing product at all, but focus much more on the exploration and journey. I disconnect from my inner critique and focus on enjoying the feel of my supplies, each individual color, line and shape. I allow things to happen naturally. This is what I decided to do on the day I filmed the video included here.
What's important, is to keep moving forward at least in a small way, and not give up altogether.
These commissions help me keep this site up and running, in order for me to keep providing helpful and inspiring art content. :)
Do you want to start adding specific details into your watercolor landscapes but are a bit confused about how to go about it? Have you, perhaps, found an awesome reference image you'd love to turn into a painting, but are unsure about what the process would be to make it happen? Are you happy with the way you start a painting but grow frustrated as you start adding details in?
Welcome to the third part of the Watercolor Landscapes for Beginners Series!
Flowers, rocks and grass may seem like small parts when one thinks of a landscape painting, but these natural elements have the ability of adding color and areas of interest to this type of composition. The way we decide to include and render these details can, pretty much, make or break our paintings.
When I was first starting to paint landscapes using watercolors, I was full of questions: Am I supposed to paint smaller details directly on my white paper or on top of my first, second or third layer(s) of paint? How much time am I supposed to spend on each little detail in order to make a great painting? Is it best to finish one area entirely and then move on to the next or can I work on everything simultaneously? How dark do I have to get in order to achieve good form and contrast? What is the best way to create my darker color values? Where, exactly, am I supposed to use the wet-on-wet technique and where can I use wet-on-dry? How can I create a believable texture for that particular object? The questions were endless!
Throughout the time I've been using this medium, I have found that there are MANY ways to go about creating a great-looking painting, provided the artist has a good understanding of Art Fundamentals and is aware of the particular characteristics of watercolor paint (find the 5 Essential Tips to Apply in Your Exercises segment in Part 1 of this series).
In this post and the video included here, I will be sharing my personal tips and tricks, as well as the process I go through to create believable and aesthetically pleasing landscapes. By understanding these principles and doing your own studies, you'll be able to create great work in no time!
Check out the previous parts of the series below!
Let's get started with the tutorial!
Supplies you will need:
-Watercolors (basic colors will do)
-Paintbrushes (8-10 point round brush and a thicker flat brush)
-Rag or paper towel
-Cup of water
-A piece of thick cardboard or something to tape your watercolor paper on
Reference Images Used
For these studies, I found a couple of high quality photographs online that included the specific elements I wanted to study (flowers, grass and rocks). As always, I went for my trusted online free image sources Pixabay and Pexels. I highly recommend these websites if you're looking for beautiful reference pictures to work from!
*Note: I used these pictures LOOSELY and wasn't trying to copy them exactly.
You can find my other favorite free image sources in my blog post titled My Favorite Free Image Sites & Two Examples of References with Finished Illustrations.
Watercolor Poppy Field
1. Before actually starting with my complete painting, I created individual studies of two of my favorite landscape flowers.
2. After deciding I wanted to create a field of Poppies, I looked for a high quality picture online that included a good amount of them in it. It's important to develop an eye for what images could possibly lead to nice looking paintings.
3. I taped my watercolor paper onto a thick piece of cardboard and, using the wet-on-wet technique described in the first video of this series, I created a blurry background effect using yellow and light green. While wet, I dropped in a few dots of my red Poppy flower mixture because I wanted my furthest flowers to appear blurred out. I allowed my first layer to dry completely.
4. I started adding in very loose and irregular red shapes that would later be turned into the tops (or petals) of the Poppy flowers. At this point, I started using deeper red color mixtures with a less amount of water in them, but I still didn't go too dark, taking it one step at a time. I made sure to add just enough shapes for it to look like a field of Poppies, but not too many that it would look too crowded. It's SO important to know when to stop!
5. I jumped around from flower to flower, adding in deeper red values carefully. I created the illusion of separate petals by placing few curved lines here and there. The darkest hue used within the petal area was created by adding in blue to my red mixture. As always, my darkest values were placed very deliberately and only where needed (see reference image at all times).
6. I started adding in individual blades of grass using a medium green paint mixture and clean upward motions (using my thin round brush). I created the effect of realistic depth by making the blades of grass smaller as they got closer to the horizon line (further from the viewer).
7. Once I had added the first layer of grass, I allowed it to dry and went back to work on my Poppies. To soften some of the noticeable darker shapes left within the petal areas, I wet my brush with clean water and did gentle scrubbing. I did this only here and there.
8. I created a deeper green value and painted the flower stems, more grass, as well as flower buds scattered throughout. To create a sense of depth, I made sure to leave the most crisp-looking and vibrant green blades of grass closest to the viewer and the most translucent ones closest to the horizon line. I also made sure to add at least a bit of a darker green to my flower buds in order to transmit a more believable sense of form.
Specific colors I used for this study:
Permanent Green Olive
Cadmium Red Light
Watercolor Rocky Creek
1. I opened my reference photograph in a photo-editing software and cropped an area that would allow me to focus on painting rocks. Using a pencil, I created a very light sketch on my watercolor paper, getting inspired by the image but not fussing to much about drawing it EXACTLY the same.
2. I wet the entire rock area and started laying down my first and most translucent paint mixture, making sure to leave small areas free of pigment. Saving small white areas is very important when creating believable stones and rocks!
3. I jumped from one rock to the other deepening values and then allowed them to dry while I continued with the other areas of my painting. *Please refer to the first two blog posts/videos of this series if you'd like to know more about how I paint skies, water and trees.
4. I went back to my rocks, deepening values and creating a sense of shadow behind and between the rocks. At this point I also softened some of the transitions between my values by doing my scrubbing technique with a clean brush.
Specific colors I used for this study:
Cadmium Yellow Light
Permanent Green Olive
Cadmium Red Light
What's your favorite natural subject/element that you like integrating (or would like to learn how to integrate) into your watercolor landscapes? Leave me a comment below!
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