Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Very Rough Guide for Beginners in Watercolour Painting

I've been dabbling in watercolour painting for approximately two years now, and after high praise from family and freinds, I decided to see if they would appeal to unbiased observers too. Luckily they did, so after selling a few paintings and launching my facebook page, The Coloured Wall ,  I also wrote a post about how I had managed to sell my first few paintings . Then, in the spirit of shouting it from the rooftops, I promoted this post on Indiblogger too.  A very welcome outcome of this was a new friendship with a blogger, sudhagee, who  liked my post and also some of my watercolour paintings enough to buy them. That is how these paintings found a new home, where they are loved just as much or more than they were in mine.

'Roses' Original Watercolour painting (c) Monishikha Roy-Choudhury

'Dancers' Original Watercolour Paintig (c) Monishikha Roy-Choudhury

That, I thought was that, till a month or so back , when Sudha ji, sent me a mail telling me that she had got my paintings framed, and the walls in her house , actually painted a in a colour meant to compliment them! All I could say in response was that I was "flattered and honoured" and that was quite an understatement. The best part is that , she didn't stop at that. Which is why, this Monday , I began my week with quite a Diwali gift, a post about Roses and Dancing Girls .

While thanking all those who appreciated my paintings, and the few who have asked some questions about the creation of the more popular painting,"Dancers",  it occurred to me, that there are quite a few people like me out there. People who are probably learning their way through watercolours , the way I am, one painting at a time. So , in the spirit of sharing, I'm answering a few questions that someone has asked me about my paintings . The answers are of course,based on my experience and not to be taken as "expert" advice, because I'm a novice myself. So these are my tips for anyone who wants  to start with watercolour paintings

Use the best materials you can afford . I read this somewhere on the net , and it applies to watercolour paintings too, because all other things being equal, I've found that cheap paper and student quality paints give very unsatisfactory results. See for yourself, here is my first  watercolour painting , The Old Mess (done on 120gsm paper, with very cheap chinese paints) and this is my second watercolour  painting, Leaves in a Vase  done on the same paper, with Camel artist quality paints.

Experiment with different papers to suit your style . Watercolours tend to dry out very quickly in Indian weather conditions,so you need to find the type of paper that suits your style of painting. I generally paint, wet in wet, or wet on dry,  in 15 - 30 min sessions spread over two or three days (because there are too many demands on my time for me to do anything more than that ), so paper that dries too quickly or buckles easily is very frustrating for me. That is why , after experimenting with handmade paper in a few paintings like  Tropical Flower  I now use heavier, standardised watercolour paper . Here is an example of the results, I got using the same paints on Arches 300 gsm watercolour paper, 

"Lily" Original Watercolour , 4" x 6" (c) Monishikha Roy-Choudhury, also available on The Coloured Wall

To draw or not to draw .

 Most of the time, I plan my painting ,and create a light preliminary drawing with pencil or watercolour pencil , on the paper, before applying paint. However there are times when I paint a trial painting directly with  the brush , on smaller samples of the paper I'm  going to use. The "Roses" and "Dancers" were both a result of  such "trial" painting! 

Brushes- Flat,Round,Small,Medium,Big, Natural Hair or Synthetic

I've used them all depending on my requirements. Here I deliberately do not want to mention specifics because I'm not qualified to explain the technicalities of using a particular type of brush. However, what I can tell you is this, I generally use soft , pony hair brushes, both flat and round as required, ranging in sizes from 12 (for bigger areas)  to size 0 for adding fine details .

Help, the paint is running away! 

Many artists refer to watercolour painting as "controlling the flood" . Other than  mixing colours on the palette, it's a good idea to allow colours mix on the paper too, and create beautiful effects, so don't try to "fix" the painting too much when the paint is wet, because it will look lighter and probably not as bad as you think it is , once the paint dries. Allow "happy accidents" to happen, but also learn from them, because you might want to recreate that effect sometime in the future.

Read (atleast a bit) about basic colour theory

You can also refer to standardized colour wheels , which will give you an idea of how colours work next to each other , but the best way, in my opinion, is  to use your paints and make a colour wheel out of the colours you have, or  paint a few strokes of the colours you plan to use in your painting, next to each other ,on a sample paper.

What to Paint 

My husband is my somewhat unwilling but most honest critic, and his opinion matters quite a bit to me. When I wanted to paint from a reference pic of dry trees, he thought that it would be quite a boring painting.  However, we've been married long enough for me to do my own thing, so I went ahead anyway, and here is the finished product, which I love and he thinks is very realistic , but not a painting that appeals to him . So, my advice is, to paint whatever appeals to you , regardless of whether someone else thinks it's a good subject or not.

"The Promise of Spring" Original Watercolour (c) Monishikha Roy-Choudhury

Here I must mention that the advice that I've received from other artists is , that it is a must to paint from life. I agree, when you draw or paint from life, it has a fresh quality to it,(see Leaves in a Vase ) but for someone like me painting from life is very rarely possible, so I paint from photos. Since, Im not that great a photographer myself, I paint from copyright free photos, available at this wonderful , free to join , website called Paint My Photo. In my opinion , apart from getting great subjects to paint and motivation from other artists , the biggest advantage of painting from copyright free photos on Paint My Photo  , is that the resulting artwork is an original painting.

So, to those who want to get started with watercolour painting , and don't have access to actual art classes, what Im saying is this, surf the net for articles and videos on techniques for painting the kind of subjects that you like to paint, and as far as possible, paint for yourself, not to satisfy anyone else's tastes. 

That is all that I can think of right now, so if you have any more questions or tips, please do ask or share in the comments .I'd be delighted to hear from you.

Leaving you with an image of my latest watercolour  painting, "Can-Can Can They


Deepika said...

They are so beautiful!!!
Way to go..
Cheers :)

Sri Valli said...

These are amazing tips Monishikha!! Thanks for sharing your experiences and tips!

MRC said...

Thanks Deepika and Sri Valli :D

Noopur Kothari said...

Indeed one!!
Got your link from indiblogger...and I found it worth landing here :)


MRC said...

Hi Noopur,

Thank you and welcome to my blog! Are you also a watercolour enthusiast ?

Tarang Sinha said...

I loved "The promise of spring"!
Thanks for sharing some good tips. I badly need them as recently I've developed a deep desire to paint and I'm zero @ sketching (One thing I would like to ask that do I need to know sketching very well to learn watercolors? I'm very bad @ drawing faces and human figure:( )I'm okay @ coloued pencils or crayons but when I paint with watercolours it get smudged and looks ugly :( (I'm an absolute beginner) But I love watercolors!! especially landscapes.
I'm learning from youtube. And I always need a reference photo or say inspiration. When I paint according to my imagination they turn out to be a disaster!! :)
Enjoyed visiting your blog! Thanks:)

Tarang Sinha said...

Thanks for your reply! I'll be waiting for that post. :)


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