If you dislike watercolors, read this

Have I ever told you about the time I hated watercolors?

Four years ago I somehow ended up picking up watercolors. Before that, my previous moment with them was at the age of seven, on the second grade, where we were to make big washes to page with school watercolor palettes, that had six big watercolor buttons.

The classicl watercolor palette that we were given at school.

We would wash an entire A4 page with a lot of water until it got wrinkly. Then we would leave it to dry for a whole day, and would try to paint over it the next day. Add details, you know. A yellow sun. On top of the blue sky…

Can you imagine?

I don’t remember any great results from that elementary art class. And I believe pretty much everyone hated watercolors.

So I never went back to them.

Until one day….

I was taking a self-study class about color and light by the legandary Nathan Fowkes. In his class, he was praising watercolors all the time. Watercolors! But they are so hard! And… unglamorous?

I couldn’t believe what I saw him making with them. I had never seen anything like it. It looked as if he was using them like oils. And the way he praised the medium, said it’s a great way to practice fundamentals…

…And to have fun. To get out in the nature. See, compared to oils, watercolor is very portable. It dries almost immediately and you don’t need poisonous turpentines or anything.

They also aren’t too expensive if you buy some buttons and try them out. So I did that.

This button case by Schminke was on sale on the local art store, so that’s what I bought.

Great! I got the right stuff now! More than six buttons. Also I bought a flat watercolor brush. And I went right off to nature!

Inspired by the nature and the new supplies I was ready to make my masterpiece that would look just like the work that Nathan Fowkes does!

After careful measuring and color mixing, I was ready to show my fiance my masterpiece:

(”Sadly” I don’t have the original painting anymore, but this is a pretty accurate representation of what I had down)

”You really nailed the sand color” he was overly kind to say.

See, my skills were where they were when I had last time picked up watercolor. In the elementary school. I couldn’t do any better than any six-year-old.

Even when I was very well-aware of my failed painting. I kept doing more.

And more. Of the same kind of paintings. Sometimes I thought I got a little part right, but something was really lacking. No real successes took place.

Through every painting I learned a tiny bit more about the medium. I was repeating my mistakes though, and didn’t have a clear vision of what I needed to do to actually get closer to the work that I saw Nathan Fowkes doing.

That’s when I decided to make a master study. And that gave my work a new direction.

Master study from Nathan Fowkes’s work.

It was a pivot point for me. I had a realization about underpainting and how I could use color and white gouache more effectively. After I did this, I began to see glazing in many paintings and started to practice that.

All of a sudden I had way more rich color and interesting things happening. I was producing work that I didn’t hate to look at.

Don’t get me wrong – I still made bad paintings and many mistakes. But after I was starting to get the thing down that I cared most about – color and emotion – I had room to begin to care about other things. Perspective, gesture, form, gradients, value shifts, textures…

After filling one sketchbook after another, time went by and I had made hundreds of watercolor sketches. Four years later I was confident enough to enroll Nathan Fowkes’s new Watercolor Landscape Sketching class at Schoolism. I was ready to let the legend himself kick my butt. And he did, in the best way. I became aware of my biggest weaknesses. To my surprise, I began to notice things that I really liked about my work and what felt unique to me.

Work I did after the course.

Today, I’m completely in love with the medium. I love the endless possibilities of watercolor, the way you can use it like oils, control it with gouache or explore the washes and let the medium what it wants to do. It’s a divine quality that can even work as a meditation form, when you lay down water and colors and just watch them blend together.

In fact, I love the medium so much that I’m making a watercolor book that contains my best work and offers my best ”heureka” moments from these years that I’ve been getting to know the medium.

Work in progress -pages from the book.

I’m very excited to bring this book to you soon, hopefully before the summer of 2020!

Watercolors are divine once you get to know their true essence. If you haven’t tried them in a long time, I encourage you to give them another go! They’re relatively cheap and once you gain more control, they’re also fun and exciting.

Let me know how it goes!


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