Painting with watercolors is an amazingly versatile form of art and crafts. Watercolor paintings bear a rich history. The Egyptians used to paint huge frescoes with pigment-based water colors. Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo used watercolors mixed with plaster to make frescoes and murals. One of the best examples of frescoes is the Sistine Chapel of the Vatican painted by Michelangelo. This art, which gained fame and popularity worldwide, was practiced by the Chinese, Korean, and Japanese as well. They created beautiful illuminated manuscripts rich in culture and tradition, that later became famous worldwide. Albrecht Durer's landscape paintings in watercolor began to develop in the 1500s and were much appreciated. This medium of painting spread and spawned since 17th century and today, the techniques have improvised and various other disciplines have also evolved. The major exponents of watercolor painting in America, in the 20th century, were, Edward Hopper, Charles Demuth, Eliot O'Hara, Charles Burchfield, John Marin, and Alice Schille.
Watercolor painting revolves around three basic things, which are, a painting brush, colors, and water. It involves knowing the art of the correct way of handling of brush, smooth blending of colors, and adding the adequate amount of water for mixing.
The first thing you ought to know is the shape and size of the brush. Choose the brush size depending on the effects you want to create. Thick blending brush with higher size number is used for bigger size and full paintings. Fine brushes are used to highlight special features with intricate details. The brush can be round, flat, filbert, mop, acrylic, rigger, or fan. Tufts (or bristles), ferrule, and the handle are the three parts of the brush. Your painting depends upon the part of the brush you are holding. So select your brush according to the nature of your painting.
Handling the Brush
You can lend life to your painting just by changing the way you handle the brush. Never hold the brush tightly. Handling your brush is just similar to the way you control the steering of your vehicle. Form a grip around it just like you handle your pen or pencil. You can also balance the brush with your fingers and apply differential strokes to bring out the desired effects. You can control it linearly or pinch the brush on the paper. To create smooth brush strokes, hold the brush above the ferrule.
The key here is to practice various types of effects initially to master the art gradually. Start with flat wash, graded wash, and glazed wash. Then move ahead with wet-in-wet and dry brush techniques. When you are proficient with these, try the advanced techniques, like splattering and spray textures, sgraffito and stamped textures, or back wash and alcohol textures. Next, you can learn the techniques of plastic wrap and tissue paper texture. Try making a color grid, the frisket painting, and wax resist techniques as well.
Color and Water
This is the most important aspect. Since the art involves use of water, you need to know the exact amount of water to be mixed with the color to get the exact effect you want. Put the colors of your choice (either tube or poster colors, transparent or opaque, fugitive, non-fugitive, sedimentary, etc.) in the palette and then start adding water slowly with your brush. If you want to mix different shades, then make sure that you learn color mixing techniques first before blending colors. Watercolor painting can be completely wet, medium, or dry. For wet-in-wet paintings, the whole painting will have a watery effect while dry painting involves minimal use of water and strokes with maximum color. Mixing colors is not at all complicated, if you know the effect you want to create.
It also involves use of natural, synthetic, organic, or mineral pigments. Arabic gum is used as a fixative. Additives like glycerin, honey, ox gall, etc., are used as preservatives, and to increase the durability and viscosity of colors, as well as for generating differential effects. Sometimes, solvents are also added to improve the texture of the color and to make it either dilute or concentrated.
Before you start painting, always position the water bowl a bit away from the painting paper. Do not shake the brush in order to dry it. Keep a cloth always at hand to dry the brush so that it is free from the colors you have used initially. Before applying new colors, ensure that you wash the brush. Always test the colors on a rough paper if you are a beginner. Remember to wash the brush completely clean, after you have finished your painting.
These tips can be extremely useful for a beginner. Once you perfect the technicalities of the art, you should know that you can endow your paintings with life only if you have that caliber to paint what you imagine. You must feel like the renowned painter Carol P. Surface, who says "Pouring watercolor on paper stimulates me to wrest from my subconscious the images that reflect my spirit.