Watercolour Tutorials

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m2 Inspiration & Motivation m2
m2 Simplicity m2
m2 Materials m2
m2 Nonfigurative Exercises m2
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m2 How to Start Painting m2
m2 F A Q ? ? m2
Christian Wharton Paintings
Water in Watercolour

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is easier - oils, acrylic or watercolour?

Not having used acrylic makes it hard to say for certain but I'm pretty sure that acrylic is the easiest medium. It is clean and tidy and can be used in a variety of ways: thin like water colour, or thick like oils. It dries rather fast, however, so it isn't quite so easy to correct mistakes.

Oils is a delightful medium. There is no pleasure quite like putting on a thick chunk of white to make a highlight. The colours don't run together and you can paint fast. You also have the choice of using it thick or thin. The disadvantage is that it is rather messy and cleaning up can be a chore - it is not so easy to do on the dining room table between meals.

Because it is clean, dries quickly and is easy to carry and store, watercolour is the medium generally advised for beginners. This is a mistake as it is the hardest of the three. The colours run into each other when you don't want them to - the paper gets wet very easily and won't take any more paint and you can't slap on white with the simple abandon of the oil painter. It is also very hard to make strong dark colours that look fresh.

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Why paint in watercolour?

It takes a long time to learn how to use this medium - I am still finding out new things about it. But it is rewarding because it is so versatile.

There are so many ways of using it, from wet on wet to dry on dry.

The colours are rich and luminous because the light of the paper shines through. When it goes well it is fast and effortless.

There are so many special effects with the right combinations of colour and paper - it does half the work for you.

When you drop thick colour onto a wet surface, it is so satisfying watching it spread around. (That is, when it goes where you want it to and not too far!)

You have to combine organisation with an ability to improvise and use the unexpected developments on you paper. But you can't slap on white!

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How do you paint white?

My book, along with almost every other book on watercolour technique tells you in detail with illustrations how you do white. This is just a brief overview of the various techniques.

White paint
You can use Chinese white, but most artists prefer designers' gouache, Titanium, which is stronger and brighter. No white watercolour paint has the quality of white oil paint, because the essence of the medium is transparency and white paint makes an opaque colour that is not satisfactory to look at. It can be all right for small and delicate white lines like, however, such as the cat's whiskers.

Reserved paper
This is the standard way of getting a brilliant white and it works very well for thicker shapes. You just paint in the darker areas and leave the white out. It seems hard at first but it isn't any harder to paint negative shapes correctly than positive ones, although you couldn't use it for thin white lines.

Sponging out, is a good way of doing clouds.
You get a softer shape when you do it on a wash that has dried and a harder shape when you lift out from a wet wash with a tissue or a wrung-out brush.

Masking fluid sounds like a great idea.
You paint over the area that you want to be white in this rubber solution, let it dry, and paint over it. When the rest of the paint is dry you rub off the masking material with your finger and it comes up blissfully white and clean.

The trouble is, it can be a nightmare to use because it dries too quickly and clogs up the brush, making it impossible to get a good line. Some artists recommend using a brush that has been dipped in oil or even washing up liquid, to keep it clean, but my tip is to look out for a different brand of masking fluid. It is called Schmincke; not all art shops stock it but should be able to get it for you. It is much easier to use and has the added advantage that it doesn't smell of ammonia.

You can also make small bits of white by scratching and scraping, but this damages the paper.

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What is art?

Art is the visual expression of higher possibilities through the hand and eye of the artist.

It is easier to explain this further by saying what art is not.

It is not the recreation of a scene made with the intention of deluding the observer. It is not making a still life of strawberries which makes you think you can pick them up and eat them. It is more that it conveys the feeling of strawberries, and this uplifts you even though you can't eat them.

Art is about us, the observer in time and space. A small moment caught in the history of the universe which for a brief instant raises our awareness above and beyond that small point - perhaps not all the way to infinity, but just a little way, just for an instant.

It takes us from everyday reality to something else, something a bit more. You can call it sublime.

You can also call it abstract.

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What is abstract art?

"Abstract" is something that has a meaning which is so condensed that it cannot be put into just a few words.

All good art is abstract.

You can get paintings of strawberries which give you a very accurate image of the fruit, but have no feeling quality in them. These paintings are not abstract, they are illustration, although very skilled. There is lots of illustration about at the moment.

And then there are lots of paintings which have no images in them at all. These are called "abstract" but really they should be called "non-figurative" paintings. You can enjoy them for what they are but don't be fooled.

Great paintings have images, even though they may be a bit diffuse.

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I hope you have found these notes useful.
Do let me know, and if you have any more questions.

Good luck with all your painting and creativity!

Copyright © 2019 Christian Wharton. All rights reserved.