I welcome any suggestions for future tutorials in my Online Watercolor School and will accommodate them as I work down the list of to do videos. I sell what I have already painted, but sometimes I also accept commissions.
I have been painting in watercolors since June 2012 when I discovered some beautiful watercolor paints.
Nowadays I only paint in my favorite medium, watercolor and also draw using fineliner pens. I have previously painted with oils and I sketched in pencil. Here are some examples of my old works:
Reproduction of Motherhood S. Wyspiański, oil on canvas
Autumn still life, oil on canvas
Venetian mask, oil on canvas
I am a self taught watercolor artist and I have been painting since 2012. I am also very passionate about my art and I love to share my knowledge with other likeminded people. I paint from my home in Poland. I have never taken any art courses and neither have I attended art school. The only art activities I had, were extracurricular ones when I was at Primary School. I have a Master Degree in Social Rehabilitation and I also have a Master Degree in Indonesian-Malaysian Philology (languages and the cultures of Indonesia and Malaysia).
I’ve been a professional watercolor artist since January 2019. I’ve chosen this path as my career.
All sketches and reference photos from my tutorials are available to download from the Bonus Area.
I use DaVinci Resolve.
I use a Nikon D5100 to record all my videos.
Here are some tips.
- Artist grade paints are more vibrant and pure because of the higher pigment content. Whereas student grade paints contain fillers like kaolin and have less pigment.
- Try to use single pigmented colors to avoid mud.
One pigment = one color
Two pigments = two colors
When you mix two colors and both of them have 2 pigments, then you are actually mixing four colors, which may end up looking like mud.
- Try to mix only 3 single pigmented colors. The more colors you mix, the muddier and duller the final color will become.
- If possible try to use good quality paints that are either transparent and semi-transparent and try to avoid the opaque ones, which will also dull your paintings.
- Clean your brush always in clear water whenever you change colors. Also keep two clear containers of water next to your painting. One container to rinse off your brushes, and the other container to apply clean water to your paint.
If you add a little light color like yellow for example to dark violet, you will barely notice the change, because the violet is a much darker pigment than yellow. To see a vast difference in the color change, you will have to add a lot of yellow (lighter pigment) to the violet (darker pigment), and also waste a lot of unnecessary paint. On the other hand if you add only a little bit of violet to the yellow you will notice the difference immediately. The other reason is that you can achieve greater transparency in your washes, if you add little bits of dark color to a lighter color, rather than adding lots of dark color to a light color and ending up with muddy colors.
Please test your masking fluid on a small piece of your paper before using it as some papers are softer than others.
The problem may be one of the following reasons:
- The masking fluid is too old.
- Too much water was added to the masking fluid.
- The masking fluid was left too long on the paper.
- Rubbing it off too vigorously with either your finger or an eraser.
If your paper has a fuzzy texture after removing the masking fluid, try rubbing the paper gently with the back of the spoon to smooth out the paper.
I have also found this pictoral explanation to show you exactly how remove the masking fluid. Here is the link with photos. Try it if you want to, and please let me know if this works for you: http://myfrencheasel.blogspot.com.au/2009/05/best-way-to-remove-masking-fluid.html
Unfortunately, I don’t have any personal experience in cleaning off the masking fluid residue. However, I googled the question and found an answer for you from the Wetcanvas site. Here is the transcript and the link is also included below.
“I glopped Vaseline on the brush, massaged it and let it set. Came back 30 minutes later. Not sure if you ‘have’ to wait, but I did. Mushed the bristles around and the latex started coming out. Kept at it until most all the dried masking fluid came out. Then I washed the brush two or three times with dishwashing liquid. And, then I gave it a couple washes with window cleaner to make sure I had removed all the greasiness. My brush is clean and as good as new! YAY!!”
Here is the link: http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=320164
Please let me know if this works or not.
To prevent the masking fluid sticking to your brush in the future, always dip your brush first into some clean water and rub it gently onto a bar of soap and then only dip it in masking fluid. Apply the masking fluid to the paper and then clean your brush again in water, before applying another soapy wash. Also don’t use your best brushes, buy a cheaper one for applying the masking fluid. Good luck.
It’s hard to judge without knowing what brand of masking fluid you use. On average I would use a ratio of 20% water and 80% masking fluid. If you add too much water to the masking fluid, it will soak into the paper and will tear the paper when you try to remove it. When you dilute the masking fluid, add it to a second bottle, and then only add the water. Also do not pour water into the original masking fluid as it will become runny and unusable.
There could be several reasons why the masking fluid ripped the paper. Here are some of my observations and suggestions that you may consider to help you perfect this technique.
- Rule number one is that the paper has to be bone dry before applying masking fluid.
- Masking fluid ideally needs to be removed as soon as the painted section surrounding the masked area has dried completely. In my own experience, I have kept the masking fluid on the paper for two days only. If you leave it on for longer you run the risk of damaging the paper.
- Masking fluid, unfortunately does not have a very long life span. If the masking fluid is too old, it looses its ability to be peel off easily.
- If you add too much water to your masking fluid (yes, you can dilute it a bit), it may cause the fluid to soak too deeply into your paper and when you try to remove the masking, it may rip the paper.
- Some watercolor papers are too soft and can’t tolerate the strong adhesive masking fluid, which also causes the paper to rip when you remove the masking.
- Please always test your brand of masking fluid on a small scrap of paper before you apply it to the bigger sheet of watercolor paper. Some brands of masking fluid work well on some watercolor papers but can be disasterous on other brands.
The painting time differs for each subject. It also depends on the complexity of the subject as well as available time in a single day. Some paintings can take several hours and others several days. To give you an idea of how many hours I invest in each painting, see the paintings below with the time it took to paint each one of them. Painting is my passion and I rarely think about the time I spend painting, because time becomes meaningless when you love painting.
I prefer to have my paper at angle. In the past when I painted with the paper flat on the table, I had to lean forward all time, which caused unbearable back ache. Now that I paint at an angle, I have no pain.
When it comes to painting, I think nothing “should be done this way or the other”. We all have the freedom to paint exactly how we want to. If someone had told the great historical artists, that they could only paint a certain way, we would not have so many beautiful painting styles today. If you like to paint from photos, and if you feel it will help you become a better artist, please give yourself permission to do exatly that. I always take lots of photos of flower for future reference and also from different angles, so that I have several photos to choose from before the flower wilts and dies. In the end it’s not about whether you painted from life or from a photo, it’s also about whether you enjoyed what you painted. The more time you spend being happy when you paint, the more enjoyable your painting will be and of course the better you will become too, so be easy on yourself and make your own rules.
When the painting is finished and the paint is completely dry, I lay my painting, face down and dampen it gently with a little water using either a big brush or sponge. I then put another piece of paper (usually several sheets of copy paper) on top of the back of the painting and place something heavy on top like books for example, and leave it to dry overnight. In the morning the painting is completely dry and also flat.
I never pre-wet my paper. Yes, it buckles sometimes, but not too much and it doesn’t bother me. If I know that I will be using very wet layers, then I use heavier paper (640gsm/300lb).
There are three main reason why I do this:
- It helps to keep the paper flat while painting.
- A white border around looks nice and neat when a painting is finished.
- The white border can be used to attach the painting to the back of a passe-partout (mat board, with the center cut out) and that will finish it off nicely before framing.
I do not stretch or tape my paper when I paint in a botanical style as I only paint the main subject and not the background. When I paint in a floral style I will tape the watercolor paper to my artboard to keep it flat, because I also paint the background, but once again I don’t wet and stretch the paper beforehand.
Once again, there is no a particular method to paint a uniform background.
The method that works for me is to first cover my main subject with masking fluid and then paint the background. This allows me to paint freely without having to worry about accidently painting the wrong shapes. This method also works well if you want a simple, but evenly painted look.
No, I don’t draw out tonal values on a separate sheet of paper before I start a painting. I do, however, check the tonal values of my own painting, by taking a color photo and then changing the color manually to grayscale mode on my computer. If the tonal values need adjusting, I increase the contrast between white and black, so that the photo/painting looks less flat and more three dimensional.
I darken/deepen the Sap Green pigment in several ways.
- I use a little French Ultramarine to cool the sap green. If it’s too blue/cold I warm it up a little with Quinacridone Gold.
- I add a little red to warm/darken the sap green. If that is too warm or dark, I add Phthalo Green to brighten it or more Sap Green.
- I also add Perylene Green PBk31, a very dark green to the Sap Green, and adjust the temperature by adding either a little yellow or more sap green.
- You can also add a touch of Indigo or Indanthrene Blue to darken/deepen Sap Green.
Take the time to experiment with your own paints and see what works for you, it’s really a fun exercise.
The difference between a botanical style and a floral style is that the botanical style emphasizes accuracy whereas the floral style emphasizes an overal pleasing artistic style. Furthermore, painting in a botanical style is very precise and very detailed, on hot pressed (smooth) paper, with no background except the white of the paper. On the other hand, painting in a floral style has a painted background and my paper preference is to use cold press paper, which is slightly textured, or hot press if I want to add more details.
Oh, there are so many great books out there!
- My first floral painting book, that started my watercolor journey, was “Painting Flowers and Plants” by Janet Whittle. I also recommend her other book “Janet Whittle’s Watercolour Flowers”
- “Glorious Garden Flowers in Watercolour” by Susan Harrison- Tustain
- Books by Soon Y. Warren, for example “Painting Vibrant Watercolours”
- “Botanical Sketchbook” by Mary Ann Scott – so inspiring, I just love this book
- “Exotic Botanical Illustration with the Eden Project” by Rosie Martin & Meriel Thurstan
- When it comes to botanical painting, I would definitely recommend Billy Showell’s books (and everything else by Billy). Billy’s books are full of information, great explanations and beautiful paintings too. I highly recommend Billy’s latest book, “Billy Showell’s Botanical Painting in Watercolour”
- And of course Anna Mason’s book “The Modern Flower Painter”
Yes, I use white gouache. I only use it to paint the tiny white plant hairs or furry anatomy bits of the butterfly or bee. White is an opaque pigment and I never use it when mixing my other colors either. I also prefer to keep the actual white of the paper for any highlights in the painting. However, if it’s very detailed piece, I will use masking fluid if I need to keep certain areas white, rather than painting over them with white paint, which will look very opaque and loose the beautiful glowing look of transparency.
I never buy black paint as I find the actual pigment too dull. I prefer to mix a lively black using the combination of two complementary colours. My favorite combination is Perylene Green PBk31 with either Winsor Red Deep or Pyroll Crimson PR264. You could also add blue to the mix to liven it up to your taste. There are several other complimentary color versions. Try them and see what works for you.
Cold press paper is textured and I use it for less detailed and precise work, in my foral style paintings. Whereas hot press paper is very smooth and is more suited to very fine detailed work and sharp edges. It is also perfect for botanical style painting.
I use Winsor&Newton’s masking fluid. It has a yellow tinge and it’s clearly visible on the paper. Look for the masking fluid which is not colorless. There are gray, blue and yellow ones on the market. It’s better to use them because when you are painting it’s good to see where the masking fluid is applied.
I keep my brushes in a brush easle case.
Now I use Escoda Versatil brushes. I can also recommend Rosemary & Co brushes series 33 Kolinsky Sable. Rosemary is a brushmaker and her brushes are of excellent quality and affordable. Other recommended brushes like Da Vinci, Lineo and Cotman are available online from Jackson’s Art or Dickblick. In general, I think we can paint with almost any brush that is designed for watercolors and keeps a sharp point.
The floral handled brushes are my Raphael brushes, which I have decorated with floral washi tape. I wanted to differentiate the Raphael brushes from the Winsor & Newton ones, because they look very similar and they both have black handles. Now I can easily identify my favourite brushes.
For my regular paintings I use Escoda Versatil brushes (I have all even numbers from 0 to 16). I also use Winsor&Newton One Stroke flat brush (1 inch) for bigger backgrounds. Sometimes I use riggers by Cotman. If I need exceptionally sharp point for a very detailed work I use Raphael series 8408.
- One of the solutions would be to use “Blending Medium” by Winsor&Newton. This medium “Slows the drying of water colours, allowing more time for blending. Extends working time even in hot climates.”. Add a few drops to your water jar and if you don’t see the different add more until you notice the difference in the drying time.
- Another way, if you don’t have access to the blending medium, is to add a few drops of honey to your painting water.
- Glycerine is a humectant just like honey. You can use glycerine in the same way as honey.
- You can also extend the paint and water drying time by adding several drops of ox gall to your painting water. Ox gall primarily enhances the paint mixing and blending capabilities to achieve beautiful smooth washes, but it also helps to keep the paint wet a bit longer.
- Alternatively, you can adjust your way of painting to the conditions. You can make use of the fact that the layers dry quickly to paint in glazes. But I can imagine it would be hard to do with every painting and it can be frustrating, so treat it just as fun exercise.
It is advisable to keep your paints covered when not in use. Otherwise unwanted dust particles settle on the paint and eventually end up on your paper. Having darker dust particles on your paper is very, very annoying.
Yes, some of the colors do crack after they have dried, but this is normal. Cobalt Green Turquoise PG50 is one of them. Dominic, one of my YouTube followers suggested that I add 2-3 drops of vegetable glycerin to the paint before it dries in the wells. You can also use honey in the same quantity, but unfortunately honey might attract ants. Using cracked paint will not streak your paintings either, as you will be mixing the color evenly before you apply it to the paper.
In my opinion it is better to carefully choose particular colors that you like, than accept a fixed set of colors, some of which you will rarely ever use. The other disadvantage of buying a set of paints is that you will also have to pay for all the colors, regardless if you use them or not. When you take the time to choose the colors you want and need, you will be putting something of yourself into your paintings, and in the long run it will make you a more confident painter as well as saving you money.
Watercolor paints can be used straight from the tube, so there is no need to dry them out before using them. The only difference is that freshly squeezed out paint is softer to use, whereas dried out paint needs more water to activate the pigment.
“Is it a normal practice to let your tube watercolors dry on a palette?”, “I wouldn’t mind putting my tube colors into a palette (would be so much easier to manage) but the paint is expensive and I am a little afraid that I’d ruin them by letting them dry..?”, “I don’t quite understand though, why make a palette if its going to dry out??”
It is normal practise to squeeze out watercolor paint from a tube to a palette, as all dried out watercolor pigments are re-usable. Oil paints, on the other hand, are completely non usable, when dried out. Watercolor paints are very easy to activate when either left out to dry overnight or even several years later. All that is needed is just a drop of water and they are instantly ready to use again. That’s the beauty of watercolors.
I use both pans or tubes, depending on what size picture I’m painting. If I paint either something small or in a botanical style, I will choose pans, as you only need small drops of color. My light weight watercolor tin holds my assortment of carefully chosen pan colors, which has several small mixing compartments, and is suitable to use either at home or outdoors. When I choose to paint a larger size painting, I need bigger brushes and a bigger mixing area too, so I will use my paint tubes and my porcelain palette ormy bigger Mijello palette instead.
I don’t have a favourite brand of paint because all artist quality paints are made from strong pigments. My personal preference, however, is single pigmented paints. On my palette I have mostly Winsor&Newton and Daniel Smith paints.