The Benefits of Painting in Watercolor

By Charles Hopkins Published 07/6/2006 | Arts and Culture
Watercolor is one of the most challenging and unpredictable mediums of all. It will lead you on an exciting journey of discovery as you teeter back and forth between mastery and complete lack of control of your masterpiece. Some might wonder why anyone would bother using watercolor because of the way it bleeds and streaks and makes the paper buckle, yet others such as Winslow Homer, can create such a glorious masterpiece in spite of the problems we see there must be a way to control or minimize these disadvantages, or at least learn to work through them.

A major benefit of painting in watercolor is that it dries quickly, unlike oils. You dont have to wait for days for the background to dry before adding anything else. It is cleaner too, because you can wash up with water and the color wont stain clothing. Add to that its portability you can take all your bits and pieces outside to paint or to another room and there isnt such a load that you have to make two trips, and we can see why watercolor is so popular.

Watercolor is a medium that is not too expensive, nor is it hard to learn. Learn four basic techniques and you can actually start to paint a reasonable picture. These are:

The wash. Use any brush, load it with lots of water and some pigment and smooth it onto the paper. The trick is in varying the amount of paint to water to get different effects.

Opaque. This is the opposite of the wash. Here we have lots of paint and a small amount of water to create the detail of the picture.

Erasing. Use plain water and carefully take out the unwanted color. Dont rub too hard or your paper will peel.

Tinting. Wait until your wash is dry, and then go over the color with another to warm or cool it.

If you want an area of white in your painting, you might need to rub the area with candle wax to prevent any color seeping into it. If the unthinkable happens and you are unable to remove the color to the degree you need without spoiling your paper, wait until it is dry, then shave the color off with a razor blade. You can also get white-tipped pens of various kinds to make fine white lines.

The American Watercolor Society now allows all aqua media, excluding only collage and pastel, which gives great freedom of technique and material to the artist.