Watercolor Basics Playlist Guide

I’m often asked by beginners if I have any order or steps to viewing my videos. Well, not really. I started my channel as a way to post random tips and techniques and its a scatter shot approach. But now, almost 2 years later, I have enough videos that I can kind of direct you to the basics, at least in a more useful way. YouTube Playlists make this easier. So i’ve gone back and rearranged one of my first ever playlists in an order that might be helpful for first time watercolorists. Its not comprehensive mind you, so may not teach you everything you need to learn from start to finish, but it definitely has plenty to get you moving and I hope you beginners (or anyone wishing to review) find it helpful.

Here is a synopsis of the episodes, numbered as they appear in the playlist.

Materials

1-5: These 4 videos deal with picking your basic supplies. What you need to know, useful tips and even my own personal favorites as you gear up to paint.

Control

6-10: I call these the “control” videos because they teach you basic control of the medium, how to spread, apply and blend watercolor paint. The techniques in these 5 videos will make up the mainstay of what you need to know and practice to paint with confidence.

Misc. Techniques

11-15: 4 videos on other miscellaneous but important techniques to learn in your painting development. Here the videos get a little more random and far from being all inclusive. This section will hopefully expand as time goes on.

Brushes

16-19: These 4 videos demonstrate features of specific brushes that might be helpful in deciding what brushes to buy and use.

Color

20-23: 4 videos dealing with colors and color mixing. I’m just getting started on this section of videos, so look to see this part of the list expand in the future.

Inspiration and Motivation

24-26: 3 pep-talk videos to inspire, motivate and get your artistic enthusiasm moving forward. These were produced very randomly, so more may surface in the future as I think of them.

If you think of other videos on topics you would like to see covered that might fit well in this beginner’s playlist, I’m open to suggestions. I will open the comment section in this post below so feel free to leave suggestions.

26 Video “Basics” Playlist

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Sketching Fail? Yes and No!

If you saw the video in this post, my remarks beg a simple question – “Did I fail?” Well, for me the answer is yes and no. Many who commented on YouTube were gracious and said they thought the building sketch turned out great. And while I appreciate that, there is a deeper teaching moment here. If you’ve watched my other videos, you’ve heard me say it before. “Embrace failure as a teacher.”

Was the Sketch Good?

This is a different question than, “Did I fail?”  Ask 10 people differing in skill from master to beginner and you’ll get 10 different answers. Its really far from the point of failure or success. So… what am I saying? What is my teaching moment? I thought you’d never ask.

Set Goals and Reach High

When you’re learning (and that includes 100% of us), study other artist’s work. Reach for ambitious standards. As you do, you will quite often say with me, “this was a failure”. Get comfortable with it. You’ll say this a lot if you’re learning. And others may never understand what failed. So be it.

Set Failure on it’s Ear

Once you’ve come to terms with the failures, its time to redefine your work. This takes some analysis. As a beginner, you may not even know how to fix what you’d like to fix. Keep learning everything – technique, color sense, media control, process. Bit by bit you’ll understand what you can do differently. Redefine your “fail” in instructive terms just as I did near the end of this video. It was an awesome day, with awesome weather, and an awesome subject. The bonus? I learned something and I’ll always remember what it was when I look at that sketch. I tried a process that did not work well for me. Next time I’ll try again only differently.

Will I fail again? I’m counting on it!

How to Pick Great Watercolor Paper

Watercolor loves great paper. You’ll improve your chances of getting good results by buying top quality paper from the beginning. Its a myth that beginners need to use cheap or student grade papers for practice. Use and practice with the best. Choose reputable name brands, 100% cotton, acid free, handmade or mould made papers and you can’t go wrong. Experienced artists will often paint on surfaces other than watercolor paper, but if you are a beginner, its best to stick with actual watercolor paper until you gain more confidence. Other surfaces can act more unpredictably.

Here are a few of the best and most popular top grade papers available. (others may exist)

Arches
Arches Video

Canson — Moulin Du Roy

Strathmore — 500 Series

St. Cuthberts Mill — Bockingford & Saunders Waterford

Fabriano – Artistico
Fabriano Video

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Subscribe to my YouTube Channel

Video Introduction to the Mind of Watercolor Series

The Mind of Watercolor Web Page

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Lightfastness – New Mediums, Old Problem

Distress_markers

The explosion in new, and sometimes awesomely cool, paper-crafting supplies got me to thinking recently.

Manufacturers have apparently responded to a huge rise in interest with a steady stream of “cool stuff” for the paper-crafting big three – card making, scrapbooking and journaling; including new markers, inks, dyes, powders, mists, etc., etc. Any self respecting fine art painter (an area, I might add, where new things don’t come a long nearly as often) would be crazy not to occasionally cast a sideways glance at the craft market and say, “hmm, wonder what I could do with that in my painting?” Multimedia artists (some of which are also journalers) especially would seem to benefit. But wait, not so fast… or maybe I should say, not so LIGHT fast.

Chasing the Fugitive

 

Scrapbook and journaling suppliers in particular seem to have responded well to the archival needs involved. Acid free papers, adhesives and mediums abound but there is still a big gulf where fugitive colors are concerned. Paper crafters have the luxury of not needing to worry about this much. Exhibiting art and prolonged light exposure is likely low on their “caution” priority list. But with so many new alluring dye-based mediums surfacing, any artist hoping to hang or exhibit work needs to be very careful of the mediums they incorporate. Dye-base mediums are the absolute worst in terms of fugitive colors. Pigmented mediums in the craft market exist but there aren’t nearly so many as you might think. Many illustrators fluent in using Copic or Prismacolor markers are not new to the concern over dye-based mediums, even experienced studio and gallery artists may tell you first hand, its no fun to see your precious artwork vanish before your very eyes after hanging on a well-lit wall for a few years.

Without doing a ton of research (for which I have no time), I thought maybe it better to just point you to some good reads where the work has already been done, by people who know where of they speak. Yeah, I’m just lazy that way. So, if your art will ever be displayed, read on and think carefully (think pigmented and archival) before you go including that cool new set of watercolor markers, powders or sprays in your next painting.

Indepth Article on Lightfastness in Art Mediums

Good Basic Overview of the “Marker” Problem

Copic Q&A

Doing a Simple Lightfastness Test

Six-Part series by James Gurney

Lightfastness: Part 1 of 6

Lightfastness: Markers

Lightfastness and Dyes

Lightfastness in Pencils, Watercolors, and Oils

Lightfastness and Alizaring Crimson

Lightfastness: Final Thoughts

The Muster

Inspiration from Walnut Grove Plantation

One of my favorite re-enactment events in the Upstate, SC area is Festifall at Walnut Grove Plantation. To see more of this event I have a post with pictures here.

Many of the photos I take at these events eventually become reference for paintings. Here is one of my latest watercolor paintings entitled “The Muster” using reference from the Walnut Grove event. Enjoy.

The Muster

Roosevelt and Churchill watercolor

A Portrait of Two Leaders

Roosevelt and Churchill watercolor

A recent watercolor I did. This reflects several elements I wanted to play around with. First of all, I love to illustrate historical subjects and historical figures. My reference was a black and white photo taken of Roosevelt and Churchill at a summit meeting near the end of World War II. In this case I wasn’t fussy about likenesses. I focused more on technique and style. I wanted to reinterpret the scene in color but with a very limited pallet. I really love this approach and will definitely do more work from a limited pallet.

Watercolor Board

This was also my first time using Arches watercolor board. I’ve always been a fan of their watercolor paper but I absolutely loved this board. It’s essentially board-mounted Arches hot press watercolor paper. Some watercolor boards I’ve used have been worthless in that workability was a problem after a bit of scrubbing, lifting or heavy washing rendered parts of the surface practically useless. I haven’t fully tested the limits of the board yet and it will probably not have the working durability of say 300lb. paper but nevertheless I am duly impressed. It will most likely be a staple for me in the future.

Backwoods Militiaman: The Finished Painting

I can’t believe I only just got around to finishing this 2 years later. I don’t know why I waited so long. Although I fought against the paper a bit, I really enjoyed painting it. I used Canson watercolor paper from a block and I was wishing the entire time I had used Arches instead, ANY Arches. The Canson is a decent paper but doesn’t stand up as well to the heavy wet washes and the lifting I ended up doing. But its done now and I hope you enjoy it.

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