Friday, November 17, 2023

Watercolor Mini Landscapes

After learning a few basic watercolor painting techniques, it's time to dive right in and paint a few little landscapes!

That's right. Even if you've never painted before, you can paint a few of these simple little half-page landscapes with just a few basic supplies and your w/c technique resource sheets. 

Each completed mini landscape will show improvement as you practice various w/c techniques and which ones to use when.
Here's what you'll need:

Basic 8-color set of pan watercolors (16 or more colors will work, but I use the basic 8 to encourage color mixing) - we like Prang for bright, bold color!

An additional watercolor palette (optional)

9" x 12" watercolor paper, 90 lb (student grade) 

Soft, natural hair watercolor brushes, various sizes, both flats and rounds

Container of water and paper towels

A watercolor board (ours are plywood) and making tape

A #2 pencil 

Stack of old calendars featuring landscape photos

Small table easel

Your Watercolor Techniques resource sheets

Adjustable viewfinder (you can make one with a piece of cardstock and two paper clips), optional

Scissors (and a paper cutter if you have one)

To start, you will first want to create your viewfinder. Simply cut a piece of cardstock or heavy paper into two "L" shapes. You may be able to make three or even four "L's" out of one sheet of paper. You don't need to measure them. If sides are longer or shorter than others you will be able to adjust them to the size you need to frame a small portion of a picture for your painting. 

Which brings us to the next step. Sift through your stack of landscape photos and choose one that you really like. Whoa! That's a lot of detail for a beginner like me, you're saying. I hear you. That's what the viewfinder is for. You will choose just one small portion of the picture to paint within the small format of a half sheet of paper. 

You can do it!

Find a section of the photo that you particularly like and adjust two sections of the viewfinder to frame it using a couple of paper clips making sure the shape is similar to a half sheet of watercolor paper (as shown in the photo). Fold the calendar in half and place it on your easel with the viewfinder in place. 

Cut a piece of watercolor paper in half and tape it to your watercolor board. Place your watercolors, water, brushes, and paper towels on the table. 

Carefully observe your photo resource and, on your watercolor paper, lightly pencil in the basic shapes. Determine what w/c techniques you will use to paint the scene. Remember to simplify - simplify - simplify. For more about how to paint these mini-landscapes, see our previous weblog post, Tiny Landscapes.

This artist found three completely different scenes to paint in one calendar picture. Two of them were painted very similarly to the original scenes. The artist decided to make some changes to the third scene by removing the mountain in the background and adding a night sky. As artists we have total control over our artwork - we can change whatever we like. Remember, the photo is simply a resource, an idea generator. Ultimately, you will paint something that is uniquely yours!  Have fun!

Clink here for a printable Tiny Landscapes in Watercolor pdf handout.

Friday, November 03, 2023

Watercolor Basics

Our new Art Class for Grownups decided, as a group, to dabble in watercolor. Their goal was to learn enough watercolor basics for a few experimental paintings,  eventually leading to some successful works of art.

Watercolors are a simple, yet complex medium.  Unlike acrylic or oil paints, our earliest painting experience often begins with a set of pan watercolors. We quickly learn to moisten the paint with the accompanying brush and paint the colors all over the page. Just about every child has created a wrinkled watercolor painting of a house, a tree, and a smiling sun. Watercolor is a simple, uninhibited, satisfying medium for young artists. 

So it's no surprise that older artists are often surprised to learn how versatile watercolors can be! I have found that creating watercolor Technique Sheets is a great way to experiment with watercolor. The best way to do this is to divide a sheet of 9" x 12" 90 lb. student grade watercolor paper into eight sections on a watercolor board using masking tape. We use narrow masking tape that extends beyond the paper edges onto the board (to hold it down). Then a different watercolor technique is used to fill in each section. I demonstrate each as we go, until students learn to experiment and create their own. 

Once a Technique Sheet is completed and dried, the technique name(s) can be printed, cut out, and glued to each appropriate section and another sheet started. These sheets can then be saved and used as references for future watercolor painting projects. 

You can download our label sheet to use for your own Watercolor Technique sheets. Note that artists can pick and choose the techniques they want to try, and may use more than one in a given section - such as dry brush and sketching or flat wash and bloom (which often happens simultaneously). 

Click on the image below for a printable version. Then you can make your own Watercolor Technique Sheets!