Last weekend, I took a 2 day watercolor workshop with a local (but internationally known) artist, Lena Thynell, at the Art Alliance of Central Pennsylvania.
Lena is a wonderful teacher, explaining the importance of starting - even practicing - with the best watercolor papers and paints that one can afford. She brought samples of three papers that she recommends students to practice on and determine which type of paper one would prefer working with, depending upon the painting style (dry brush, wet washes, combinations, etc.).
My personal favorite watercolor paper is Arches #300 Rough, but also like Fabriano #300 and the new Fluid watercolor blocks. It really helps to experiment with a few good quality papers because each type offers different opportunities to achieve certain effects that the other papers don't do or do as well.
Lena went on to discuss the importance of the watercolor paints we use, as there is a marked difference in quality between the less expensive "student grade" paints as opposed to the "professional grade" of watercolor paints. Students will rarely be satisfied with the lower grade paints because they have less pigment, thus are more faded in appearance on a piece of watercolor paper. Lena also mentioned that while top quality brushes are wonderful, we can paint with any brush - although there are some major differences in both quality and style of a brush. The best brushes will have natural hair carefully held in place on the brush. The hairs will rarely come out as you are painting. The cheapest brushes are quite different, using various combinations of man-made bristles (plastics), although they can be OK if only top quality man-made bristles are used and properly attached to the handle. But when choosing watercolor supplies, it's wisest to put our money into the best paper we can afford, and the best quality paints we can afford. Good advice.
Personally, I use a combination of Windsor Newton and Daniel Smith professional watercolor paints with a very few others for specific colors they alone make (Da Vinci, Holbein, Graham & Co., and Aquarelle colors).
Then Lena demonstrated different watercolor techniques that we should explore, learn, and add to our tool chest of techniques for accomplishing precisely what we wish to do with the paint, water, and brushes on paper. Here, she is demonstrating each technique and describing what each would be useful for in our paintings.
Here is a better view of the finished techniques that were demonstrated.
Lena then demonstrated how she begins each painting with background washes to define the shapes and spaces of the painting to come. This one is a winter scene - a typical scene of rural central Pennsylvania in winter. She laid down the first washes, keeping all water and color from the one of the farm buildings and the snow drifts at the lower part of the painting. This underpainting provides the map for the artist to build the scene, step by step, until the final details are added using smaller brushes and dry brush techniques. Here she is with the completed painting.
After her initial demonstration of the background, the students were encouraged to begin their own paintings with the primary washes, reserving any whites of the paper that we wanted to remain white. Below are my beginnings and more, as they dried between each layer of paint. I was working from my own photos, although Lena brought a number of her own photos printed on office paper for us to use for inspiration.
Here are the paintings that I've working on to complete this week. They're not "professional quality" by any means, but I am satisfied they have helped me to learn some good painting practices and techniques.
It's been suggested that I cut the above painting to improve the visual effect. Have a preference for the full painting, or just the top 2/3rds of the piece? If you click on any photo, you'll have all of them enlarged to view, one at a time.
So, what do YOU think? Which format to you prefer. Thanks for reading!