It is something I became aware of during my search to paint (better) watercolors.
Every new book about watercolor I bought I look first which colors or paper my new hero is using.
and oh yes there it is… Fabrioarchi super rough paper he use!
Where is it? can I buy it? and try it to get better?
And look this other painter on Facebook have 3345 “likes” on his painting and I see on his website he makes the sky with tigereye morningblue and the shadows with Raspoutin Red Marsglow.
I bet when I buy this paper and pigments I can paint better.
Then the new book arrive or magazine, I see a amazing painter,
and he use brushes from Lapland, reindeer beard brushes.
Takes a lot of water and pigment. so that is how he makes such pretty washes! I need to buy these reindeer-beard stuff too!
Maybe I become better in washes??
Then I bought a DVD about watercolor painting, OH, look at that palette, it got 7 deep wells and a enlarged mixing area, and made of pure stainless steel and the color on the mixing area is the same as the paper you use!! 635 Dollar, Its expensive, but a good investment to paint better!
Its maybe a bit exaggerating this intro, but you all know what I mean.
Our quest to paint better, is in real a quest to paint worse,
in other words a quest with a longer road to get better.
We compare ourselves with better painters. But they have walked the long road to! They enjoyed the process. And when you enjoy what you do it shows in your work!
Original as we are we don’t copy another artists work. We don’t copy his work, lets copy his gear, then we know we have good stuff!
And it is legal!
Sure is, but it is gear this artist is used to and we don’t.
And maybe if the next artist comes in sight we change our gear again.
The point is all artist have a certain skill and talent and use paint, paper and brushes he likes. these tools became his second nature.
When he paints, he distilling the scene in his mind.
Makes a preliminary sketch or not and then make the watercolor.
His pencil flows over the paper, the washes are fluid and rich, the artist don’t have to think what to mix, his palette is cool and warm. He paint rough and soft textures, Light to dark and from large shapes to smaller details
All in a effortless motion.
I mean it not wrong, but it is like he look at the scenery and takes it to his brain-filter and he sees the watercolor in front of him!
He knows the best way to paint that particular watercolor.
We know that it is this artist filter cause we recognize the style he have.
We could say we know how his “filter” looks like.
And we want one just like that!
Of course that is what we want. Let me tell you that you can do that to, but you have to stop trying out other artists gears.
If you don’t know how you going to paint your next watercolor in your mind. What will happen on the real paper?
Okay now the (secret) solution to get better.
The number one for a good painting is paper, its the surface your watercolor will be on for long time!
Choose a good quality paper, buy something good, that is on sale maybe.
The brand is not important, as long as it is watercolor paper.
Paint a lot on that paper,make it yours, become to know every annoying or wonderful thing about this paper.
If your painting is not successful, its probably your skill on this paper that let you down, not the paper!
I use Saunders Waterford and Millford.
Number two is pigments, less important then paper but..
Buy from the brands you know that are good, it really doesn’t matter which brand. And it doesn’t matter you use different brands together.
Don’t buy a lot of colors, a beginners chest with 48 colors is in fact a nightmare for every beginning artist.
As a landscape painter you need probably 8 colors, maybe a few more but start with 8.
If you do portraits you need some special colors so you can make skin tones. I understand that. Or delicate flowers, then you need also a few more yellows and other pigments. But for a simple landscape 8 is sufficient. It brings you harmony and better watercolors that are in tune!
And yes I know landscape painters with a lot of colors in there paint box.
But they have already a good working watercolor filter, and we must work on that first.
I would recommend a Phtalo Blue, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue. Alizarin Crimson, a transparent yellow, Raw sienna, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber.
With these 8 colors you can mix everything, and they are all transparent so you can’t get mud. (Well you can, if mixing them all together!)
If you are on location, and you can’t mix a certain green, it doesn’t matter. Use the green you like most to mix. And make it your green. people get to know you about your green, it becomes your specialty this green! Or purple or whatever which color you master. make these colors yours. Get to know them, and make it work to get them in your filter!
The Dutch artist Rien Poortvliet painted his first 5 books with pigments from study quality, and these books are filled with the most wonderful watercolors.
But he made these study pigments his own, he was familiar how they behaved.
Then he received from the pigment-factory the artist quality pigments.
At first he wasn’t happy at all. The colors he used to mix, came out very different. The setting of his filter was altered! He did get used to the new pigments after awhile.
When such skilled artist loose track switching from study to artist quality with the same brand and same colors!!!
Then you can imagine what happen when you are still searching for your own filter-settings (style)
I have a lot of brushes, but if you ever saw me paint you know that I don’t use all my brushes.
I always go for the same few, cause they are familiar, and I know what I can do with them.
If I use 5 brushes in a painting that is a lot, usually I have a wash brush, a flat or a squirrel mop
A synthetic one with a nice point, a nr 8 sable and a rigger. And I use them in this order to.
Sometimes I go back to the wash brush to make a broad shadow.
But I stay with these few brushes.
Choose your brushes, and become to know what you can do with them,
Choose five brushes and paint with them so its like a extension from your hand, you become to know what you can do with these brushes, they become a part of your artist filter.
I know you need a lot of practice to paint watercolors, and its not just adjusting your gear and go. Its also your skill how to draw, see perspective and values.
When you have a photo camera, and you make every photo with a other setting, there are not lot of photos that will be good.
So you must know your settings and the photo or painting will be a lot better and easier.
The most successful artists are using just a few colors and some odd colors. (lavender or Turquoise are the ones I often see.) The artists I know are using most of the time one brand of paper, Rough or Cold Pressed.
And a few brushes, cause they know they can rely on this gear!
You recognize probably the artists from the watercolors in this article, you notice that the landscape behind the painting is different then the artists watercolor. It’s the style they have developed, and how they see this landscape. I know for sure, they can make this landscape in many ways, cause these artists are very talented. And thanks to that skill they can switch pigment, and paper and still have a good watercolor!
These artists organize workshops. And that is something I can recommend to follow such workshops. You come close to an artist mind, you see him paint, and he will explain how he does certain things and why he does that. I am sure he is not telling you that you must paint like him. But he learn you how you can organize your style and mind set in a way that you can be more successful in your paintwork. He helps you with your own filter to develop.
These are all suggestions that work for me, and maybe for you?
Think about it, maybe it will work?