New Paints and Watercolor Cityscape

After my last attempts at abstract watercolor, I decided to try something different. It has been a while since I watched CeeCee painting one of her watercolor cityscapes. With what I  remembered, I decided to try my own simplified version of a cityscape with my new Koi water color set.

Supplies:

  • Koi Water Colors Pocket Field Sketch Box
  • 4 1/2″ x 6″ Artist Loft Watercolor paper 140 lb/ 300 g/m
  • blue painters tape
  • hardboard

Let me tell you. I don’t know if changing from my Prang watercolor set to the Koi water color set made a difference or if trying out a new set just put me in a different frame of mind. All I know is this. I felt completely different while working on this simple painting than I have in any other watercolor painting I have done. Trying to create a watercolor painting on my own without following any instructions always ended up with me feeling frustrated. Not this time. But before I get into that let me go back a bit.

A couple weeks ago I started looking into upgrading to better watercolor paint. Because I am on a tight budget, I wanted the most economical set at least at the next level up in quality. I wasn’t sure if I wanted pans or tubes, so I started comparing prices. I checked locally, as well as, online and after a lot of research I finally settled on the Koi water color pocket field sketch box. I felt it gave me the best options for my money.  I also heard Lindsay Weirich say good things about Koi so I felt it would be a good investment. She wasn’t wrong.

I did a quick swatch of my colors in the set so I could identify which colors I wanted to use in my painting. It is hard to tell for sure what the colors are by just looking at the paint in the pans, so creating a swatch was beneficial.

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I didn’t mix any paint. I used the paint just as it came from the pans using the water brush that came with the set. I didn’t really mix any of the paint on my paper either except where it accidentally touched another color while it was still wet, which happened on one or two of the trees. I did add a second color of green to the trees and to the bushes and grass.

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First, I want to say how easy it was to pick up the paint. All I did was let a drop of water drip onto the paint in the pan and sometimes I wouldn’t wait at all before dipping my brush into the paint. I didn’t have to wait for the paint to soak up the water in order for me to lift any paint onto the brush.

Second, I barely had to touch the paint in order to get enough to paint with, not even for the buildings. I knew Lindsay said these paints would go a long way but it was hard to reconcile that in my mind when I saw how tiny the pans are. After trying them just this one time, I know what she said is true. I will, however, have to recondition my mind to not think that I’m wasting paint when I clean my water brush on a paper towel when I want to change colors. Although I bought the paint set on Amazon when it was on sale, it was still more than I have ever paid for a set of water color paint. From what I have experienced so far, I think the set is worth the money I paid for it.

I will admit that switching from a cheap watercolor set to one that cost more and is higher quality paint created a different mindset for me when I sat down to paint. Because I felt the paint was more precious, I was very careful. I started out by picking up a small amount of paint, as small as I could to see what the results would be and was astonished to discover how fantastic the tiniest amount of paint spread across my paper.

I’ve used water brushes before so that wasn’t new to me. It worked very well for me on the watercolor paper, with picking up the paint, and also for dripping a small drop of water into the paint in the pan to get it wet. I learned quickly to wipe the excess water off the brush before picking up the paint or I would have a puddle of water on my paper. However, from watching CeeCee and Lindsay, I learned how to dab up the excess water off the paper with the brush and the brush did this rather well too.

This really is my first landscape watercolor painting. It is also the first watercolor painting where I left a lot of paper untouched. In all my other paintings when using the cheaper watercolors, I felt I needed to cover the whole surface, but not this time. Before I started to paint, I did tape my paper down using blue painter’s tape because I wasn’t sure how wet I would end up making the paper. In the end, I probably didn’t need to tape it down but I’m glad I did because I love the crisp white edge around the painting.

I knew a better quality of paint would be a bit different to paint with. I just didn’t know how it would also bring my artist’s mind into a different level as well. Is it because I know the paint is better quality or is it because the artist in me responds to how differently the paint reacts? Probably a bit of both, but I suspect more of the latter. If it is the latter, then I don’t want to think about what it might mean for those who cannot afford the higher quality supplies. If I can’t continue to buy Koi or watercolors of similar quality, will increasing my skill as a painter suffer? I hope not.

I do know this. It will be difficult to go back to Prang, at least for a while. I want to practice more with Koi to see what I can do. Then maybe I’ll go back to Prang to see if what I learned with the Koi set alters the way I use my Prang set.

 

Loving Watercolor

Watercolor is quickly becoming my favorite of all paints to work with. I don’t know how to express the joy I feel every time I work with it. Today was no different.

Most of my watercolor experience has been only recently in the past year. It started with just playing around with watercolor pencils a year ago when I discovered bullet journals. I decided to use watercolor pencils to decorate my pages. I knew absolutely nothing at that time about how to work with watercolor pencils, let alone watercolor paint.

I came across videos on YouTube but my general interest at the time was mixed media, so I was hopping around all over the place watching videos on all different types of mediums. I think the only medium I haven’t touched is oil paints. Some day I might but not right now. I have too many types of mediums I want to perfect my skills within.

I think when I was a teenager watercolor terrified me. I think this because when I returned to studying art, in the past year or so, watercolor was the last thing I considered pursuing other than just simply playing around with it. I never thought I would pursue it as a medium I would desire for any serious art.

Isn’t that how it works sometimes? The things we least desire or think we have the remotest chance of being even close to good at, ends up being that one thing that makes our hearts soar and our souls sing. This is what I’m finding with watercolor.

About a year ago, I purchased 21 Secrets “Tools and Techniques” course. One of it’s lessons is by Jodi Ohl, called Flowing Facial Features. I have probably put off doing this lesson for at least three months if not more. Guess the medium yet? The word ‘flow’ should give you an indication. If you guessed, watercolor, you would be correct.

I studied her videos, watching them in their entirety probably three if not four times before I attempted just one facial feature study. Why did I wait so long? Trepidation for one. My inner critic for another. My perfectionist personality for another. I knew very little about watercolor. I didn’t even know what it meant by stretch the watercolor paper, or how to tape down watercolor paper properly. I tried one time with some painters tape but the tape ended up releasing from all the soaking in the water.

I finally found a video on how to properly prepare for doing a watercolor painting, thanks to Lindsay Weirich’s YouTube video. She has a wordpress blog too.  She does live streams on YouTube, which I try to catch as often as I can.  I don’t know how many videos of hers I have watched before I felt confident enough to try my first facial feature study.

Here it is:

Flowing Facial Features study 1

I had a couple issues, that involved retaining the white spaces, especially the white highlights in the eye. My paint ended up bleeding into the space I had reserved for the highlight so when I finished with the watercolor paints, I used colored pencil to bring out the highlight more. White for the highlight and some black around the highlight and pupil to bring it out more.

I also, over worked the eyelashes but once overworked I couldn’t undo it, so I used some black colored pencil to try and bring forward some eyelashes hoping the rest might look like shadows or would recede enough to not distract. Lesson learned though for the next eye on my facial studies.

I have three more sketches I did for the facial feature studies. Another eye with a partial nose, a nose with a partial eye, and the lips. In the end, I hope they will create a full face when tiled together.

What I learned while working on this piece was even if it looks like the color is too dark when I apply it to paper, it isn’t the end of the world. I can lift some of it up to lighten it. Something I’m learning to do without scrubbing and pilling the paper. After working with acrylics it is sometimes hard to remember to not apply pressure when doing a slight bit of scrubbing.

I love that Jodi Ohl recommended focusing on one facial feature. It took the pressure off of trying to paint a full face. I need to take this approach in other things like drawing. I become overwhelmed when I consider creating a large piece, even if it is just a face with all its features. It can be rather daunting.

I used to think watercolors were unforgiving and difficult to keep some semblance of control over. That is the perfectionist within me wanting everything to come out perfectly. She doesn’t believe that something that will bleed and move around on its own could end up in all the right places creating a beautiful piece of art. I’m working on proving her wrong. I think I made a beautiful start at it today.

Feel free to leave a comment if you feel moved to do so.

~Patti