African Mask

African Mask

Sunday, 22 May 2011

I say "Watercolors" - you say "Water Colours"...

I love encountering examples of different spellings of the same word - just like the [toe-mah-toe] vs. [toe-may-toe] pronunciation differences. :o)

Thank you, first of all, to Sylvie for the warm welcome.

I have enjoyed browsing the posts by other members - you are all so very creative and talented!

My name is Katie, and you can visit my Etsy shop HERE. I'm a stay-at-home mother of two sweet little boys, and I have a wonderful computer-geek husband who loves spending time with his boys while I hide at my art table and paint. We are currently in the middle of adopting a little girl from Ethiopia.

My passion is painting watercolor illustrations - mostly of children, but I don't let that limit me. People frequently comment that watercolors (water colours) are so difficult to work with. I really don't think so - once you have developed a method.

I used to work mostly in acrylic paint, but then I had kids, and there was the huge green acrylic paint stain on my livingroom rug -incident, courtesy of my son trying to paint a yellow balloon green with my paint. Water coloring has the advantage that you can do it virtually anywhere, can interrupt your project at any time (without having to worry about drying out and ruining your paint brushes, or wasting paint), and clean-up is quick and easy!

Water coloring is so much fun, I hope everyone will at least give it a try.

If you are just starting to explore watercolors, I recommend starting with a few small ACEOs, which are 2.5"x3.5" in size. With a pencil and a ruler, draw the outlines for 3 or 4 ACEOs onto a piece of watercolor paper side-by-side with a small white edge around each. In this small size, you don't even have to worry about properly mounting the paper onto a board, you really can just use some painters tape all around the edges to affix it to a flat surface.

One of the advantages of this small size is that you are really just painting a few small doodles - you can work quickly, and actually FINISH your projects. I really hate unfinished projects - who wants to come back to a project months (or years) later, when the spark of imagination has moved on?!

Here are a few of my tricks/methods:
1.) Plan your layout. Use a hard pencil to make fine pencil lines of your subject. Don't bother about too much detail.

2.) Use a very fine, waterproof, acid free black pen to draw the outlines. Do this when you have a steady hand (NOT after a cup of coffee, or after lifting weights). You can add as much or as little detail as you like. Or, just skip this step altogether if you don't want black lines.

3.) Start with the lightest colors, and work your way up the color scale to the dark ones. Watercolor pigments can lift right off your paper and swim over onto other parts... so if you want pure colors, you want to make sure to start with light colors. Green is notorious for lifting back off.

4.) Make sure you let each color dry completely before starting the next! (Unless you are wanting your colors to swim together, which can be very attractive for backgrounds and some parts of the foreground!) I'm an impatient person, so THIS is why I paint several paintings at a time - I work on the next one while letting the other one dry.

5.) Know when to STOP. With watercolors, LESS is often MORE.

6.) Enjoy yourself, experiment (use some table salt for interesting backgrounds, let some paint flow together, explore different subjects), and HAVE FUN! There isn't really one "right way" to paint with watercolors. I'm self-taught, and learned through experimenting. There are also lots of library books and "how to" websites out there.

I like to paint things in little sets of 2, 3, or 4 paintings. The "Hair Time" paintings (my current best-seller in my Etsy shop) came into being as one of these sets.

7.) Protect your art by either spraying it with a non-yellowing fixative, and/or storing it in an acid free plastic sleeve. Make sure to sign, date, and label your art with pencil on the back. It's easy to keep track at first, but after you have painted 600+ paintings, you really can't remember when you painted something. It's also important for the purpose of collectors - they want to know when your painting was painted!

8.) Don't be afraid of failure. If you look on eBay, ACEOs of all skill levels are being sold. I don't love every single ACEO I paint. If I dislike one, I don't spray it with fixative, but wait a few weeks, and sometimes rework it, or change it completely by adding other media. I try very hard NOT to outright throw a project away. Years later, one of these imperfect projects may become your favorite.

If you want to sell your art, you can either sell the original, you can sell prints (or both). I have found that you get much better prints from taking a well-lit (daylight) photo of your painting than if you try scanning. Scanners really do not like watercolors. They don't pick up light blues and other pale colors, and they make color edges look more pronounced.

What is your favorite medium for your art? What is your favorite subject?


  1. Merica / AfrikaByDesign23 May 2011 at 23:00

    Katie, I love this post! I have painted a bit with acrylics over the years and am one of those people who think watercolors would be difficult. But now I'm tempted to give it a try. It would be hard for me to do JUST watercolor, though. Even with acrylics, I nearly always incorporate other things, whether that be fabric, hot glue, broken sand dollars, string, photos, etc. Looking forward to browsing your store!

  2. Sure watercolours are tricky - there's not much chance in changing stuff when it has gone muddy but Katie def is fabulous. Thank you for this interesting post.