Paint Promenade

Here’s my little watercolor warm-up from last Friday morning. I’m calling it Paint Promenade.

Paint Promenade (2)

This was a more-or-less unplanned painting, not really a painting at all, just a quick morning warm-up on a sheet of newsprint. When I began I had an idea of what I wanted to do during my warm-up. Actually, I had two specific things in mind:

  • Exploring my different sets of watercolor to see what differences were there and see if I liked some better than others
  • To play with my brushes and practice making thin, straight lines

As the warm-up exercise developed, I added a third thing to that list.

  • To leave some white on the page

My initial plan for my watercolor warm-up time was to do whatever I wanted until I’d covered an entire sheet of newsprint with paint. I changed that up a bit as I looked at what I was painting and decided that it was a good day to practice leaving a bit of white.

This painting — even if it’s a warm-up practice it’s still a painting, right? — is part of my One Hundred Day Watercolor Project. I’m enjoying the project so far, probably even more than I’d expected.

On the first day I learned all about watercolor brushes, and I was happy to share the information I found. The second day I focused on drawing materials. Yes, I’ll be doing a bit of drawing as part of the project, so I gathered up my pencils and pens. The third day I practiced sketching and was actually surprised by the results.

That brings us up to May Day, and maybe I had thoughts of colorful flowers and maypoles and parades… or maybe not. Maybe my little painting just happened on its own.

It might more properly be called “A Practice with Various Watercolors and Brushes” because those were my real intentions. For the fourth day of the project, the topic was  paints, and as I’d mentioned in a previous post, I have quite a variety.

I took out six different watercolor sets. I actually have another — my little Koi watercolor set from Sakura — but it’s still packed away somewhere with my “on the go” art supplies.

The watercolors I have range from el cheapo sets from the kids’ art section of Walmart, to artist quality M. Graham watercolors made with blackberry honey. Yummy! Would I see and feel a difference from one to the next?

In a word, yes, I did, although there were a few little surprises along the way. What I did was to line up my paint from least to most expensive, wet my brush, and start making marks across the top of the page. I chose similar colors from each set.

The first marks — upper left corner — were made with a cheap set I bought for our “kids’ craft bin”. The set has 16 pans with a good variety of colors. They’ve worked well for the grandkids. I didn’t care for them. My color was weak and watery, or maybe I just had too much water on the brush. That’s something I’ll be working on learning to control.

Crayola 24The next set — the marks are a bit more turquoise — was a surprise. The color is from another very cheap watercolor set, one that also came from the kids’ craft bin. This set is made by Crayola, sells for $5.49, and works very well.

It also includes a watercolor brush, although goodness knows what’s happened to the one that came with the set.

I’ve actually started using this set for some of my watercolor doodle bookmarks. The colors are rich and vibrant, even when used by a novice like me who has no idea how wet or dry the brush should be. If you have kids, grandkids, or just want to doodle without investing much in watercolors, this is the set for you. No muss, no fuss, and lots of fun.

From there I moved on to a set of Grumbacher opaque watercolors. That’s what they’re called. They’re not referred to as gouache, but as opaque watercolors, and I’m not sure if I know any difference between the terms. I do know, though, that these watercolors don’t seem all that opaque to me. Again, maybe it’s user error. Maybe I don’t know how to correctly use opaque watercolor (or watercolor of any kind). But I won the set in Grumbacher’s weekly giveaway one week once upon a time, and they’ve been my “go-to” set of watercolors whenever I’ve had the urge to mess around. Truthfully, though, I don’t really care for the paints. There are 12 colors in my set, and I’m sure a more experienced watercolorist would be quite happy with them.

From here I moved away from pans and picked up my tubes. First was an ultramarine blue from a 12-color set by Daler-Rowney. I used these paints several years ago when I was first trying to learn watercolors. They were fine at the time, but later I moved on to better-quality paints, and I can definitely tell a difference. While the reviews on Amazon are mostly favorable — for the 24-color set — the critical reviews are harsh, indeed. My advice is to buy something else. My results as I marched the paints across the page were dull and disappointing. Again, maybe I just had too much water. Or maybe these just aren’t the best paints. According to Amazon, the set is currently unavailable, so maybe it’s a moot point.

StaedtlerNext I grabbed a 24-color set of Staedtler paints. I have no idea where these paints came from or when I bought them. I was actually a bit surprised when I found them among my art supplies, but I brought them out and decided to give them a try.

When I first loaded the brush and began making marks, I saw at once that I definitely had too much water and not enough paint, so I squeezed a bit of moisture out and made a few more marks. I was pleased. I liked working with the paint.

I had so much fun with the Staedtler paints, in fact, that I just kept going all the way to the right-hand edge of the page, experimenting a bit with the brush and enjoying the results.

Then came time for the real artist watercolors, those lovely, luscious M. Graham paints that real artists use. These paints are expensive. Amazon offers a set of ten for a price of $133.49, still a bargain compared to the list price of $156.95. I did not pay this much for the paints I have. What I bought was a smaller 5-tube “landscape set” — still pricey.

MGLS

I love these paints. Who wouldn’t? They are marvelous, rich, vibrant, and oh, so luxurious on the brush. I grabbed the violet and using a big brush, I painted all the way across the page, adding a bit more water here and there, just having delightful fun watching the brilliant color promenade across the page.

My thoughts? If you’re serious about watercolor and don’t mind spending the money, definitely go with an artist quality paint, not necessarily M. Graham, but one with a reputation for quality. There are many manufacturers from which to choose.

If you still want high quality but don’t really want to invest too much, the Staedtler brand might be a good choice. I’ve also heard recommendations for Cotman Watercolors (made by Winsor & Newton).

Then, if all you really want to do is play — and especially if you’ll be playing with young ones — why not just pick up that wonderful little set by Crayola? Lots of colors. Surprisingly good quality. Cheap price, and don’t forget the brush is included!

That brought me to the end of my first paint experiment, but I still had half a page of newsprint remaining. Time now to get out my little set of brushes and see if I could make any fine lines.

On Thursday, you see, I’d attempted to paint a little scene with trees. I realized at once that I needed to practice trunks and branches. And remember how I fussed about stems on my flowers when I’ve doodled? Yep. I needed to experiment a bit and learn how to make those delicate little lines.

So, I started with my thickest, fattest brush, then one by one, I tried other brushes — still using that juicy M. Graham watercolor — and I did find a few that gave me good results. All in all, a successful learning experience.

But, wait! Why not add a bit of color to those lines and turn them into trees? I grabbed a bit of a cherry-blossom pink (this from the Crayola set) and put little blobs of color here and there. Oh, my goodness! Some of those lines and blobs actually started to look like trees! Imagine that.

Soon I had a tree-lined walk, so I grabbed a bit of a light green (this, I think was from Grumbacher) and added grass. It felt like spring. It looked like spring. The whole warm-up sheet made me happy.

I thought of adding blue for the sky but quickly thought again. I had blues and that deep violet already! Why not just leave a little white? That’s an aspect of watercolor painting that I definitely need to work on.

I smiled as I imagined taking all my watercolors out for a stroll — a promenade, if you will — down that lovely little tree-lined lane. It was a beautiful way to begin my day.

 

22 Comments

    1. Yes, this is a new habit I started when I set up my new art studio. Since I’d been away from painting during our move, I felt rusty and unsure of myself. Plus, working in a totally new studio was so different. I felt like a beginner starting over. So instead of painting with oils, I started doing “watercolor doodles”. I’m not good with watercolors, so I decided this would be a good time to learn more about them and how to use them. Several artist friends suggested doing playful “warm-up” exercises each morning. It’s a lot of fun. I can relax and just slap paint on newsprint any way I want. It really gets my painting day off to a great start. After my “warm-up” time, I can look at the projects I have going on and feel ready to start.

      As for favorite art supplies, it depends on the medium. With oils, I’ve switched over to water-soluble paints, and I’m enjoying them. For watercolors, I love my M. Graham paints, but they’re costly, so I only have a few. With graphite, I’m a fan of Tombow pencils. I love Prismacolor Premiers for colored pencil drawings, and Faber-Castel’s “Pitt” artist pens are high on my list for ink drawings. I don’t do much with pastels now, so I don’t really have a favorite there.

      Thanks so much for visiting my blog today. 🙂

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      1. yes, it is not necessary to buy every single colors available. I use watercolor and gouache. I find it amazing how we can create so many different shades from what we already have.

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      2. I’m not experienced enough to successfully mix watercolors. (I have a post about colors and my palette coming up soon.) I definitely have more paints than I need, but right now I’m focusing on learning how much water to use and how much pigment. Eventually I hope I can do more color-mixing, but I know I’m not quite ready to do it now. I’ll be checking out your watercolor videos and painting along with you. 🙂

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    1. I feel like I’m really learning a lot. I haven’t moved to “real paintings” yet, but my doodles and florals are looking better. 🙂 Next week I’m going to start working on washes. Any tips or suggestions?

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      1. Starting on Monday I am going on a VIRTUAL TRIP to visit my son and his partner on the horse farm they manage win Amish country Pa. I will be focusing on carrying a sketch book…I am sure I will be doing some washes. So pleased that you are enjoying Janet 🙂

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    1. Some of my “experiments” turn out better than I expect. Others… well, I don’t show all of my experiments LOL. Sometimes I look at what I’ve done and say “What was I thinking?” But either way, it’s a fun process, and I am learning a little more each day. For me, having fun is definitely the key. So I just play every day, and when I happen to create something I like, I smile. 🙂

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  1. Thanks for this easy to read and clear blog on paints. I am fairly new to the world of watercolour and find myself with this ‘hodge podge’ of various paints and manufacturers. I did buy Windsor Newton Series 1 Sepia. It is a lovely rich brown but very grainy so I have to be careful about mixing it with other paints.

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  2. As an experienced watercolor painter I urge you not to use watercolor on newsprint! That’s really doing things the hard way. Your abstract landscape came out very charming, but what you learn from using the wrong materials will probably have to be unlearned later — after much frustration. Good 100% cotton watercolor is expensive, but at least use a paper that’s made to work with water. Treat yourself to a small size watercolor pad (watercolor blocks are way too expensive and you really don’t need them. 140 lb Paper does not have to be stretched.) Check for sales online. Be kind to yourself…. you are amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate the suggestions. Watercolor, however, isn’t something I want to seriously pursue… just something to have fun with. Last summer I was advised by an excellent watercolor artist to “play” with the newsprint, and it was a lot of fun. I’m definitely not a watercolor artist — so I don’t take it seriously. I’ve very happy with inexpensive paper and paints. Having fun with watercolor gives me a sense of freedom and expressiveness that then carries over to my oil painting. I do have a block of Arches, and I have M. Graham watercolors… but I prefer not to use them. 🙂

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