Not Just Another Doodle

Doodling with watercolor and ink has been fun. Lots of fun. It’s also given me an opportunity to learn a little more about watercolors — how to use them, and how not to use them. Sometimes it seems I’m learning more of the latter than the former.

Watercolors are tricky, especially in comparison to oils. I recently read an article written by another watercolor novice. She lamented that “oil paints stay where I put them; watercolors don’t!” Oh, I can identify!

At the same time, it’s the simple fact that watercolors don’t stay where we put them that makes them so beautiful, so fascinating, so unpredictable.

In the last couple of weeks since I started playing with watercolors, I’ve made every possible mistake. I don’t know how much water to use. I don’t know how much paint to squeeze out onto my palette. Should I wet my paper? How wet is too wet?

I face each of these questions every time I come into the studio to play with my watercolors.

Mixing colors has proved to be far beyond my abilities. So much to think about! I’ve gone through my paints color by color, looking at all the different reds, the various blues, the greens, the yellows, the earth tones. I spent one afternoon putting reds and yellows together to come up with lots of oranges, but how do I really know how much of each color to use? I doubt that I could ever exactly duplicate any of the oranges I made.

So, I’ve doodled, I’ve drawn, I’ve practiced, and I’ve played. And now, today, I’ve actually painted. I’m pleased with this Spring Florals painting. It’s small, and it’s simple. I like it. I think it’s quite lovely.

Watercolor Floral (2)
Spring Floral – Watercolor

I’m getting a little better on my stems. I’m keeping my flowers light and loose. Maybe I’m learning a bit about how to use these paints that don’t stay where we put them. I was happy that today I had something more to show than just another watercolor doodle. I hope you like it!



    1. Thanks. That means a lot to me today. πŸ™‚ It hasn’t been a great morning for watercolor painting, so I’m feeling a bit frustrated. Your kind words are making me feel so much better. πŸ™‚

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  1. They are not mistakes Judith, that is what painting with watercolour is like, one huge on-going experiment. Now, if you want control over watercolour, then use very little water indeed and never do wet in wet, but why on earth would you want to miss out on the fabulous beauty you can help create by not using water? You are only ever the assistant in the creation. Watercolour is like a cat, you never quite own them. I have painted with a pool of water on the paper, it dried glorious. Look at Lena Gemzoe (if I remember that right), that is a lot of water, but look at what beauty. The colours are at their best if they can float around in LOTS of water. But of course, you can’t be a control freak with that, you have to go with the flow. But paint also will only move where there is water, important one that is. Very often it doesn’t work, 75-90% for an experienced painter doesn’t work out. As to the palette, just leave the colours on and use them next time around. Please don’t wash your palette, total waste of paint. My little wells get filled to the brim with pigment, some brands and colours need a little spray of water before you start painting but the honey based ones are ready to go. I seldom even swish out my mixing wells, I use these mixing wells less and less anyway. I find that too much paint gets wasted in the water pot if I use fresh pigment, although if you work VERY big you’d be better off with fresh pigment, it would take too long to create the washes. But I have done 1/2imp size with the ‘dried out’ pigment in my palette. And as to colours, just use what you like, what colours make you go ‘oooooooooooh like that!’, you’re sensible enough to know that you need a yellow, red and blue. Take what you like and get to know them really well, no need for little squares, use them, again and again and again, and after a while you may feel you need something else. Enjoy the not knowing, I for myself hope I never ever will get to the point where the painting is so predictable I no longer get surprised and frustrated and everything in between, every single time, always that waiting, will it work?

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    1. It’s definitely an experiment LOL. I think part of my problems come from the fact that I’m working on my easel, which is tilted — probably at a greater angle that is appropriate for watercolor. I’ll have to try lowering it a bit or set up a separate easel for watercolor work. I don’t only get puddles, you see, I get watercolor/water running down the page, and that leads to a big mess. On the other hand, if it’s not running down the page, it’s too dry and I can’t get the beautiful effects I want. My project today — which I’ll be posting about later in the week — was a good example. But whenever I run into problems, I do end up with a better understanding of what I should be doing. Watch for a post titled “What Went Wrong?”, and you’ll see the problems I have between wet paper/dry paper, too much water/not enough water, and other things! I appreciate all your advice and suggestions. I did pick up a spray bottle to use to wet my watercolors, and BTW, I spent a lot of time last night washing all my palettes, really scrubbing all the old paint out LOL. I guess I didn’t need to do that. I am still doing a bit of color-mixing in my wells, and again, you’ll see the results in the “What Went Wrong?” post. I have had a few little successes along the way. As you said, it’s always an experiment. I never know how a watercolor is going to turn out!

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  2. Lovely! I’ve been trying to learn watercolor and gouache for about a year, and sometimes I think, “Whoa! I can’t believe I painted that!”, and other times I’m thinking that the paints and I can not be friends πŸ˜‚. But I agree with @motorhomestudio that it’s definitely an ongoing experiment. And even better? It’s an ongoing adventure!

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    1. Definitely an experiment, and always an adventure. This morning’s watercolor time was a bit of a disaster (you’ll see the result in a post titled “What Went Wrong?” later in the week.) I have little successes here and there, but there’s a lot of frustration, too, at times. The most important thing for me is to never take myself and watercolor too seriously! I have to be able to have fun with it, so I’ll keep doing lots of little doodles!

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    1. We have irises blooming now, and I think that’s part of my inspiration. Even though these flowers aren’t anything like irises, I’ve just been in a “floral” state of mind. Our peonies are about to burst into bloom, too.

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    1. Thanks. I think I’ll always have a love/hate relationship with watercolors. Some days I feel I’m making progress and the next day I seem to take several steps back. My results are wildly inconsistent to say the least LOL. The only real goal I can shoot for is to have fun with my paints.

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  3. Hi Judith, Thanks for visiting my blog. I’ve just read this post of yours about watercolors and I can relate! They’re fun but also unpredictable and all you said about how much water– I’ve been there. I think your spring floral turned out beautifully. I love the blues and yellows!


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