Soon after I began learning to draw, I discovered online art tutorials. Not long afterward, I learned that some tutorials are better than others, and quite frankly, some instructors are better than others.
Over the last few years, I’ve watched a lot of art demonstrations. At times, I’ve become so frustrated that I’ve wiped away all I was doing, shut off the video, and moved on to a different project. Rarely have my “finished painting” results come anywhere close to the artist’s illustrations. As often as not, though, that’s my fault, not an indication of the instructor’s teaching abilities.
And, let’s be honest here about teaching. It’s not easy. Some artists are good at explaining techniques; others… not so much. Today I want to highlight an excellent online instructor and share a few thoughts about why her watercolor workshop was such a pleasure.
Her name is Trupti Karjinni. She has her own company, Blue Pine Arts, and is also associated with Princeton Brushes. She loves nature, so maybe that’s one of the reasons why I connected with her and her paintings.
I was introduced to Karjinni through the recent Sketchbook Revival event. She hosted an hour-long workshop on painting a summer landscape in watercolor.
I’m not good with watercolor, and I’ll admit I shook my head doubtfully when I saw the reference photo she provided for the workshop. Oh, well. “Give it a try,” I told myself, and I’m glad I did.
Unlike most of the other online instructors whose workshops I’ve attended or whose video tutorials I’ve watched, she didn’t immediately jump in to the project expecting us to simply follow along as she completed her painting.
Instead, she began by taking us step-by-step through the different watercolor techniques that we would be using. Yes! This is exactly the sort of information I needed. This was exactly the right approach for me.
Even better, she not only demonstrated the right techniques, she also showed us the wrong techniques so that we could see the difference and learn what to do and what not to do. Oh, my goodness! How very helpful this was.
We practiced on a separate sheet of paper, doing the different techniques:
- Wet on dry
- Wet on wet
- Dry brush
And as we learned each technique, we “practiced” painting different areas of the reference photo.
I know you can’t read any of my hand-written notes, but you can see some of the practice exercises we did.
We painted a “practice” sky and clouds. I stared at my paper in amazement! I’ve always wanted to paint clouds in the sky with watercolor, but I never really knew how. We put down color swatches. We did a “practice” area for the foreground landscape using the dry brush technique we’d learned.
We practiced the distant trees, too, and as I practiced, my confidence grew. She made it all so simple. I knew I could take what I was learning from her and apply it to the final painting.
She showed us, too, how to tape off the page in our sketchbook, and she assured us that whatever we created would be beautiful. I believed her. I was impressed by her method of teaching, and as I worked on my painting, I was impressed, too, by the skies, the clouds, the distant trees, and the grassy foreground.
I was impressed with everything — except that sad-looking tree she suggested we add to the scene. That tree, you’ll notice, was the one element of the painting that we didn’t practice in advance. There’s a definite lesson to be learned there, I think.
Overall, I was pleased with this simple painting, and maybe the next one will be better. I’ll practice watercolor trees, and I’ll improve.
Ms. Karjinni also shared a lot of good tips for watercolor:
- Always make a swatch of your colors so you’ll see how they look together
- Always have clean water — you never want to paint with dirty water
- When you’re mixing colors, test the result out on a piece of scrap paper before you use it
- Use the highest-quality watercolor paper you can
She made great suggestions, too, on how to create the shadows on our clouds, and how to work with several variations of a color to give additional interest to areas such as our foreground.
A simple painting with simple, straightforward instructions. That’s what this workshop was. By demonstrating each separate technique and allowing us an opportunity to practice before we began the actual painting, Ms. Karjinni helped us succeed. And, as an additional encouragement, she assured us that it’s all right if something doesn’t come out quite right. That’s the charm of art, and we have many more summer landscapes we can paint.
So, I’ll forgive myself for that tree.