My First Official Watercolour Painting

I’ve played with watercolours in the past, but it wasn’t until my Mother-in-Law requested a painting that I took it seriously. I watched YouTube videos, swooned over many watercolourists’ gorgeous Instagram feeds, and learned about washes, blooming, blending, stretching, paper characteristics…

I bought a large sheet of 140lb paper, stretched it on a giant Gatorboard, and…….. procrastinated.

Watercolours are intimidating. YouTube and Instagram were enlightening and helpful, but it doesn’t replace actual practice. My past history in the art world was in digital media and acrylics. The idea that you can’t cover up mistakes when using watercolours was scary and paralyzing – my impression is that each stroke had to be more or less, 80% correct the first time. And I’m a 80% correct the fourth time kind of artist.

Watercolour painting tools and tea!
Always tea wherever I am. : )

Dust collected on my paper, so I stored it vertically. Eventually the weight of the paper caused the staples to tear holes into itself. It was disheartening (Is the paper still considered stretched? Will it buckle now?); I put it off again.

At some point, I felt responsible because I promised my Mother-in-Law I’d do the painting. She left it open ended (it just had to be inspired by a reference photo she provided), so it was my fault that I chose watercolours. Time to suck it up.


One of the biggest things I learned from my experience with art is that when something gets intimidating, or when I feel overwhelmed, it is helpful to put aside the big picture / the end goal. Define it, sure, but don’t focus on it. Take little steps, concentrate on one small task at a time.

First I re-wetted my paper with clear water to test for buckling. I took this opportunity to add some new staples to hold it better. I had decided against butcher’s tape because I didn’t want to waste time scraping it off the Gatorboard later.

I penciled in the boundaries of the painting. I sketched in the flowers. I tried to do a variegated wash. I took little steps a couple of hours every day, until finally, I was done. : )

afrilly holding her completed watercolour flowers painting.
About 20 hours was put into this thing.

I discovered the thing that really kept me motivated (aside from enjoying how messy my workspace looked), were process shots. Every day that I sat down to paint, I took one good photo of the painting before starting. I also took timelapse videos. They were so rewarding to watch.

For a first-official-watercolour-painting painting, I’m pretty satisfied and happy with how it turned out. But I did learn a lot and identify further growth opportunities.

  • It is very difficult to paint in more earthy, subdued tones. I struggled with making the background less vibrant so that it didn’t take attention away from the flowers. I’m hoping that making a watercolour colour chart would help. : )
  • It is also difficult to paint with a low opacity. It either came out super vibrant, or just clear water. m’God D:
  • Yellow Ochre is GORGEOUS
  • Liner brushes are glorious
  • Gouache will solve my invisible white paint problem. I’ve bought a set, but haven’t tried it yet.
  • 300lb paper is expensive, but will minimize buckling and the need for stretching!
  • Two containers of water (one for washing first pass, one for washing second pass when necessary) will help keep the colours on your paper clean!
  • I HAVE to learn how to work faster!!
Close up of my watercolour flowers painting.
Close up – can you spot the bee? : )

Have you tried something new lately? How did it go?

 

afrilly

 

 

 

 

Lessons I learned while painting my first watercolour.

 

 

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22 thoughts on “My First Official Watercolour Painting

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