Why is watercolour so magical?
Watercolour seems to have a reputation for being particularly difficult, I am not sure why since ANY medium has its challenges (for instance I find acrylic to be incredibly unforgiving as a medium, it dries WAY too fast) but I think this is one of the most exciting and fun mediums because you can take it anywhere in a compact form, it isn't toxic, it doesn't smell and all you need is water from the tap (or a river if you're out in the wild!). You also don't have to worry about it drying out in the palette as you can also rewet it.
The first time I used watercolour was when I was pretty small (sharing this pic below again as it is one of the only examples of me painting when I was younger!). I don't ever remember being told HOW to use it but the bit of advice I have always remembered is 'paint light to dark' - so if you are unfamiliar with what this means, when you lay down colour with watercolour, you can't paint over a darker colour with a lighter one. (Unlike with oils or acrylics and gouache where you are able to do this).
This means you have to leave all the areas which you want light without going over them with paint at the start of the painting, using the white of the paper for bright highlights. This can be achieved with masking fluids or just very careful painting! It can definitely be hard to get used to painting like this, especially coming from oils, acrylics or digital, and 'purist' watercolourists (I am definitely not one of those) will NEVER use white paint for highlights or similar at the end of the painting process. I try to be as strict as possible with the light to dark rule but I will nearly always use dots of white gouache or Dr. PH Martins 'Bleedproof white' for highlights, like the light you see on the dragon's body above. I will also sometimes use gouache if I have to 'fix' any parts of the painting where I might have got something wrong!
For me, using this medium has slowed me down and made me more patient. I have so much more patience for building up the layers to the saturation or value that I want, that previously I was able to do with a couple of clicks in a digital painting program. I am learning SO much by sticking with one medium and I can't wait to see what I'm able to do in another 3 years as I have been able to develop techniques that I was not able to master 3 years ago.
Another thing which is completely unlike any other medium, is that you can't make an exact copy. I could not copy any painting I have done exactly as I did it the first time round because of the random nature of the way the paint dries on the paper (especially if you are painting using wet-in-wet techniques which I do). This gives it an even more precious quality to me.
I highly recommend anyone who has been toying with the idea of trying watercolour to go ahead and do it! You don't need loads of different colours and you can find some very cheap palettes online these days. If you want to see what I use then check out my previous blog post about my favourite tools.
I have plans to make a blog post on the techniques I use to create the effects I do in my paintings, keep an eye out!