It doesn’t matter what medium you paint in, backgrounds are always the trickiest thing for the beginning artist. I more or less have a grip on painting acrylic backgrounds, but watercolor is a challenge for me. Have I told you how much I love youtube? I love it because you can learn so much from established artists. I found two videos that demonstrated two different ways of putting in a background.
Here is the reference photo from the watercolor class I attended earlier this year.
We were meant to choose a photo and paint the image as homework. I never got around to doing it until now. I chose it because of the colors and I thought these flowers would be easy to paint! Right! Here is the first one I painted.
Anemone-Watercolor on Paper-A4
I modified my sketch to show complete flowers. In this painting, the whole paper was wet. Then I painted in the colors of the flowers and leaves and let them run, and added other colors. I tried to keep the color scheme similar to the photograph. Then I added salt. I love salt. It makes very cool patterns and you have no control over it, which is totally against any control issues I may have. After everything dried, much lighter of course, I was able to paint the flowers and leaves. This was challenging for me as I had a hard time getting the tones in the petals right, but I persevered. I think it is OK.
Anemone-Watercolor on Paper-A4
For the next painting, I decided to just paint one large flower. I liked the shape of this one. The paper was made wet all around the flower only. I used some bolder colors and added salt, particularly around the leaves to suggest that lacy shape that Anemone flowers have. I painted the flower while the background was still wet, hence the white lines. When everything was dry, I finished off the petals and only touched up the background a little bit. I am much happier with this than the first one. I suppose it is because I had a bit more practice. I am going to try the technique I used for the poppies, but with actual watercolors this time to see how it pans out.
When it is done with acrylics! After the success and joy of painting my cockerel, I had plenty of acrylic paint leftover and thought I would try using it as watercolor. I found an online tutorial by Joanne Boon Thomas that looked pretty easy and decided to have a go at painting some poppies. We saw many on the Camino and I wanted to paint some to remind me of our journey. I have loads of photos of poppy landscapes. This is how they turned out. Sorry about the quality, taken with iphone.
This isn’t quite how it was supposed to turn out. They are supposed to be an impression of poppies, but not very good ones! Although it is possible to use acrylic paint like watercolors, the properties are completely different. Firstly, the acrylic paint is water proof. Once it dries, that’s it. In one way that could be a good thing as one could build up layers of color without making them muddy. On the other hand, I had a bit of trouble with it as it wasn’t so easy to soften off the edges of vibrant color as the paint would make a hard edge too quickly and there is no way to soften it once it gets dry or starts to dry off. Acrylic washes are often used for under-paintings for pastels. I might have another go at re-working this completely with acrylics. This is something that is going to require a lot of practice!
Before I launch into posting my latest painting experience, I want to share a bit more about the type of person I am. When I was a little girl, I was lucky to live very close to immediate family members. My grandmother literally lived in the house behind us and looked after me for the first two years of my life while my parents worked. I am one of about 20 cousins and all of my Aunts and Uncles lived fairly close by. With so many relatives to hand, there was always an adult who would quite happily show you how to do the thing you want to know how to do. I learned how to cook, knit and crochet from my grandmothers. My mother did teach me some practical skills, such as cleaning and ironing. When I went to school, we learned how to cook, sew, and balance a check book! I have a very inquiring mind and I am very practical. I like to know how things work. I can follow directions. I am good with machines.
When it came to art, my father was the artist. He can copy anything, with either hand. He was so good at it that I didn’t need to bother with art. How could I compete? I never asked him to teach me to draw or paint, but he taught me how to ski and play sports. When I moved to where I live now and had some time on my hands, I decided to try my hand at creating art. I didn’t have anyone to show me how to do it, so I bought books. I bought art supplies and had a go. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I did it anyway. I knew something was missing, a process. I went to some classes, but something was still missing, a process. I need some structure. I know there are methods and ways of doing things. Whenever I want to learn how to do something, I usually do a bit of research. Sometimes I jump in, but I prefer to have an idea of what to expect. The best way to learn anything is to have someone show you. That is why there used to be Masters and Apprentices. One of the things I liked about the jewellery class I took awhile back was the strict process of making the earrings. You could not skip a step. I know that creating a painting is different, as there are different processes, but I want to learn a process. You have to know your medium and what you can and cannot do with it. Every book I have teaches a different method of laying down a painting, but most of them follow a similar process. You just have to decide which one you like.
Taking the watercolor class was a bit of a fluke, but I am glad I did it as I learned quite a few things. I was inspired to learn more, so I bought more books and started looking at videos on youtube. That is what I do when I get a bug for something. I can spend hours looking at books and videos before I even dare to pick up some paint and have a go. I found this wonderful lady on youtube and her name is Angela Fehr. She has great little videos on youtube about what and what not to do with watercolor paint. I did her tutorial on how to paint a sunflower and this is how it turned out.
Things went a bit pear-shaped in my center, but I am mostly happy with the result. This is the first time I painted a flower from a tutorial. I don’t count the one we worked on in class as I don’t particularly think it was a well-planned exercise. I am going to try this again, but maybe with one of my own photographs. There was a range of techniques used here that I only ever imagined doing. The background is something I am especially pleased with.
I am really grateful for everyone who posts how-to videos. Not everyone has a capable person around who can teach you what you want to know and the internet is a wonderful resource for information.