I’m often asked whether I prefer acrylics to watercolour and I honestly have to say I love them both!
ACRYLICS are great to get stuck into a painting on canvas and hang it straight on the wall. I usually work from darks to lights and can easily alter the painting as I go – just as long as the layer is dry! Acrylic is my first choice for original works to sell.
WATERCOLOURS are SO PORTABLE! I love taking them with me to add colour in my sketchbooks. I love how quickly I can use a brush to capture shapes in watercolour to then draw over in pencil to record a memory. I love that I don’t have to wear ‘painting clothes’ for watercolour! It took me years to embrace using plenty of water though… but now that I’m less worried about the end result, I’m more often delighted with the organic things that watercolour can do.
And you know what? Doing a study in watercolour for an acrylic painting is a quick way to test an idea before committing to a canvas.
Yesterday I painted this month’s acrylic Paint Along, ‘Caravan Dreaming‘ in watercolour for my Shiny Happy Art Club members. ***Often it’s the inspiration that’s the block when you want to learn to paint***, so we use one image to inspire another. It’s no longer acrylic OR watercolour, it is, in the MOST FRIENDLY way, AND.
So don’t limit yourself. If you want to paint, try both. Stay open to the seasons of your art life that you may prefer one or the other, but never close the door completely. There’s too much art joy to be had!
Hope you can paint a little (or a lot) this weekend. And if you need inspo, head over to my website, www.shinyhappyart.com. That’s what I’m here for!
See you in my virtual studio.
What’s better than one #mooloolabasurfclub ? FOUR.
The first was sketched on our first morning at the beach (fun),
the second from a photo that night (a bit staid),
the third on the beach (while my students may have been taking bets on how long it would take me to finish it – 17 minutes), and
the fourth from a photo as a demonstration painting in our main room with (mildly) spherical perspective and only four paint colours.
There’s so much to be said for painting a subject multiple times – and if it’s a subject you love, that’s even better.
Danny Gregory of #artb4bkfst says, “Warhol’s Law: if one drawing of a thing looks okay, ten look AWESOME.”
And I think I’m done now.
How do you fit a long house in a square format? I decided to focus on the front door and attempt to capture the pure FUN of this home.
This secret commission was a true exercise in ‘creative decision making’ and such a joy to paint I actually had a few goes at it, getting more familiar with the building each time.
Of interest might be the prepping of the watercolour paper with Gum Arabic ‘dust’. Gum Arabic is made from the sap of the Acacia Tree and is used as a binder in quality watercolours. This little jar, complete with tissue, was given to me as part of Olive Bull’s calligraphy lessons about… ohhh… 22 years ago! (See – ‘art supplies ARE heirloom items’!) Back then I used the tissue to rub the Gum Arabic dust onto the surface of the paper I was about to write on – to prevent bleed.
I knew I wanted some hard edges in this painting so I pulled out the jar and prepped the paper and it DEFINITELY made a difference.
Gum Arabic can also be bought as a liquid and used to thicken ink for calligraphy (and thicken food colouring, interestingly!). It can be used as a bonding agent for gouache or powder pigments (so that the ink doesn’t wipe away after the water evaporates). It can also decrease cracking in some thick inks.
So there you go! You can thank me when you win the prize at the next (online) trivia night!
Watercolour paints last really well and can be an heirloom item to be passed down from generation to generation. Don’t hesitate in buying the best set you can afford and use them often.
Painting ‘white objects’ can be struggle for those just starting out with watercolour. The trick is to leave the paper behind as the light. But also remember that white objects are often not white – look for the colours.
My “White Caps on Waves” 2019 (watercolour) – inspired by Brett Whiteley’s painting, “Thebe’s Revenge” 1973-82
Other techniques include using a darker background which can definitely help a white object POP. By making the tones around the white darker, the white ends up looking lighter. You can also use masking fluid which you apply to the page, paint over and, when the paint is dry you then peel off to leave the bare paper. This is definitely worth experimenting with.
The magnolia drawing below was created during a live Zoom session with members of my Paint Along of the Month Club. While the first drawing is nice, see how much brighter the flower with the coloured background appears?
Painting the sky is another skill to practice. The sky is not always blue – it can be made up of many colours. My advice is using a big brush (in relation to your painting) so you are less likely to see brush strokes. Use plenty of water – don’t be scared – and practice. Practice, practice. Observe that the lightest part of the sky is usually at the horizon – it is the furthest away, so it is paler. Above you is the brightest or darkest colour.
And the ducks below aren’t actually ‘painted white’… they’re paper-coloured. It’s the blue sky that makes them white. Practice painting and drawing negative spaces to get better at leaving the white of the subject behind in watercolour.
White Water Colour Ducks