No one is born understanding all the different types of paintings and art that artists are creating. In this series we will be taking a look at the basics of each type of art so that you can feel confident and art smart! Wondering how I got to be ART Smart ? I apprenticed in an art shop for three years and while I was there it was my job to play with everything and teach people how each medium works.
What are Watercolor Paints?
To make watercolors the pigment (colored powder) is mixed with a binder called gum arabic which is basically hardened sap. What separates watercolor from other mediums is its’ transparency. The way the pigments react with the gum creates brilliant washes of color.
How Should I Care for a Watercolor Painting?
Watercolors are beautiful, but they are also somewhat delicate. Unlike an oil or acrylic painting, watercolor paints are reactivated when they get wet. That means that if you get the art wet the paint moves around! This is rather alarming if you like the paints where they were.
So with that in mind, I’d suggest framing them with a mat, to protect the art. Not only is a mat a nice enhancement to your painting, it also protects your painting by keeping the glass from touching the paint. Changes in humidity can cause paintings that are next to glass to stick to the glass. (There’s that water thing again.)
Also – keep them out of direct sunlight. One of the other reasons that artists used to leave watercolors just for sketches is that they knew the acids in their papers would eventually cause the paint colors to fade. Modern watercolors are far superior, and artists are working on acid free papers, but UV rays still can cause some color loss over time.
More About Watercolor Paintings
At one time, watercolors were thought to be only for sketches, and weren’t taken seriously. Fortunately, that has changed! Artists use them to express their ideas and parts of themselves and they can be exciting and bold with paint splashes and drips, or soft and dream-like, with barely a hint of brush work. Because the work is done primarily on paper, they can be in more beginning collectors price ranges.
For an artist, watercolor demands a different approach than oils or acrylics. Instead of painting in the darkest colors and values early, the watercolorist works with the lightest values and builds up to the darkest darks. Each new layer of paint needs to be delicately applied, since every time watercolor paint gets damp, it can be moved around and the color on the paper can mix with the new color the artist is applying. With watercolor, the white of the paper is what gives a painting brilliance. There are many watercolorists who don’t use any white paint in their art works. They achieve a pink by diluting a red with more water instead of mixing a red paint with a white paint.
Watercolors dry relatively quickly, and often the colors stain the paper. Most of the time, the staining is exactly what the artist wants, but because the artist knows that stains don’t come out easily, he or she applies color very thoughtfully. In oils, a mistake with the color of the paint is scraped off a canvas with a palette knife. It doesn’t quite work that way in watercolors!
Want to Try it on For Size?
Watercolor is not a forgiving medium, but it can be a very fun, experimental and spontaneous one. It’s great in journals as long as you have heavy weight papers, and I often use it in my sketchbooks for capturing the color of a scene or creating thumbnails for larger acrylic paintings.
PS – for a little more control, especially if you like to sketch – try out the watercolor pencils! They are watercolor paint in pencil form. Apply it in the same way you would use a colored pencil, then grab a brush, dip it in some water and brush the water over your sketches to get fun watercolor effects.
Just a few things to try with watercolor:
• Mix up some paint and water and put it in a spray bottle to create texture
• Mix up a bunch into little bowls and pour over your paper
• Throw some salt into your wet watercolors to get a beautiful “frost” effect
• Use it with collage papers
• Make a small puddle of water on your paper and shave some pigment from a watercolor pencil into the puddle