watercolor feature image

Relearning Watercolor

topdogArt and Design

It was about 15 years ago that I painted my last watercolor.

Since then I switched to almost 100% digital illustration. The long-term affect is that I no longer have the ability and familiarity with watercolor.

With retirement, I've made a commitment to get back into traditional media, starting with watercolor, knowing full well that watercolor has, with a couple exceptions, been an extremely difficult medium for me to figure out. Coming from an oil background, learning watercolor has often (at least in my mind) meant forgetting everything I know about painting. Like oil and water, oils and watercolor don't mix very well.

I know that getting back into oils will be simpler. My mind already works that way. That's why I'm starting with watercolors. My attitude is to get the hard part done first.

Knowing the hard road ahead (reprogramming an oil painter into a watercolorist) I have taken what I think is a realistic approach.

My first watercolor tablet I have named "Book of Failure". This takes the pressure off me because now I don't have to strive for perfection; the point is to make mistakes and learn from them.

I got lucky early. Here is "Failure #2".

watercolor failure 2

A bad sketch, but at least somewhat recognizable, and there's lots of room for improvement. After that, I had a bunch of real crappy ones that I hope taught me a lot about the medium.

I've got a long road ahead of me. To give you an idea, here is my last watercolor from way back in 2006, "Fortress Rock", inspired by a photo I took in Cabo.

fortress rock watercolor

One of my few, my happy few, watercolor successes

I'm not saying this is a perfect watercolor. Far from it. It's the best I could do fifteen years ago. What I am saying is that the skill to reach this level has left me, and I'm trying to crawl my way back to that level so I can increase my skill and make even better paintings. Sooner rather than later would be nice.

Every day I'm in the studio, working on watercolor failures, and reading watercolor books. I've even got a stack of old Watercolor Artist magazines lurking around here somewhere that I need to dig up. I see modest improvement everyday, but the struggle is far from over.