Watercolor's Full Potential: Exploring Fluid Painting

Angela Fehr, Watercolourist and Art Educator

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11 Videos (1h 5m)
    • Tools & Materials Overview

    • Basic Techniques Demonstrated

    • Make a Value Study

    • Mix Complementary Colors

    • Add Texture with Cling Wrap

    • Adding Texture with Salt

    • Lifting Out to Create Texture (Cloud demonstration)

    • Paint a Simple Object: Apple Demonstration

    • Create Your Focal Point Painting - Part 1

    • Painting Your Subject: Part 2

    • Painting Your Subject: Wrapping Up (Part 3)

20 students are watching this class

Project Description

Paint an expressionistic, watercolor painting using class techniques to show movement

Supply List and Tool Overview

  1. Assemble your materials.

    Supply list attached as a PDF file.

    Paint colors are suggested - choose a range of primary and secondary colors that represents a broad range and allows for a lot of options in color mixing.

    Do your best to source and use artist quality watercolor paper - you will find painting in watercolor far easier if you have paper that cooperates with your efforts.

Basic Techniques

  1. Make a Value Chart

    Using the colors in your palette, create a value chart. Use proportions of paint & water to paint swatches of your darkest value (90% pigment, 10% water), and then progressively adding water, paint a range of values, gradually getting lighter until you have just a hint of color. Aim for 4-5 different values in each hue from your palette.

    This is a good exercise to get you started in getting a feel for how much water to add to your paint. 

  2. Create a Flat Wash

    Create a flat wash by mixing a quantity of a single color (you may mix two or more colors to create a new color). Working across a 4" x 6" area, strive for evenness of value and hue.

  3. Create a Graded Wash

    Working from dark to light using a single color, create a graded wash across an area on your paper at least 4" x 6". You will add water to your paint as you go to lighten your wash. Strive for a smooth gradation in value.

    Below is a small example with a fairly abrupt transition.

  4. Create a Blended Wash of Two Colors

    Try several ways of blending colors in this practice technique. Create a flat wash of one color, then drop in additional colors while the paint is wet to see how they blend. Try adding colors to a nearly-dry flat wash, and then a very wet wash, and see how they react differently.
    Paint two flat washes that meet along one edge and see how they blend while wet.

Color Mixing in Watercolor

  1. Mix Complementary Colors

    Choosing colors as opposite as possible to each other on a color wheel (yellow & purple, green & red, blue & orange), mix each pair, varying the proportions, to see the variety of neutral shades you can achieve. 

    Mix a color with just a tiny amount of its complement to see how it "neutralizes" or muddies that color. 

    Try to get a true neutral by mixing the colors as equally as possible. While color makes the best grey? Which one makes the best brown? Which neutral is the coolest in tone? Which is the warmest? Which colors, mixed with very little water, make the best black?

Creating Texture in Watercolor

  1. Add Salt to a Wash

    Starting with a wash of moist color, sprinkle salt and allow to dry. Try different colors to see which ones react most strongly to the salt. Does a shiny wet wash react better, or a nearly dry wash?

  2. Use Cling Wrap to Create Texture

    Starting with a wet, multi-colored wash, press a small piece of cling wrap to the wash and arrange to create texture wrinkles. Try removing the cling wrap when damp and while dry and see the difference in texture.

  3. Make Clouds

    Paint a flat wash of blue across your page, then try using paper towel and facial tissue to lift out cloud shapes while still damp.. Strive for realistic shape and texture.

Compose & Create Your Painting

  1. Find the focal point.

    In this class we'll be working with a single focal image for our painting composition. Using a reference photo as your guide, isolate the image you want your painting to focus on. Use thumbnail sketches as needed to place your image within the picture plane. 

  2. Paint a Single, Simple Object

    Using a single simple object, like an apple, create a small (5" x 7") painting. Fill the basic shape with several colors, working wet in wet to allow the colours to mix.

  3. Establish Mood.

    A big part of expressive painting is mood. Consider the location of your image, the time of day & year and the feelings you want to evoke. This is going to affect the colors and values you use in your painting, the quality of line, and much more. 

    Optional: Build a mood board to help guide you in establishing your painting mood. This is not a board of painting styles to copy - look instead for images with colors, lines, feelings that you want to echo in your painting.

  4. Avoid Majoring on the Minors.

    Look at your reference photo. What fussy details are going to distract you in your painting? Let them go.

Additional Resources

  • My favorite places to buy art supplies:
    In Canada: Opus Framing & Art Supplies

    In the USA: Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors

    Cheap Joe's Art Stuff

    Your local art supply store will be able to guide you in your purchases and offer advice. Try them first!

  • Printable supply list.

  • While we won't be covering using masking fluid in this class, you may be curious about using it in your paintings. Here's a video tutorial I made on using masking fluid with a few tips and tricks. 

  • Supplemental Demonstration: Floral Painting