Over the years, I’ve always found watercolor a very challenging medium. I’m not alone. Many other artists also struggle with it. Controlling the paint can be challenging, and mistakes are not easily fixed.
However, that bright, luminous quality is enticing. And it is also one of the most versatile mediums. So, in January 2021 I set out to learn more by taking a watercolor class through the New York Academy of Art. That led me to another teacher. And then another.
My teachers were so very different. Some of my earlier teachers (Michiyo Fukushima and Frederick Brosen) were quite structured and detailed in how they approached watercolor and their art. My latter teachers (Alex Hillkurtz and David R. Daniels) are looser painters. That was an intentional challenge I set for myself as I was trying to push boundaries in how I approached my art and my realistic style.
In the class with David Daniels, I painted Study of Fallen Leaves. My inspiration was from some photos I’d taken on early morning autumn dog walks. I was pleased with how I handled the color transitions in the leaves. The color palette was lots of fun: a spectrum of purples, reds, oranges, and yellows. My goal was to focus on these warm hues and at the same time use the purple and yellow color complements to create some vibrational energy so the hues would accentuate one another.
Watercolor Live 2023
Then in January 2023 I attended Watercolor Live — a three-day virtual watercolor conference with demos from 18 realistic watercolor artists. My mind was blown! Take a look at the compilation of final paintings. I think you’ll have a similar reaction.
In those three days I learned an astounding amount of information about watercolors. Manufacturers provided seminars about paints, papers, and brushes. And the many art teachers shared the techniques they use to control their paint in order to create images using their unique styles.
The artist who influence me the most was Matthew Bird. He’s the one who painted the apricots in the blue and white bowl. I was enamored by how he created such realism.
The artist Ken Call (see the ballerina in the top right of the compilation), accomplished things that amazed many of us. In the chat Jane Blundell shared with us valuable information about how he leveraged specific pigment properties to achieve his desired objectives.
My Second Painting
With this newfound knowledge, I immediately researched and then ordered more paint. The Daniel Smith PrimaTek watercolors are made from crushed minerals. And so within a few days, I started this second version of Fallen Leaves.
The pigments in these paints are ground minerals. Specifically, I used garnet, amethyst, and bronzite. Just as gems sparkle, these tiny bits embedded in the paint sparkle on the paper.
Although I started in February, life got the better of me. I made a little more progress in April but then didn’t get back to it until August. At about the same time, I was drawing Camouflaged Cup, and with that I learned that what made the leaves look so realistic was the brown spots of decomposition.
Interesting that beauty abounds with differences and imperfections. Do you have any ideas for similar subjects for a painting? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below.