Watercolours

April 20, 2020

From Winston Churchill to Prince Charles, watercolours represent centuries of artists trying to perfect the most challenging medium of them all.

Why is watercolour such a difficult medium to master?

Paint removal – mistakes

When you consider painting with oil colours or acrylics there is always the opportunity of removing the pigment from the chosen surface and it can be over painted within minutes of its removal. In the case of oil colours, the mistake can be removed by palette knife or a rag which has been dampened with turpentine. Acrylic can be removed with a damp cloth or the paint will be dry within a few minutes making over painting a possibility with no removal of the original colours, but watercolour will stain the surface of the paper making its removal almost impossible depending on the type of paper being used, a subject being looked into later.

Style of painting

Another challenge with watercolours is the style of your work. When people start to paint with watercolour they tend to be very “tight” in style, or very detailed, painting exactly what they see in a small format. As time goes on and the artist’s confidence increases it is worth trying to become “looser” in style so not painting every detail but giving hints and impressions of what the person looking at while forming an image in their minds. This loose technique is a great skill to acquire and amazing results can follow.

There is a paint called ‘designers gouache’ which is available in artists and students’ quality which has a stronger pigmentation so the colours are bolder than watercolour which when used in conjunction with each other can produce some very interesting results.

Watercolour paper types & quality

Watercolour paper has three different types of finish, a smooth or “hot pressed” surface, a medium grain or “not” surface, otherwise known as “cold pressed” and rough which is as the name suggests. As watercolour is such a liquid colour the texture of the paper becomes part of the painting’s presentation. For detailed work such as portraits or botanical pictures a smooth surface is required, if on the other hand a rugged landscape is planned the artist may go for a rough texture, and for general painting a not surface is usually required.

Some papers are very good quality but mass produced, such as Bockingford which are available with different surfaces and very competitive on price. Others such as Saunders Waterford are hand made with better quality size which binds the paper fibres together and better quality materials so although more expensive better-quality papers will react differently when paint is applied.

One final point on papers is they are available in different weights or thickness. When paint is applied to a thin paper it will cockle altering its appearance. A minimum recommended weight of paper to stay flat is 140lb or 300gsm, or thicker if possible.

Qualities of watercolour paints

There are two different qualities of watercolour paint, artist or professional quality and student. Different brands vary in quality which is usually reflected in the price, but we have found that Winsor and Newton are preferred by the majority of our customers. The professional quality colours are made with pure pigments and may vary in price unlike the student quality which are synthetic based and are all at the same price.

Below are some of the ranges we stock at Gadsby’s.

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