Before I got into watercolors, I did a little bit of research. I didn’t just want to dive in. I wanted to have a good idea of how to get started.
Of these 5 things to know before getting started with watercolors, the main one, I got from an old man who had been painting with watercolors for over four decades. So he had four decades of wisdom and experience. Of all the five, that was the one I took the most seriously.
But they’re all good advice. I learned a few of them the hard way.
And that fifth piece of advice, I saw the same thing with musicians. Someone would buy a musical instrument and the accompanying equipment, and just quit.
So here they are..
Draw two hours for every one hour of painting
This is the piece of advice I got from the old man. I wish I could credit him. I found his advice on some forum, then went to his website and was thoroughly impressed by his works.
That’s one important thing. I’m not going to take advice from someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. For instance, I’m not taking financial advice from someone who just borrowed money from me because he couldn’t pay his bills.
Same thing with art. If you’re not impressed by someone’s skill sets, then why are you taking advice from them? So you can get worse?
This guy was the man. He could paint. He’s someone that if I somehow found again, I’d be all ears at anything he has to say.
And he said the absolute biggest regret he had is in his first year, he wishes he spent two hours drawing for every one hour of painting.
I know it doesn’t seem like this as watercolors can be overwhelming at first, but painting will be the easy part. Drawing will be the hard part.
Cheap watercolor paper sucks, but…
This is one I learned the hard way. Cheap watercolor paper sucks. But, your first 5-10 paintings will suck anyways. So you might as well start with cheap watercolor paper.
I wrote before about not buying student paints unless of course you’re either a student or you’re completely broke. This is slightly different. You will go through that batch of 10 crappy watercolor papers.
You’ll learn the difference between cheap watercolor paper and good watercolor paper. That said, not in the beginning. You won’t notice.
Now keep in mind, I’m not at all saying “your first 5-10 paintings will suck anyways” to discourage you. In fact, let me put a few things in perspective.
Let’s say you’re learning how to play violin. Do you start off with Brahms’ Violin Concerto for your first piece? No. You start off with something simple.
Then you keep going.
Just like anything else, the more hours you put into it, the better you will get. That could apply to anything from sports to cooking to a musical instrument to the arts.
Save your jars
Nothing more annoying than not having clean jars. My wife and I eat tons of kimchi. It’s supposed to be really good for your digestion.
Anyways, we save all those jars. She washes them at least twice though before using them for watercolors. You definitely don’t want your brushes to smell like kimchi.
I try to have at least four clean at a time. Yes, all you really need is two. But it sucks to have an inspiration but no clean jars.
It’s called watercolors for a reason
You’re not going to have total control over watercolors*. If you go into it with the mindset that you can control the water and get the water to do everything you want, you’re only going to get frustrated.
I’ve said before that watercolors aren’t for everyone. It takes a certain personality to love watercolors.
I’m a water person. I absolutely love water.
I’d love nothing more to be on a beach in the Caribbean right now with my wife, a pair of my models, and some really good rum.
If you’re totally unable to let go, you won’t like watercolors. Water has a mind of its own. Water wants to do what it wants to do. You have to be comfortable with water doing its thing.
So there will always be at least part of your painting that will have some randomness to it.
Yes. This will bother some people. A lot. I get it. And if you think it will bother you, you’re probably better off with another medium.
If you’re not having fun, you’re going to quit
I paint whatever I want. That’s how I ended up doing pinups. I paint exactly the type of painting I want to hang up in my office.
If you see painting as a chore, you’re only going to get frustrated. And you’ll eventually quit.
This is supposed to be fun.
Now on the other hand, if you absolutely love it, nobody could stop you from getting good.
You’re not only going to get good at it. You’re going to do circles around your peers and they’ll wonder how you got so good so fast.
Passion is more important than talent. Talent only means you have to put in 5-10% less hours than the average Joe or Jane. That’s all it means.
With passion, you’ll put in more hours naturally because it’s what you want to do.
You’ll find yourself thinking of ideas and painting way longer than you expected to. You’ll get lost in the work. The hours will disappear and you’ll forget about other things.
That’s all a good thing. (Unless of course you forget to pay the bills and they shut off the lights on you).
I’m either drawing or painting every single day. Even on a cruise ship, I bring my drawing pad and while everyone else is sleeping in, I find a nice quiet place and draw Melisa and Allie. They always send me selfies right before a vacation so I have them on my phone. And I just draw straight from my phone. It’s great practice!
But yeah, that’s how it will be. You’ll find yourself doing art every chance you get. You’ll find yourself in a coffee shop drawing random people. Then you’ll catch yourself drawing your coffee and you won’t even notice you just did that.
You’ll go on a date and draw your date on your napkin. You’ll find yourself hanging out at parks and drawing trees, birds, and squirrels.
You’ll see a chance for painting and art everywhere you go.
And at least one of your peers will condescendingly tell you that “oh, you must just have natural talent.”
Nope. You found your life’s purpose.
- The Pre-Raphaelites were the exception. However, the ones who painted with watercolors used very small brushes and spent months on a painting. Most of us aren’t producing at that level. I aim to be there – in a few decades.