What Makes Good Watercolor Artwork?
Article by Vladimir London, Watercolor Academy tutor
Art skills, good quality watercolor paper, professional watercolor brushes, high quality watercolor paints
From time to time, I receive questions from Watercolor Academy students and readers on what the most important thing is to make good quality professional watercolor artworks.
There are several different elements and I will list them below in their order of importance.
1. Artist's Skills
This is by far the most important quality you must strive for if you want to achieve great results in watercolor painting. This is the only thing that cannot be taken away. Once you learned how to paint in watercolor proficiently, this knowledge will be with you for the rest of your life.
Skills come with knowledge and experience. Experience, however, comes with practice. There is only one person responsible for expanding your painting experience – you. Skills alone cannot make watercolor artwork. You also need some art materials.
2. Good Quality Watercolor Paper
I put paper above the rest of the art supplies because in watercolor it is not only a support, it is also part of the artwork. Unlike in oil or acrylic painting (where opaque paints cover the support's surface), in watercolor, the paper support shows through all layers of paint and thus plays a visual part in the artwork's colors and tones.
Good quality watercolor paper should be white, strong, take water and paint well, and withstand quite extensive mechanical abrasion by brushes and sponges.
Low grade or unsuitable paper might ruin an artwork completely.
In the articles about art materials, I will describe in more detail what you need to know about watercolor paper and how to choose paper that will be good for your artwork.
3. Professional Watercolor Brushes
Good things are made with good tools. Professional watercolor brushes can be quite expensive. However, going for cheap brushes would be a false economy.
When you paint, you want to concentrate on the creative process rather than on how to handle a low-quality brush that might not take water and paint well, be too soft or too sturdy, do not hold a point at its end, or even lose hairs right on your artwork.
So, go for the best brushes you can find, especially because you don't need many of them. It is better to have a few good ones than many unsuitable ones. Even a limited range of watercolor brushes will give you great results. High quality brushes will last for years if you take good care of them.
In the art materials articles, I will explain what you should look for when choosing watercolor brushes and will give you some practical advice on how to take care of them.
4. High Quality Watercolor Paints
The reason I put paints below brushes is because their quality is more or less consistent and therefore more predictable.
If you go for one brand or manufacturer and know what to expect from its professional range of watercolor paints, you don't have to guess next time you buy a pan or a tube of paint to replace a finished one.
Apart from paper, watercolor paint is what is visible on the surface and makes the artwork. Needless to say, only professional and artist grade paints will be suitable for your works of art.
There are many watercolor paints on the market. Some of them have fancy names and even identical names from different manufacturers do not guarantee the same color tint.
In the corresponding aerticle, you will discover all you need to know about watercolor paints and what to go for when buying your first professional selection of paints.
Of course, there are other art materials that every watercolor artist needs. You will find out about them in the art materials articles.
When I started professional art education at the age of nine, my watercolor teacher told me a story. I will share it with you.
Many years ago, there was an artist who spent all of his life relentlessly practicing art. He was obsessed with improving his art skills to the best level possible. One day, when he heard that a king would be passing in a carriage through the area he lived in, he decided to try an experiment. He put on the worst clothes he could find, sat in the dust on the road's edge, made a brush from grass, and used road dirt as paint, diluting it with water from a puddle. The passer-by king was intrigued to see a painter working under such conditions. He asked to look at artist's artwork and was impressed so much that he fired the court painter on a spot and invited the poor artist as the new master. The story goes that the artist declined the offer because he wanted to pursue his quest of improving art skills ever further.
This is a fictional tale but nevertheless it shows that you can have brushes made of grass and dirt instead of paints, and still make better art than those with less skill.
So, once again, I will point your attention to the fact that art materials cannot make a wonderful artwork, that is down to the artist. To be the best artist you can, you need to focus on learning the skills of the craft and practice them persistently.
To learn how to paint in watercolor, enroll now
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