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Isn’t Watercolors Hard?

By Artist | Sunday, April 25th, 2010 | Watercolor

It seems that each time I show my watercolor paintings at shows or events, someone will say to me, “Watercolors are hard.”
I smile and ask, “Why do you say that?”


There is a myth circulating that painting with watercolors is difficult. Why? Is it because watercolors can become uncontrollable and people tend to want to be in control? Is it the effects of the medium? Or, what, I do not know? This myth continues to fascinate me and who knows, maybe, someday, I will have an answer.


Watercolor painting is not unlike other disciplines. Whenever a person undertakes a new experience there seems to be a “training period” where learning and skills are acquired. At this stage in the game, most people seek out an experienced person who they admire and who possesses that which they would like to emulate. This is true with any endeavor, so why not watercolor painting?

What makes watercolors different? What makes them so different is that you never know what will happen. Are you a person who likes surprises? Watercolors will surprise you each and every time you paint. A colleague of mine has a favorite saying which is “Let’s see what will show up when I paint today.” It is absolutely fascinating what water and pigment will do. To repeat an effect is challenging or not possible. Each time it is unique.

There are established techniques for watercolors as with any other art medium. These skills are helpful yet not necessary to express your self in watercolors. Many artists, and I believe everyone is an artist at heart, freely paint and allow what appears to tell them where to go or what to do next. Sometimes “what is” can be pleasing by itself. There are NO RULES! It is my belief that artistic expression lies in all of us and requires only a sense of trust and the freedom to allow the flowing for magic to happen.

A favorite way I freely express myself with watercolors is to paint Mandalas. You can find out more about painting Mandalas in another article I have written on that subject and by visiting my website. Basically, painting within a circle, a mandala, creates a meditative state whereby a person freely p 1000 aints anything they wish. In my experience sharing mandala painting with students, we have witnessed an array of all beautiful, unique mandala creations.

The one thing that sets watercolors apart from other painting media is that it is a spontaneous method. First impressions are vital. You cannot go back and change it, or rarely. This might be a little intimidating to people, yet it can be very refreshing, too. I have found that my favorite paintings have had this light, first impression touch which magically flows, no effort. It is just there.

Not every piece is a masterpiece. Of course, there is always more paper. I must admit that I have turned less successful paintings into new paintings with collage. You can see those, too, on my website. Watercolor paintings are full of happy accidents. You will never know what to expect and this is the nature of watercolors and most likely fuels the myth.


The fun of creating is what it we are all about, right? It is our connection with our soul. I feel as if I learn everyday when I sit down to create a watercolor painting. Watercolors change, I change, the subjects change. People tend to avoid change because it requires letting go of external layers of beliefs. Maybe the myth is true that watercolors are difficult, what do you think?

By: Joanne

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