Top 5 Qualities I Strive for in my Watercolours


seagull steps new Jul 13 etsy
My watercolour seagull painted quite loosely using wet into wet in the early stages then tightening to drier work as the painting progressed. You can see the “spatter” that seems to find it’s way into most of my paintings.

There are so many brilliant watercolour artists around these days aren’t there?

Just a brief search on Google brings up a plethora of distinctive styles all using this elegant and mercurial medium.

There are many techniques, approaches and special additives you can add to watercolour to experiment further with different effects.

Being immersed in art we all feed off one another to a degree – one idea may spark another in yourself and off you go in a new direction. At the end of the day everyone will paint the same subject in a different way.

fish koi 2 copy
Watercolour Koi carp using wet into wet technique on the fish’s body to get those fabulous and distinctive scarlet-orange blotches with lost and found edges

Although my style varies from year to year and from subject to subject I find that there are 5 qualities that I can’t seem to do without in my paintings.

These are things that seem to satisfy me as a way of expressing who I am and perhaps – admittedly – fill the need to feel I am working with all my faculties to use the medium in such a way as to showcase its unique qualities.

For example – I don’t like to use the drybrush method very much as I feel it just kills the medium. Drybrush is where you use the bare minimum of moisture – just sufficient to get some paint on to your brush basically – and paint in a very tight and detailed way.

A simple lemon study I did for my class displaying strong tonal values from light to mid to dark using only yellow and purple – no tube black!

Conversely – I don’t like to use great dollops of paint in thick applications either as I feel this ends up looking like a painting done using hobby poster paints.

Simple nastursim leaf study – here I like to avoid a solid block of colour and use varying degrees of tone and different shades of green to inject life and interest into my work

For me it is about a happy medium (excuse the pun!) of using delicious and delicate yet vibrant veils of colour – usually applied wet into wet layer after layer.

Within that general approach of application I have 5 specific habits that produce 5 specific qualities – which give me the most fun and satisfaction:-

  1. avoiding using  solid passages of colour – I just can’t seem to paint – nor do I desire to paint in a perfectly even flat way. I like to keep washes irregular with pale, medium and darker areas all intermingling.

Why? Because I feel solid blocks of colour are dead – there is no gradation and no life!

2. creating “lost and found” edges in my painting – this means making for example the stem of a flower have some paler edges so that it isn’t regular all the way along.

WHY? Because I reckon that viewers only need – and in fact like – a little information. If you are painting a still life – people can see that there are apples, pineapples, a bottle of wine etc and so don’t need you to make a complete outline of each item. Suggestions are good enough and letting edges slip into nothingness adds to the poetry and mystery of a painting and also provide some “oxygen” in those “gaps” for the viewer and the elements to breathe.

3. I never use tube black and always mix dark darks using blues, browns, dark reds and dark greens.

WHY? Because these mixes produce a rich velvety dark that says “black” well enough and also separates into the two hues to a degree. The result is an interesting “alive” black that has more depth to it. I always tell my students that to me using tube black is tantamount to stamping the word “Amateur” across your painting! I jest  – but in all seriousness I think mixed blacks lend a much more painterly quality to paintings – especially the when using such a delicate medium as watercolour.

4. Spatter! I can’t seem to resist flicking some dilute wash colour using a floppy mop brush right at the end of my paintings.

WHY? I feel it somehow adds a unifying quality to different areas of the painting and can add a touch of magic or whimsy – especially to my playful animal paintings. That said – I have also used it in more “serious” subjects for a signature flourish and  a burst of energy.

spatter lots orange.jpg

5. and finally – readable tones. I like to establish well defined tones of lights, mids and darks at the outset.

WHY? Because this is he underpinning – the framework for the whole painting. If you do not establish good strong tonal patterns then no amount of prettily applied paint and detail work will save it.

This article that I wrote for Leisure Painter a few months ago shows how to paint a black dog without using tube black and by developing clearly discernible tonal values.


To view my animal art gallery please visit anytime via clicking THIS TEXT – EASTWITCHING

My art group – everyone will do their own version using watercolour in their own individual way!

Do you have any preferred habits or qualities in your work?

If so please share them with us in the comments below and watch out for my next post – thanks for reading – meantime – if you fancy watching one of over 200 of my watercolour video tutorials then hop over to my YouTube CHANNEL HERE! Alison

2 thoughts on “Top 5 Qualities I Strive for in my Watercolours

  1. Thanks Alison – made for an interesting  ‘read’. Hope you’re well and busy painting. Love the article in Leisure Painter!

    Margaret  x Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

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