4 Awesome Watercolor Techniques to Try Today

Are you one of the many who love painting with watercolors and want to build up your skills? Or would love to paint more with watercolors but need to kickstart your muse? Today I am going to introduce four awesome techniques that you can start using immediately.

Before you start, keep in mind that watercolor painting requires unique skills. Unlike oil or acrylic painting, where the paints goes where you tell it, you need a bit more Zen when working with water. The water, the paint, and the paper are involved in a complex dance. The water changes the absorbency and shape of the paper when it is wet and the paint changes its appearance when it dries. So we are doing Tai Chi here, not kickboxing. We can guide the water, harness its force, but we cannot be its master.

So, without further ado, I want to share two Western watercolor techniques and two Chinese watercolor techniques. You can put these into action today, but remember, just like any skill it will take some time, love, and practice to get them right.

Western Techniques

1. Splatter

One of the hardest things to get in watercolor painting is texture. But without texture, our art can look flat. At the right moment, splatter is perfect. Since it is so uncontrolled, you will definitely want to use masking to cover up any areas that you don’t want splattered.

I like to use a tooth brush to splatter. You just dip the brush in paint and run your thumb over the bristles.  You will get a wonderfully random spray of paint wherever you aim it. Take a look at my use of splatter in this painting:

Earthbound Firework ' 8

2. Sgraffito 

First of all, I just love to say Sgraffito, or at least pretend I know how to say it. It’s really just a fancy word for scratching. Sgraffito is another technique you can use to get texture, but is not as uncontrolled as splatter.

I use a knife, but you can use a blade, sandpaper, or anything else. Unlike in painting techniques where there are thick layers of paint, when you scratch in watercolor, you are scratching the paper. So be careful! When done right, the wet paint will pool into the scratches. Or you can carefully scratch up already dried paint.

'Underground' Watercolor painting 12

‘Underground’ Watercolor painting 12″x12″

I used sgraffito here to give texture to the bark of the tree.

Chinese Techniques

3. Color Loading

Color loading is an awesome technique for achieving layers of depth in your colors with a single brush stroke. This one is a bit tricky, so it will take some time to get used to.  First, get three colors, or three different shades of the same color. Dip 2/3 of your brush in the lightest shade. Then, dip 1/2 of your brush in the medium shade. Next, dip the last 1/3 of the brush in the darkest shade. Be sure not to twirl the brush when you do this.  Finally, use the brush in an almost horizontal position so that all three colors come out on the paper.

DCF 1.0

4. Chinese Brush Strokes

We have mentioned before how Chinese brush strokes are fundamental to Chinese painting. You can use them as well to try something different in your painting. There are seven different Chinese brush strokes, dian, heng, shu, pie, na, ti, and shugou. See below:

700px-Chinese_character_strokes

Please note that these strokes are more than just lines. Chinese calligraphy involves making sure lines are pointed in the right places, round in the right places, and thin and thick in the right places. This involves very careful and deliberate brush pressure and movement. While I’m not suggesting that you need to become a master Chinese calligrapher, try doing something different with your brush! Explore using the brush itself for different shapes and levels of thickness in your lines. If you are feeling adventurous, try to copy this Chinese character as closely as you can:

Yong2

You can have a look at my paintings here. Thanks for reading!

‘Rose Courts the Shade’

Buy ‘Rose Courts the Shade’ on Etsy 

Do you want the dream? The flawless flower, untouched by the world, unstained by corruption, but unreal and unattainable?

Or do you want reality? The rose that overcomes flaws, overwhelms difficulties, and shines through brighter because of them. Who else but rose is more seductive because of her thorns? Who else could court the shade and be more mysterious?

Who do you want more?

Fine Art/ ‘Twins Maidens Dressed in Purple’ 11″x15″ original watercolor painting

This is a surreal watercolor painting. I took some floral photos from a garden and chose my favorites. Then, I created the background using different techniques. I love to mix realism and abstraction. I hope you can always see this mix in my paintings. I wonder what these flowers are called. Are they catalpas ? If you know it, please tell me.

Buy ‘Twins Maidens Dressed in Purple’ in Etsy
  

3 Chinese Artists You Should Know

There are lots of amazing Chinese painters. It was very difficult to talk about just three. These are important painters that are also my personal favorites. If I left your favorite off of my list, please add him or her in the comments so that others can see more Chinese artists.

1. Wang Wei (699-759)

Are you good at poetry? Would you trust it to save your life? Wang Wei was that good. A noted poet and painter during the Tang dynasty, Wang Wei was accused of being a traitor by the emperor during the An-Shi rebellion. His poems were used as evidence of his loyalty and got him off of death row (also with a little help from his brother.)

But isn’t this a blog about painting? Well, we have mentioned before how important poetry is to Chinese painting. Wang Wei’s works are considered to be one of the early pinnacles of the match between words and painting. Not only that, his paintings have been noted for their therapeutic value. When one of Wang Wei’s friends fell ill, he credited his recovery to the peaceful feeling he got looking at Wang Wei’s paintings.

wangchuan

Wang Wei’s pictures are paradigmatic of traditional Chinese painting. His paintings are very detailed and noted for their realism. While some of his contemporaries would exaggerate the luxurious elements of their paintings (especially if they were painting parts of the Emperor’s palace,) Wang Wei was committed to showing the natural beauty of whatever he was painting.

2. Wu Guanzhong (1919-2010)

When you see a painting of a hill, or a river, or a home, do you think it is political? In an odd way, Wu Guanzhong’s paintings are political. In a time where most prominent artists were eager to work in the field of propaganda, Wu Guanzhong stuck to the traditional subject matters of Chinese painting. This is not to say that Wu Guanzhong was in any way anti-China.  To the contrary, he showed a very pure love of his country with his creative pictures of the countryside.

ngkwanchong2

Wu Guanzhong was also a pioneer in blending traditional Chinese painting with Western styles. In the late 1940s Wu Guanzhong visited Europe and was able to see what else was going on in the art world. His paintings are clearly rooted in traditional Chinese painting, especially his minimal use of color. The Western influence on his work allowed him to move beyond simplistic descriptions of a cross between Western and Chinese styles to have a style that was all his own.

ngkwanchong1

3. Zhang Wenbin (1938-)

Zhang Wenbin is a student of Wu Guanzhong. He took one look at Wu Guanzhong’s paintings and could not believe his eyes; he did not think that Chinese painting could look like that. Inspiration does not mean a blind copy, however. Zhang Wenbin took the idea of an expanded color palette in Chinese painting and ran with it. His bright, expressive paintings are explosive in their use of the contrast between black and white and color.

cheungwenbin1

This painting is a particular favorite. It makes me think of Chinese painting mixed with abstract and surreal painting.

cheungwenbin1

Check out Zhang Wenbin’s official site here.

You can have a look at my paintings here. Though I love Chinese watercolor paintings. I don’t paint in a traditional style. But do you think any of these Chinese techniques have influenced my style?

‘Unstained Mind in a Pure Land’ Triptychs 8″x8″ original watercolor painting

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This painting includes 3 pieces (upper, middle and lower pieces). The size of each piece is 8″x8″.

The lotus is an emblem of creation and rebirth. It is also a symbol of the sun because at nightfall it closes and goes beneath the water and at dawn climbs above the water to reopen. It is the only plant to flower and bear fruit at the same time. It emerges as pure white from the depths of the muddy swamp and grows above the water.

Chinese have called the lotus ‘gentleman flower’ since ancient times. Although it grows out of mud, lotus blooms are pure and untainted. This is the ideal trait to maintain a peaceful world.

If this painting attracts your eyes, please stop and feel the wonder. Take a deep breath of fresh air, let any mess leave your mind. Be the purity of a lotus blossom.