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New watercolour paintings

Curly Petals Iris, watercolour

After a long winter when it was too cold to paint, and I spent my days crocheting and teaching a friend crazy patchwork at her place, I am painting again. I have missed it.

Two new watercolour works are now ready to mount. I am hoping to have an exhibition in a local gallery and am painting flowers and streetscapes to see where I’ll concentrate my efforts.

Watercolour on paper

These two cottages have been recently renovated and are across the road from this house in Rylstone. (That picture has sold.)

Rylstone dabee street cottages watercolour

Irises Everywhere

Last year our friend gave us iris rhyzomes for the garden and how beautiful they look in full bloom at the front doorsteps.

Close up view of the very first one to bloom.

Iris watercolour closeup

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Best Watercolour Painting Brushes For Your Artworks

Artists brushes

How do you know which are the best brushes?

Choosing watercolour painting brushes is not simple. When you visit your art supply store, are you bewildered by all the types, sizes, handle lengths and composition, bristle types, price?

While there are many and varied types of watercolour brushes, the ones that are most often chosen by watercolour artists are listed below, with the hair (bristles) types shown at right.

John Lovett, a renowned Australian watercolour artist, has a very good article on brushes for watercolour as well as some tips for caring for your watercolour brushes.

Watercolour painting brushes on mixing palette

Watercolour painting brushes on my mixing palette

Some brush types

Most popular watercolour

  • Round
  • Flat
  • Rigger/Liner
  • Mop or Wash
  • Hake

Some Bristle Types

From most expensive to least

  • Kalinsky sable
  • Red sable
  • Squirrel
  • Synthetic —Taklon, Nylon
  • Sable/synthetic mix

Round Brush: Work-horse

You can do so much with each brush type, but for a general 'work-horse' choose a round brush.

One of the online courses I took when I began watercolour painting was “Dictionary of Marks” on Art Tutor. (Previously I always painted in acrylic.) With a number 8 round brush, I made all the marks you see in this picture, and more on other pieces of watercolour paper.

Since that course, I have learned much about brushes from taking other online lessons, and from my own practice. Most often I use a number 12 round brush for almost all the work I do. Any time I need fine detail, I use a rigger.

Quality of Watercolour Painting Brushes

You may have read that you need a pure Kalinsky sable brush for watercolour painting. These can be many hundreds of dollars.

The truth is that you can get beautiful results like the wonderful paintings of Heidi Willis with good quality white taklon brushes.

While participating in one of her classes, we had to practise making marks with a number 8 round taklon. The picture shows marks on 300gsm cold pressed Arches™ paper on the left and on Stonehenge™ coloured pencil paper on the right. (The only smooth surface paper I had on hand.)

Sable/synthetic mix bristles in a watercolour brush give you the best of both worlds.

Marks made with a round brush

Marks made with a round brush

Marks with No8 Taklon round brush

Marks with No 8 Taklon round brush after class with Heidi Willis

Which Are The Best Watercolour Painting Brushes For You?

While there are many types and styles of watercolour painting brushes, it comes down to the style of paintings you want to produce. Rough (cold pressed) paper, big brush strokes in a loose manner with little fine detail, or smooth (hot pressed) paper, fine brushes and even finer detail? When you find your style, you will know what brush type is for you.

Daffodils in loose watercolour technique

Daffodils in loose watercolour technique

Therefore, The Best Idea Is To:

buy the best quality brushes (and indeed all your equipment) that you can afford, take good care of them and they will reward you with good service for years to come.


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Roses from a friend – painted

My friend gave me a bunch of gorgeous roses from her garden a couple of months ago, and I immediately took pictures so I could paint them.

Roses from Marsha's garden in a crystal vase
Roses from Marsha’s garden in a crystal vase

Watercolour paints and paper at the ready

Several failed attempts later I was happy with this one, painted freehand with the brush as my pencil.

watercolour painting roses in crystal


Hate the light pink rose, love the rest of the painting


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Colour Pencil Paintings of Old Rylstone Buildings

Old House Dabee Street Rylstone

I have started a series of colour pencil paintings of Rylstone, New South Wales, a tiny historical stone village on the edge of the Greater Blue Mountains National Park. Many of the buildings date from the early 1800s.

My Supplies for Colour Pencil Paintings

  • Stonehenge paper (specifically made for colour pencils)
  • The photo printed at the size to fit the painting on the drawing paper
  • A palette selection from my gorgeous Prismacolor™ Premier® pencils in
    pigments to match the photographs
  • Foamcore™ board for attaching the drawing paper
  • Push pins to pin the corners of the paper to the board
  • White plastic eraser
  • White mounting putty for gentle erasing
  • Sharpener (hand held) with sharp blades
  • F or HB pencil for light preliminary drawing

The first two paintings

Historic Rylstone Station

The railway used to operate here and the old station building still stands, although is now privately owned.

Painted from a mid morning photograph with diffuse shadows.

Colour pencil paintings: Old Rylstone Railway Station
Old Rylstone Railway Station c.1894

A Stone Cottage

No one lives in this cottage at present. Constructed of stone quarried locally, it has interesting quoins. (Quoins are the joined corners at the ends of stone walls of buildings.)

I took the photograph for this picture in the late afternoon, so the shadows are dark and long.

Colour pencil paintings: Old House Dabee Street Rylstone
Old House Dabee Street Rylstone

I have several more photos and plan several more colour pencil paintings from around the village.

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Recycle watercolour paintings – Top 10 ways

Don’t throw your ‘failed’ watercolour paintings in the bin — recycle them!

Jan T’s top 10 ways to recycle watercolour paintings

There are many ways to recycle a painting that you are dissatisfied with, including:

  1. Tear it into pieces for collage.
  2. Alternatively, find an area you do like and crop it into a smaller painting.
  3. Glue painted rice paper to mask the poorly executed areas.
    Note the ragged edged pieces of tan, and lilac rice paper in the background on this recycled watercolour painting.

    Recycle watercolour paintings Doodlescape Mountains detail
    Doodlescape Mountains detail
  4. Paint over some parts with gouache. Although John Lovett does not paint gouache on his paintings for this reason, I was inspired to fix one of mine this way with white opaque watercolour paint, and then it sold.
  5. Paint over some/all of it with opaque paints.
  6. Draw/write with watercolour pens on top of the painting. This painting was also successfully recycled this way.

    Recycle watercolour paintings - Octopus garden detail
    Octopus garden detail
  7. Cut into smaller ‘paintings’ to glue to greeting card blanks.
  8.  Another technique to try is to journal on top with markers and use the piece in your art journal.
  9. Use the back to start over.
  10. Stencil over the parts you dislike with very diluted acrylic paint.

New art from discarded paintings

As a result of rescuing your binned artwork, you will be surprised how much you like the recycled watercolour paintings, and your friends will love receiving art on the cards you send.

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Finished Buddi’s portrait

Buddi's portrait finished

Buddi and his mummy came for a visit this morning to say goodbye and invite me to come when Buddi went to sleep. He was very frail and so thin, just like a human 90-odd year old would be.

I decided to finish his portrait so he would still be there for Denise afterwards. She was happy and is going to hang it in her bedroom.

Buddi's portrait finished
Buddi’s portrait finished
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Pet Portrait in progress – Buddi

Buddi portrait in progress

Buddi Jack Russel Maltese cross

Buddi has been Denise's companion for fourteen years. He talks to me at my feet when I sit down in her loungeroom. My two little dogs love him, but he is old and sick now, and not too fussed any more about two young ruffians hooning around.

Working on the colour pencil drawing

I started his colour pencil portrait this week and Denise came to see the work in progress and was really moved.

The paper I am using is Canson Mi-Tientes in mid blue, which contrasts very well with his light coat.

Working for an hour each day, it is progressing quickly.

Buddi 2002

Buddi 2002

Buddi portrait in progress

Buddi portrait in progress

Sadly, Buddi is going to say goodbye to his mum today,
so it's a timely pet portrait.

Goodbye Buddy

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Watercolour paper trials and paper weight information

Watercolour paper is finicky. It is either too soft, too thin, too smooth, too rough, can have insufficient sizing ...

Paper for painting is sold by its weight in pounds (lbs) or grams, in sheets or blocks or pads, its surface texture, and its content.

In the picture at the top, I used 300 gsm sketchbook. This paper absorbed less of the water and so the pigment was more diluted, drying paler, and could be glazed for deeper colour. There is no cockling.

In the other (110 gsm) sketchbook, the cockling is very evident. The paper absorbed more water, making it buckle, and glazing would not be satisfactory.


300 gsm watercolour paper

300 gsm watercolour paper

Cockling on 110 gsm watercolour paper

Cockling on 110 gsm watercolour paper

Paper weight

In metric terms, the weight of 500 sheets of paper can be:

  • 90 grams per square metre (gsm) — great for sketches, notan thumbnails, but too thin for watercolour. Imperial equivalent is 60 lbs.
  • 110 gsm/74 lbs — often on a school requirements list, but not recommended by most serious artists for paintings. Again, great for sketchbooks.

The two most popular papers for watercolour painting are:

  • 300 gsm/140 lbs is the paper of choice for many artists, although it may need stretching to prevent cockling, especially if you are using very wet washes.
  • 640 gsm/300 lbs is excellent for painting your 'masterpieces'. Although the cost is greater, the results are far and away worth paying the extra.
Turquoise Flight

Turquoise Flight (300 gsm paper)

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Watercolour Painting Techniques Require Frequent Practice

doodlescape in mixed media

When studying watercolour painting techniques, I kept hearing "Practise, practise, practise!"

Any discipline, be it physical or mental, involves practising. A marathon runner needs daily practice, so do artists. In order to get better at art, you can start your day in the studio with warm-up exercises, such as colour mixes or trying different brushes to discover their potential strokes.

I have been exploring palettes, water, pigments, paper, brushes, and reading many digital books on the subject. As well, I have watched several videos, and completed many online video courses on watercolour painting techniques.

Review and revise 

On the opposite side of my studio from where I paint,  I place practice pieces, beside works in progress. The distance helps me see 'errors' and decide which painting technique will fix these.

Which technique?

Techniques for painting with watercolour are numerous and, depending on the instructor's ideas, can be different from one book or video to the next.

Playing with watercolour is both exciting and frustrating!

Cabinet in studio