Choosing the best watercolour painting brushes can be daunting. Here are some tips to help in your pursuit of painting better watercolour art.
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.
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.
Hate the light pink rose, love the rest of the painting
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.
Cockling on 110 gsm watercolour paper
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 (300 gsm paper)
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.
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!
Some of my pieces
My latest watercolour efforts
Five sold paintings
I exhibited paintings in two local exhibitions during the last five months, resulting in three sold paintings. At one venue I sold an acrylic painting, while two watercolour pictures were sold in another.
In addition, I sold an acrylic painting and completed a commission in coloured pencil,
Sadly, I only took photos of one of these sold paintings: Jasper.
Commissioned 'portrait' one of the sold paintings
Jasper is the faithful companion of Kevin and Marsha, who own other paintings of mine.
Using Prismacolour Premier pencils on Colorfix paper, I enjoyed painting the portrait. It was very satisfying to do. One thing that surprised me though, was how quickly the sanded surface wore down the colour pencils. Had to buy more white and ginger pencils!
As a result of painting this picture, I have another commission for a portrait of Buddi, who is a very old Jack Russell/Maltese cross much loved by his owner.
Watercolourists use a hake (pron. har-kay) to help them when painting
Artists use hake brushes in different ways, but I was impressed with how it was used to re-wet areas that were drying and to dampen areas that are next to paint, while watching a video boxed set course by Paul Taggart, Learning to Enjoy Painting in Watercolour
Paul showed how to use a hake brush in several ways:
- Wetting the page
- Wetting the area you are about to paint
- Removing extra water before it causes problems
- Blending areas together
Of course I had to go straight away to the art supplies store, Express Hobbies to buy myself one.
The hake I got from Bob at Express Hobbies was like the largest one in this picture. It has soft goat hair bristles packed thickly together, which makes it a ‘thirsty’ brush which will hold a lot of water.[su_spacer size=”40″]
How to use a hake successfully
- To stretch the paper before you start to paint
- Thoroughly wet the brush and starting at the top, brush across the paper moving down at the same time.
- To wet or re-wet an area you about to glaze or paint
- Wet the brush thoroughly, then flick it to remove the excess water and gently stroke the surface where you want the wetness
- As you paint, runs may start if you work at an angle
- In the same way, blend an area of sky with a mountain or hill top
While I painted Cudgegong Afternoon, I used a large squirrel hair mop brush but wasn’t able to get it flat enough to do what the hake will do.
Now that I have my own hake brush, I will get more control of the wetness, an issue for me as I paint on the verandah outside the cabin.
I will let you know how I fare with it.
I made Cudgegong Afternoon to put in the show in town. Although it took me several weeks to finish as I painted it in layers of very diluted pigments, I really enjoyed the process,
The new owners of Cudgegong Waters Park were so delighted that I consented to let them buy it, because they absolutely loved it.
Please enjoy it.
Update: Veronica called in to show me the framed painting. It looks spectacular!
Arches™ cold pressed paper, A2, watercolour tube paints from Art Spectrum (an Aussie company).
Remember my replacement acrylic painting of the lotus made for my friend? She insisted that I put it into Rylstone Agricultural Show.
Prize winning acrylic painting
Lotus Blossom which I entered into the acrylic painting section, was hung in a really prominent position. On Saturday it won a first prize. Very chuffed.
The judge was impressed by the way the background created reflections in the water.
Also entered was a watercolour of Lake Windamere. Used Art Spectrum watercolours on Arches cold pressed A2 paper. No prize, but may be sold.