During my "college years" I painted with oils, thinning the colors with turpentine to get them to run and drip. Many people would say you thin your oils down so much why not just use watercolors? The fact was that I had tried watercolors a couple of times, and I didn't like them. My limited knowledge of the techniques, and my limited supply of tools gave me poor results. So I set them aside. After picking up watercolors again in 2010, I found them to be magnificent! I was now ready to let this be my medium, and I have put in a lot of time gaining new knowledge, and supplies to achieve a lot better results. So with this series of articles I would like to let everyone know why I love watercolors and what it is about them that makes them so spectacular.
Watercolors are resoluble! What exactly does this mean? Watercolors are made using the binder gum arabic. Gum arabic is able to dry and then be rewetted into a liquid form. Before painting I use a spray bottle and squirt my palette and colors allowing the water to soak into the colors for about 10-15 minutes. Personally I like the dry colors because #1 I can control the amount of paint on my brush. The more I swipe over the dryer paint with water on it the darker the color. When the paint is fresh from the tube you put your brush into the paint and you have no idea how much pigment you have on your brush. #2 No waste of paint--When the paint runs out on the palette I squeeze fresh paint and let it dry. When squeezing fresh paint I put a couple of drops of gum arabic into the paint and mix it with a palette knife. I find the extra gum arabic helps the paint when rewetting. Also, if I am going to paint a very deep dark area I will squeeze fresh paint and add just a little bit of water. The fresh paint will give you the deepest darkest value. Some watercolorist will say "Only use fresh paint!" But remember that is their way of working, be careful of those who think there is only ONE WAY. For me this is the way I prefer to work; it is producing some good work, and gives me a lot of flexibility. It is not the only way, but being able to rewet the colors after they dry is one reason I love watercolors! My colors are now ready for painting... off to have some fun!
The past three Wednesday evenings I taught a watercolor class at NMC with 8 enthusiastic adult students. In the past I have had students bring in their own photographs to work from, but I found it difficult to give meaningful instruction when one students is painting a portrait, another a boat and another a forest of trees. Each subject requires a little different handling and giving feedback to the students was much more difficult. The big change I made in this class was having everyone (including the instructor) paint the same scene. I chose an "old mission" scene at sunset because it gives a lot of opportunity to work with a broad range of values, textures, and lends itself to multiple techniques. Students were very receptive and as I was teaching I found that I could refer to my painting pinpointing how I was handling composition, color choices, and creating mood through values.
Students asked a lot of questions, and worked extremely hard on these paintings. In 3 evenings they saw what it takes to create a watercolor painting from start to finish. It is my hope that as they continue on their journey they will be able to take what they have learned and apply it to their own painting projects.
Thanks to all of these students who made for a really great class.
If you are interested in watercolor painting and don't really know how to start or what to do, I would love to see you in one of my classes!
Last night I taught a very fun beginning watercolor class. Some of these students were interested in art, but had never watercolor painted and/or had very little experience. The sunrise landscape watercolor painting taught students how to work wet-in-wet tilting the board and allowing gravity to mix the paints and washes. It was a fun evening of sharing stories, learning new techniques, asking questions, and being open to the spontaneous nature of watercolor paint. I have so much fun teaching these classes and it is always thrilling to see students make discoveries and get interested in the painting process. Controlling watercolor paint is a tricky endeavor, but these students results are pretty amazing!
This month I will be teaching Discovering Watercolors a more intensive 3 week class starting on February 18. For more information on this class go http://www.adamvanhoutenartist.com/adult-classes.html
If you are interested in watercolor painting, and are unsure of where to start why not give one of these classes a try?
Check back to my website in the future as I will be posted future class dates and times.
Looking forward to painting with you.
Many artists and the art world advises that one find their "style" and stick with it, so that you have a recognizable brand and name to back that up. When someone looks at your work they should immediately see it as your art. But how does playing it safe, make you a better artist? Does it help you to expand, grow and become even better at your craft?
For me I love to be creative and explore new ideas, materials, and interesting subjects. It keeps me engaged in the painting process and I learn so much from the challenge of trying out something different. For a couple of months I have playing around with abstract painting more specifically on a slick nonabsorbent surface called yupo. In the past my abstract painting experiments have been anything but pleasing. I know you think anybody could paint abstractly even your 4 year old, but have you ever tried painting a really good abstract painting? How do you know what to paint? How do you arrange, the colors, textures, shapes, lines to create interest, rythym, balance and unity? It is a complex task and difficult task! These three painting are the better abstracts I have created as an artist so far, and they don't necessarily reflect my current "style" of painting-- but they are Adam VanHouten originals.
One only has to look at Picasso, who never kept the same style! He was constantly evolving trying new things and seeing where that might lead him in his artistic journey. While the "style" your in right now might be a safe zone and one that people admire, try something new and different. Continue the joy of growing, searching and learning and your art will continue to change for the better.. keep painting.
As a middle school art Instructor the thing that I enjoy most about my day job is creating art with the students. These sketches were created during class for a unit on sculpting figures. When I say the word "drawing" students are often so fearful, that they freeze up. We did a whole series of 1 minute drawings of figures dancing, snowboarding, musicians, parkour and many more. The objective was to loosen up, let go and not worry about the final outcome. (who has time to worry in 1 minute?) And practice, practice, more practice! Don't let fear get the best of you... what's the worst that can happen? So you mess up a lot of times and get a few good sketches while learning in the process. It is a good lesson for all artists as we work to perfect our craft, we get so invested in our work that we forget to set aside the anxiety. Stop thinking and let the artwork speak for itself... Overcome the fear of making a mistake.