Ah, watercolor. Its beautiful luminous quality is pure delight. Watercolor is wildly uncontrollable and at the same time containable. It’s a visual medium that moves around with ease, exploding and bursting into surrounding strokes, creating texture and depth that can’t be found in any other type of media.
You know the feeling when you’ve fallen in love and you can’t stand to be away from that person? This was my story with watercolor. I know— dramatic, right? Well, it’s true. I became obsessed. When I wasn’t painting, I was thinking about painting. I fell in love with watercolor and began to study it. I put in countless hours discovering all the ins and outs.
My mom and both of my grandmothers were acrylic painters, and although I’d tried my hand at painting a few times, I would definitely have considered myself OK at best. And sure, I’d dabbled with watercolor in elementary school. But when my profession as a calligrapher and designer began to take off, I came across the right watercolor supplies—and something changed for me. With the correct materials, the process was so enjoyable that I wanted to learn more.
This infatuation rapidly turned into an important part of my career as an artist and designer. I’ve been able to work with clients from all over the globe, using watercolor to provide illustrations for large brands, as well as creative stationery for events like beautiful high-end weddings. I’ve also been able to travel and teach my watercolor classes to thousands of students over the years. With my teaching experience, I’ve learned how to communicate with beginner and developing watercolorists, to break down complicated subjects into something simpler and easier to grasp. I’m able to share what I’ve learned the hard way through experience and mistakes. I’ve come to discover that watercolor painting is about learning from the failed attempts and continuing to develop muscle memory and technique.
In the beginning, I challenged myself to paint subjects more complex than what I thought I could manage. I incorporated my knowledge of basic sketching and shading techniques into more complex subjects. At each stage of my relationship with watercolor, I was accepting of where I was—not discouraged with the outcome, but learning to enjoy the process and seeking to understand more of why watercolor does what it does and how to master it.
Being a self-taught watercolor artist has allowed me to break rules and learn the hard way. I’ve written this book to help you do just that (and perhaps avoid some of the hard parts I encountered). So here’s my advice at the outset: Allow yourself to be challenged. Paint differently than you think you should, and ask yourself what you enjoy about it. Like anything, becoming a better watercolorist takes work, dedication, practice, and most of all, patience. Patience with yourself to look at subjects with new eyes—the eyes of an artist. But first, you must allow yourself to start small and work your way up, adding more detail and complexity as you go. Jumping straight into painting a detailed flower or a toucan before practicing brush technique will usually lead to disappointment—you need to build basic skills before you tackle form and structure.
Throughout this book, we’re going to develop muscle memory and train our eyes to look for basic shapes and curves in every subject. No matter how complex and detailed a subject may seem on the surface, everything you paint or draw can be broken down into very simple shapes, like circles and ovals. We’ll start developing good brush and painting technique by practicing these basic shapes, training our eyes to look for unifying color palettes, and following rules of composition. We will define and create more complex shapes as we move through our thirty days together, building upon our foundation to continually instill confidence in your painting. Knowing where and how to start with any subject is a crucial part of the process, and this book will show you just that.
I hope you love getting to know more about watercolor over these next thirty days and you are inspired to continue painting with a new appreciation for this medium and for yourself as a creative individual. Once you have a strong foundation, you can develop your own style. Accept each step of the process, even your less successful attempts, as an opportunity for growth. Watercolor can be unpredictable, yet incredibly manageable too. If you’re up for the challenge to #everydaywatercolor, I’m sure you’ll be surprised by the creativity that is naturally in you—sometimes it just takes looking at things from a different angle. Throughout your journey through this book, I would love to see some of your favorite pieces you’ve created. If you’re on social media, use the hashtag #everydaywatercolor to add your own paintings. I’d enjoy seeing your transformation over the course of these daily painting exercises.
Let’s get started with the foundations, shall we?