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Having Fun with Watercolours

In order to paint in the impressionistic style of watercolours that I prefer, a bold and confident approach is required. This causes problems for beginners, and even experienced painters if they have a break from working. Worrying too much about the process can lead to a cautious approach, which often produces a stiff and uninspired watercolour.

So what is needed is a way of relaxing, and almost letting the brush move without thinking. I expect that getting into a state of Zen meditation would be beneficial, but another way is to set out with a playful attitude. If you make up your mind, before you start, that you are going to work quickly and not try to produce a polished watercolour, then you can free yourself to just have fun. If the results are a mess, you have only spent a small amount of time, and you have probably learnt something in the process. If you find you like what you have produced, then you have a nice piece of artwork to keep. You might be surprised how often these pieces turn out to be some of the best. If you are a beginner, don't expect to produce a masterpiece, but working like this will help in your progress. Even playing around with colour-mixing on scraps of paper is a worthwhile exercise.

In order to be as carefree as possible, you can use the back of failed paintings to paint on. In this way you can use good quality paper, without the inhibition of a pristine sheet. In the exercise above, I used an old quarter sheet painting and divided it into four with masking tape. These little paintings were produced from memory with no pencil guidelines, just pure and free brush-work.

Painting 1

Painting 2

Painting 3

Painting 4


  1. Good afternoon Keith!... As always.. sage advice and a sound "can't fail" approach to problem solving. Return after a lengthy hiatus is one of the most dreaded hurdles to get over.

    Your mini lessons here and the tips you offer... make "diving in" an encouraging invitation... rather than a dare!

    Seems that you landed back on your feet...

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

    1. Good evening Bruce. It's difficult to keep up the momentum over Christmas, so I'm always a bit nervous about how much it will set me back. I seem to be back in the groove quickly this time though.

      Thanks for the comments; all the more appreciated from as good a tutor as you.

      All the best,

  2. How true, Keith. No matter the medium, it should never be the process that determines how colour is applied or lines drawn. Thank you for your insight. Kindest regards, Diane.

    1. Thanks Diane, it's not always easy to let our creativity have free reign, I think.

  3. Of all the mediums Keith I find that watercolour painting requires almost daily practice like playing a piano to achieve those fresh washes. Lovely post very interesting to read.

    1. Very true Caroline, confidence is so important with watercolour.

  4. Well that's hit my nail firmly on the head. I've often debated the chicken and egg nature of painting ... does confidence come from painting well, or does painting well come from confidence. You've perfectly answered that question and, as a struggling watercolourist, I take on board everything you've written here. Thank you very much for a most insightful post.

    1. Yes it is a bit chicken and egg John: Being able to paint well brings confidence, but I think being confident leads to better painting in the first place.


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