Experimental Watercolors It’s all About COLOR!

Experimental Watercolor Palette

Setting Up for Success ~ It’s all About COLOR!

watercolor supplies
My watercolor satchel holds a flat 9 x 12 plastic palette, 2 brushes a few watercolor postcards and a plastic cup and water bottle.. 

The important thing about experimental watercolor painting is using good pigments. Not because you think you are going to make good paintings ~ because good pigments give rich colors your heart can feel. THIS is important!

If your heart doesn’t beat a little faster when you see the color hit your paper, you haven’t made the connection!

You will know you’ve made the all important connection when you feel your heart say, “oh wow I love that,”

Artist’s paints are true pigments with rich formulations. Student paints are not. They are diluted synthetic substitutes. It will be very difficult (if not impossible) for your heart to feel the energy of color resonance with them. If you are trying to save money, buy only a few good artist’s colors and use them. Don’t waste your money on student grade paint.

Artist Quality Pigments

experimental watercolor
Three Primary Colors 2 reds, 2 Blues & 2 Yellows.

My watercolor palette consists of only 6 colors. I use two reds, Alizarin Crimson and Cadmium Red Medium; two blues, Ultramarine Blue and Cerulian Blue; and two yellows, Lemon Yellow and Cadmium Yellow Medium.  With watercolor you do not need white paint.

One small tube of each will last a long time. Each brush stroke is 80% water and 20% pigment. This is another reason good pigments are so important.

My palette will help you learn to mix colors. The three primary colors, red, blue and yellow, are used to create most secondary and tertiary colors. By the time you need other colors on your palette, you will know which ones you can’t mix with these.

What to Paint On?

experimental watercolor
Experimental watercolor postcards in this photo are one from the New Hampshire coast and Hollyhocks from Provence, France. The Hollyhocks one inspired a whole series of large-scale paintings two years later. See more about this>

How color feels depends on what it is next to. If you paint a stroke of brilliant red paint on a greenish sheet of paper, it will look dull and lifeless. You will think you can’t paint! And you will give up and never feel the thrill of color beating in your heart.

Use good quality watercolor paper like ARCHES. Or make your own painting panels with Absorbent White Gesso so your colors will make your heart sing. This is why you are painting in the first place?

When I picked watercolor back up after 30 years, I bought 4 packs of Strathmore Watercolor Postcards for pocket change. Painting 30 of them changed my life.

Brushes, Pens & Palette

Brushes

experimental watercolorTwo brushes are sufficient. I use one 1/2″ flat and one #8 pointed round brush. I currently use Creative Mark’s Minik brushes because they are less expensive than sables and hold up well to my abuse.

The biggest mistake is using a brush that is small. My two brushes look too big to many beginners. A big brush helps you see the big shapes of color. Keep it simple, bold and big ~ especially on a postcard sized painting.

Felt Tip Pens

On my way to France, I picked up two felt tip pens, one sage green the other sienna. These colors are earthy, so when I draw back into my painting with a few squiggly lines it grounds the fluid dream to the page. You might prefer different colors. Use your gut and pick two.

experimental watercolor
Two brushes and a couple felt tip pens
Palette

A flat 9 x 12 plastic palette is inexpensive, less than $8 and can be slipped into a plastic bag. It does not matter if the watercolor paint dries out on the palette. Just add water to soften the paint. To wash it off, simply rinse under a faucet and wipe with a paper towel.experimental watercolor

Eight small wells are for paint squeezed from the tube. 12 large wells are for mixing colors together with lots of water.  LOTS OF WATER is the key to painting with watercolors.

I have seen people use white plastic plates as palettes. This could work, but would be awkward and get expensive. Without separate wells to mix colors, you would going through plates quickly.

See my Joyful Pond

Change the World? Who Me? Yes, You!

Why is it that THE thing you think you aren’t EVER going to do ~ is the ONE thing that will transform EVERYTHING???

I had given this painting up for lost. I’d abandoned her completely!!!

I found her the other day rolled up in a dark corner of my studio. The face of her was black. You heard me right, the center of the painting was painted in such dark colors, you couldn’t see the fields and farms at all.

Joys Garden Dorothy Fagan
Joy’s Garden, oil on canvas, 36″x 48″

No, sorry I don’t have a “before picture.” She was too ugly to photograph.

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So why does it make a difference anyway?

When I finished painting her (and that’s another story of it’s own), I couldn’t think of a title. NOPE! Nada.

I tried again the next day. Still Nothing. I was totally blank.

On a whim, I went to the easel and flipped back the corner of the canvas to see if there was a title written there.

I couldn’t believe what was written, in my own handwriting, there it was plain as day staring me in the face ~ Joy’s Garden.”

I had to stop and catch my breath. It took me a couple days to get my bearings. I tried to recall when I had first started the painting. I drew a blank there too. No wonder I’ve had vertigo.

I really only remembered the day I rolled her up and put her away. I had messed up what I thought was a pretty good painting, then blown her off by painting the dark colors. I didn’t think it mattered. You know, who cares?

True Confession

Well, I could say the same about myself. But I won’t! I’m done throwing dark colors around willy nilly. Dark colors are just like that one pencil dot on a clean white piece of paper. We focus on that one spot and waste all the Light in the world trying to erase one small dot.

My mom used to call me “Dot.” “Dotsie,” actually. No one else EVER called me that so don’t get any ideas. I am NOT that spot. Spot’s a dog.

So what got me working on a painting (and a dream) I had thrown away?

A friend came to the studio to pick out some paintings for his house. Looking for perfect paintings for him, this one showed her face. I felt embarrassed to see her and quickly flipped passed her in the pile.

HOWEVER…

After he left I put her up on the easel, turned up the music and squeezed out the paint.

The easel is a pedestal where I can see her in the Light. I can listen with an open mind to what the Creator has to say about her. Sign up for my note about what inspired this painting. It might transform your world too. You’ll never know if you don’t read the story. ummmmm.

There’s a clue in this story about what inspires an artist. Do you see it? Leave your thoughts, guesses, comments. Then subscribe to read the other story and see if you found the clue.

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Tuscany Residency Artist’s Dream Come True

Tuscany Artist’s Residency

I invite you to follow my Tuscany Artist’s Residency online. Join me for plein air painting and Tuscan lifestyle-infused painting lessons.

Follow the creation of my book, Muses of Tuscany, infusing life with paintings and the Tuscan lifestyle.

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I have invited two muses to visit my Tuscany studio. In Greek mythology, muses are goddesses blessed with great artistic talents ~ grace, beauty and allure. They help the gods and mankind forget their troubles and inspire artists to greater artistic and intellectual heights.

My muses are very dear friends who have inspired me over the years. I have asked them to show me Tuscany ~ what inspires them ~ the hill towns, wineries, Tuscan life style. I am hoping my time in Tuscany will re-program me ~ the workaholic who doesn’t know what else to do but work!

I cannot move this mountain, I CAN embrace it.

Embrace of the Mountain
Embrace of the Mountain, CANVAS PRINT

When I titled Embrace of the Mountain, over a year ago, I was thinking the mountain was embracing me. Now I see how I am already embracing it.

Our apartment is 20 miles south of Florence. It is owned by a chef who teaches cooking and runs a private restaurant for residents. We’re leasing a car, which my husband Jim enjoys driving, the Italian way. Sneakers is on her own playdate with the grandkids.

Dorothy Fagan watercolor
Tuscan Sun,

People have always looked at my paintings and asked if I had been to Tuscany. Evidently they saw more in my paintings ~ unfulfilled dreams ~ than I did. My dream? Your dream? The collective consciousness is powerful!

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