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

Watercolor Travel Kit ~ Preparing for Tuscany

watercolor travel kit
in Monet’s garden with my watermelon striped watercolor travel kit

It won’t be long now before I take off for my Tuscan painting adventure. I am updating my watercolor travel kit from the one I used in France two years ago. The simple watermelon-striped satchel I carried throughout France was terrific. It was stylish, light-weight and big!

Style aside, I couldn’t resist purchasing this artist’s satchel with all its wonderful pockets. I am still playing with how to arrange all my papers, paints, and brushes. In France, I simply threw two packs of watercolor postcards and a travel palette with two brushes in a plastic bag. I carried it everywhere, whipping it out in cafes, on park benches and picnic blankets. I hope this black one doesn’t tie me down. I’m throwing my watermelon one in just in case!

watercolor travel kit
watercolor travel kit

Watercolor Travel Kit

This bag has a stiffener built into the bag itself. I thought it was cardboard I could take out ~ NOT! I guess it will keep my papers from getting messed up.

watercolor travel kit
Several pockets hold various size papers

With all its pockets this watercolor travel kit is getting kind of heavy as I am loading up more and more supplies each day. I ordered some watercolor crayons and pencils which I will show you when the shipment arrives.

watercolor travel kit
watercolor palette slides in easily

Even my 9 x 12″ palette fits into this bag. Watercolors dry out on the palette and are easily reactivated with a little water. No wasted paint here. The large wells are for mixing. My colors are the same as my oil palette: from the bottom up, Cadmium Red Light, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue, Phthalo Green, Yellow Ochre, Lemon Yellow (it’s got a smear of green on it), and Cadmium Yellow Medium.

I have laid them out in the sequence in which I would use them to mix specific colors. For example, Alizarin Crimson is beside Ultramarine Blue. This is coolest red beside warmest blue. Together they make a lovely purple.

If I were to mistake one color for another (which is easy to do as they are so dark in their full strength form), I might mistakenly mix Alizarin with Cerulean or Phthalo. Instead of lovely purple, I would be shocked to see muddy brown!

Like the keys on a  piano, it’s best to keep each color in a predictable position. This rigid structure frees me to paint spontaneously. Stopping to hunt for stuff is a great deterrent to creative inspiration. A predictable structure is a huge aid in painting loose and freely.

watercolor travel kit
this bag has lots of individual pockets for brushes and pencils.

It’s all about balance. If I control the structure; my paint, palette, brushes, papers ~ I am free to go with the flow.  I can throw paint on paper willy nilly if I feel like it.  The best watercolors have that sense of wild abandon ~ yet are crisp, clean and simple.

I am hoping my upgraded watercolor travel kit will have the same effect on my watercolors. In France I struggled for control of the medium. In Tuscany I am hoping to cut loose with  my watercolors and fly free. We’ll see if this kit helps me do that!