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Watercolor paintings illustrating different watercolor ideas and different watercolor painting techniques
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Advanced Watercolor Painting Lessons.
Masterpieces here we come.

"Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do." Edgar Degas


I suggest you take these lessons starting in the top left and going down the left column just as you would read a newspaper.

Color schemes are a very useful technique for determining the colors to use in a watercolor painting. Color For Intermediates - Color Schemes

A lesson on how to select color schemes for your paintings. This is not just a watercolor lesson, but is useful with any medium. oils, acrylics, pastels, anything. It is not only a painting technique, but also a technique for your personal life. It's useful for selecting your wardrobe, the clothes you put on now, and interior decorating.

A wet in wet watercolor painting of a glass vase filled with flowers. Bouquet of Flowers - A Wet In Wet Floral Painting
The queen of watercolor painting techniques is wet in wet. This difficult but rewarding way of applying paint will amaze you, once you master it.

We work with the "sedimentary" properties of our paints. They diffuse outward and settle downward at different rates. This gives us the "wet in wet effect". On a small scale, the color is very broken. On a larger scale the edges are soft. We get electrifying results painting this way, and I will show you all of my tips and tricks.

Watercolor landscape painting showing mountains lakes and trees. Creating Depth
Depth is perhaps the single most important element in any landscape painting.
Creating depth requires several different skills. You will learn how to do it, and, most important, why.

Watercolor painting showing warm and cool color schemes. Color Advanced - Warm And Cool Colors - The Emotional Content Of A Painting

In the previous two color lessons we covered the "nuts and bolts" of color. This lesson covers the "touchy - feely" part of color. First it offers a few tips and tricks about speeding up the color learning process. The next part covers the use of color for contrast, such as creating a center of interest. We also learn to use gray to potentiate colors. The main part of the lesson is how to use color to convey feelings.

Watercolor painting showing aspen trees in the snow with a forest in the background. Aspens – A Snowscape.
The basis of this lesson is scraping away wet paint. It’s an important watercolor technique. In this case we will create a forest with very little effort.
The forest is the background for a double trunk tree surrounded by snow. Snow is a challenge to paint until you know how. Shadow and color is the basis of convincing snow.

Watercolor painting of a basket filled with tomatoes. How To Paint A Basket - Part 1
Baskets are favorite subjects for watercolorists, and they always look so difficult to paint. In this lesson I will show you the easy way.
Part of the lesson will be the use of watercolor medium’ gum Arabic” and also the use of masking fluid

Watercolor painting of a basket filled with tomatoes. How To Paint A Basket - Part 2
Here we finish the painting by adding the fruit and shadow to the basket.
This part covers a little about warm and cool colors and a little about shadows in general.

A watercolor painting of a barn and silo, illustrating blue shadows in the landscape. Using shadows in landscape paintings.

There is so much to know about shadows in the landscape. There are objects in shadow which cast shadows on other things. There are shadows under overhanging surfaces. And there is the special case of foreground shadows which create the feeling of sanctuaries.

A sunny day lifts our spirits. You will learn that the hallmark of a sunny day is blue shadows. The emotional content of a painting is carried by the colors in that painting. The use of the color blue in this case, will definitely communicate a feeling of happiness. You may also come to understand the "blue period" of many famous artists.

Watercolor painting demonstrating painting skies. How To Paint DawnSkies - Sunrise / Sunset - Part 1 - Skies with multi hues.
These skies need to be smooth yet are very interesting. Here we paint a sunrise with an orange red horizon fusing smoothly into a blue green sky. We are after convincing the viewer that they are looking at what might be a photograph. The sky is not the focus of the painting, rather the backdrop for a seascape, landscape. The mid ground is the actual subject but it is subtle, so it needs a dramatic frame to focus the eye. That is supplied by the intense value of the foreground.

Watercolor painting demonstrating painting islands both far and near. How To Paint Water and Islands - Sunrise / Sunset - Part 2?
Poetically speaking, these are islands in the sky. In reality the are the props for the subject,which is my favorite lighthouse. There is Fire Island off in the distance, and two other islands with the "snake hill channel" between them forming the dramatic foreground. Ya gatta love the drama in this painting and its all done with a few simple elements. The trick is the intense value and color contrasts

Watercolor painting demonstrating how to paint a lighthouse by either lifting or masking. Lifting and Painting The Lighthouse - Sunrise / Sunset - Part 3 - Lifting out the lighthouse.
Here we see one of the many techniques used for lifting watercolor paint. Even though the background sky is painted with a richly staining paint, we can lift enough of the paint to give the impression of a white lighthouse. This is a real scene, and this is a real lighthouse. it is Fire Island Light. It is part of my everyday world, and you can probably feel my reverence for the place.

Monoprint watercolor painting using plastic wrap. Monoprinting using plastic wrap - Easiest Painting ever..
This as a fabulous way to generate interesting patterns in watercolor paint. Sometimes they are so beautiful that you just want to frame them "as is". I usually use them as a "start." I use a start as the basis for a painting. The final work is always very dramatic, ( or a failure). if its a failure, that's no problem. I just wash off whatever paint I can, an then use it as another start,

Abstract watercolor painting of a bridge Abstract Art – A discussion.
Even if you hate abstract art, you at least need to know what it’s about. If you are a beginner who loves abstract painting, or an old hand who is getting bored, this is for you.

Advanced Painting Advice

In my experience beginners always paint washed out paintings. Maybe they're conserving paint. At some point the self taught artist start reaching for darks. When that happens they automatically try to paint the full range of lights and darks. I think that's the end of being a beginner.

My students get there very very quickly, because my demonstrations involve dark passages from the lesson 1.

So then what's an advanced painter? Once you reach for darks, whether you know it or not, your thoughts will automatically turn towards design. What to paint. What to include and what to leave out. How to arrange things in the painting. What color to use where. These things belong to subject composition (synonym=design). For as long as you keep painting, good composition will be your goal. In my experience, design excellence will always be just out of reach. Welcome to the rest of your painting career.

In the beginning composition might feel a little overwhelming ( or a lot overwhelming).   it need not be. There is a kind of science that will break up the problem into manageable chunks. 

Composition has five and only five elements.

  1. Line
  2. Shape
  3. Value
  4. Color
  5. Texture


Line is kind of self-explanatory. it's either straight or curved. Recti-linear compositions are made of straight lines. That would be something like a cityscape. Buildings, windows, streets.  poles are all made of straight lines. Curvi-linear  compositions are made of curved lines. The best example of a curvi-linear composition would be a portrait. No straight edges there. This probably sounds like an over-simplification of something, but later when  going to revisit this in a very important way.


Shapes are just spaces surrounded by lines. as such they too can be recti-linear or curvi-linear or both. Shapes are super important because they tell us what the thing is.  A giraffe looks very different from an apple. Without any hint from color or value or texture it's really easy to tell them apart.  Shape,  as a category, contains the intellectual information in the painting.  it tells us what the painting and it's parts are about.


Each of these elements is important but I think that value comes first.  What every artist means by "value" is the relative lightness and darkness of the thing. Something brilliant white is the lightest value. something dead dark is the darkest value. There are companies that actually have made grey paint in precise value scales 1 to 10. We're not going to be very precise about anything (Its art) but we're going to spend a lot of time on value.

If you look at a black and white photograph you're looking at a value study. There are some things that jump  out at you. Nearby objects have stronger values. Distance objects become ever lighter greys. Values and distance will come up in many of the lessons. It's one of the most important tools we have for creating distance. In a black and white photograph the only way we can tell one object from another is  the difference in value. Either that or we're going to have to outline them to distinguish thing 1 from thing 2.

  • A high-key painting is one where there is only lighter values. Even shadows are not dark.

  • A low-key painting is composed entirely of dark values. they each have their place, but most people prefer paintings using the full value range. I sure do.


Value arises from two things.

  1. The actual value of  the object. You can have  a red, a blue, a purple, a green and  gray objects, all having the same value. (Think only Black White & Gray)

  2. The lighting of the object. Lighting creates the highlights as well as the shaded side of things. It also creates the shadows. 

What makes value so important to us is that we can  tinker with it. For example, we could have a big building next to a little building. Suppose the big building has strong values, dark darks and light lights. And suppose if the small building is all mid values. Then the big building will seem close, and a little building will seem far away and they will seem like they might be the same size building, just at different distances. 

We can tinker with values in a far more  important way. Suppose that the subject of our painting is a sphere,situated in the center of a garden. now one side of the sphere is going to be lighted by the sun on the other side he's going to be shadowed. if we put a gray background behind the sphere it will show up very clearly but not be of great importance. but if we invent some light colored vegetation ( or sky, or anything) behind the dark side, behind the shadow side of the sphere and if we invent some dark color vegetation (or building or anything) behind the bright side of the sphere: BULLSEYE, we have a center of interest. The painting will be about something. No one will be looking at the vegetation, why bother. everybody will be looking at the sphere.

That was an example of how we can use value as a tool to tell a story and to enhance a composition.  This leads to to one of our greatest tricks.  Since nobody is looking at the background stuff, you can get away with almost anything there. Suggestions of background objects is all you need. I rarely do much work on backgrounds, yet I have been called a photorealist.

The main thing to understand about value is that the eye will always be drawn to the edge with the greatest value change. by creating a path of high contrast, we can direct the eye around the painting in any way we choose. pretty powerful stuff, huh?

Are you getting the feeling that the artist has a lot of power over the experience of the viewer?

In one of the lessons you're about to take, the viewer will be standing in the shadow of a tree which is not in the painting. Because there are other trees with shadows about, it's easy to imagine the tree casting the shadow you're in. It gives you a nice feeling to be protected by that tree. It's part of the charm of the painting and it isn't even in the painting. Value is one of your most amazing tools.


If shape carries the intellectual contents of a painting, color carries the emotional part. Words don't mean much here. This says it best. No-one can master color any more than we can master our own feelings. Color excellence is an amazing  jjourney.


More to come, as this page will probably always be a work in progrgress.

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