Home » Back To Watercolor Basics: A Crash Course On Watercolor For Beginners

Back To Watercolor Basics: A Crash Course On Watercolor For Beginners

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Step 9: Simple Study Exercises

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When you do paint exercises, start with simple shapes so you don’t overwhelm yourself. Also, make sure to do a pencil sketch of the shape you see before painting it. Steve recommends sketching from real life, as you get good information from what you’re looking at. Once you’ve studied and practiced enough, painting from memory isn’t so far off!

Steve demonstrates this by sketching a tree from his imagination, which you can also try. Then, use a round brush to mix Yellow Ochre with Sap and Perylene Green for a natural leafy color. Paint the light to mid-tone areas first, then add Aureolin for the lightest leaves, or more Perylene Green for the shadows. As the paint is still wet, these new colors will push away the previous one, but be careful not to “overload” your paper with paint! For the darkest shadows, mix in Ultramarine. Remember to leave white spots to create the illusion of light filtering through the leaves, and paint in a dark tree trunk for structural support. Lastly, mix in diluted Cobalt Blue Hue with the greens, then paint the tree’s shadow to anchor it in space. 

Steve also shows what not to do by painting “with the left brain”; i.e. iconographically. It’s a mindset that means painting from what you think you know, and will end up looking rigid and cartoon-like. To avoid this, take your time to observe real life subjects, which will help train your mind to remember what something really looks like.

Finally, a quick tip: remember to change your water when it starts to affect your paint color. It also helps to start off with more water in your container, as it will take more time to get dirty.