Let’s get started.
Watercolors are a dynamic medium filled with brightness and expression. They may seem daunting at first, but as a teaching tool (whether to children or in your own creative practice), watercolors present opportunities to practice short and long term planning, patience, and critical thinking. As we progress through the workshops, I will show you how to develop paintings using this expressive medium. These lessons are intended for beginning watercolorists and by parents and teachers with children in small groups.
Before you begin, you will need 3 things:
You don’t need a million brushes to get started, just one. When playing and practicing, I use a small round brush. Play around with your brushes and recreate some of the art below. Different shapes and sizes will produce different results: play with the brushes you have.
Paints & Clear Water
Prep your paints. Whether using artist grade tubes or children’s flats, you will want all of your paints and fresh rinsing water prepared and at hand before you begin. Watercolor relies on wetness to move and control pigment; stopping mid-image to mix new paints will show as blotchy marks in the final image.
I prefer to use a heavy weight, watercolor paper. These papers are heavy enough not to curl when wet applications are laid down. For lightweight papers, prepare them by wetting both sides and stretching with a gum tape. Allow the paper to fully dry again.
With your brushes, paints and paper prepared, you are ready to begin.
Art and creativity are about play. Allow the inner child to explore the new medium. Enjoy the freedom you have and start painting geometric shapes and figures. With just a few strokes, I made these alligators and this strange dodo-bird.
The point, especially when teaching children, is to explore and make mistakes. Limit yourself to a single color to avoid muddying the images and use scraps of paper cut into strips and squares.
This is practice. Let it be free and fun. Get to know the medium with an open heart and paint what pops into your head. There are no mistakes here.
Try different types of applications. Apply colors to dry paper and to wet paper and see what happens. Try smudging wet paints or use varying amounts of pressure or paint on your brush. Mix colors!
There are many ways to have fun when experimenting with watercolor paints. A few key points: don’t over-mix your colors and always rinse and blot your brush between colors. A little blue in a lot of yellow still makes green.
Set aside a few hours each week to practice (one hour a day is a good rule of thumb for beginners; one hour twice a week is a good amount for grades 3-8 in the US).
Talent isn’t innate; it comes from the application of knowledge and skill. An athlete does not gain the muscles of his sport by sitting around; the same is true for an artist. Spend time developing your craft. As you practice, you will gain confidence and proficiencies in hand and style.
Praise your work. Whether you share it with a close friend, the world on social media, or hang it on the fridge for yourself, it is important that you celebrate your progress. When you have a next new favorite, share that.
Creativity is infinite. Believe in your ability to grasp it and it will fill your heart with boundless joy and energy.
Explore more of my watercolors and share them with the kids in Sleepy Safari and Dreamy Desert, for your e-reading devices. The land of dreams is filled with happy, restful creatures in these sleepy-time readers.