Beginner’s mistakes 1

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I have been holding watercolor courses for almost 40 years and have seen many beginners paint watercolor during all this time. I will mention some very common mistakes that beginners make, so that you can avoid them. I know that a pedagogical truth is that you should highlight the positive things, but here I do the opposite.

There is a lot to write about here, but we start with material, later there will be more posts about other common mistakes, but this first text is about material.

Uses too cheap paper

Uses too cheap paper

This is the most common mistake that almost all beginners in watercolor make, they buy fine brushes and good colors but ignore the most important thing: the paper. You can paint watercolor with half-bad colors and lousy brushes, but you can not paint watercolor on bad paper. Buy good paper, it is absolutely crucial to the success of your painting, a good paper is made of cotton, is mold made and has a glued paper surface (sizing). It is expensive, but it is a prerequisite for being able to paint watercolor.

Puts the brush in the rinsing water

Puts the brush in the rinsing water

Instead of putting the brush down when it is not needed, the beginner puts it in the rinsing water, this is an effective way to quickly destroy brushes. Never place your brush in the water container, just place it on the table next to the paper.

Touch the paper

dont Touch the watercolor paper

All beginners use watercolor paper in blocks. The first thing they do when preparing a new painting is to open the block, and finger the paper. Why? It is very common for a participant in the course to pat the paper with their hand before they start painting, they open the block, put their hand on the paper, pat a few times, happily rub their hand over the paper, as if to get acquainted with the blank paper before start painting on it. Watercolor papers are sensitive, you should never touch the paper surface, NEVER!
(I have seen videos on Youtube where more experienced artists also do so, it is very strange I think.)

Dirty paint box

Dirty watercolor paint box

It may be a matter of personality, because some beginners have very clean color boxes. But many are bad at keeping their colors clean, they first take blue color and immediately yellow, without first rinsing the brush, then of course the yellow color gets dirty from the blue color, if you always do this all colors become dirty. The foreign paint penetrates into all small cracks and makes it very difficult to clean the paints afterwards. Rinse the brush before taking paint from another pan. Another way to avoid this is to use tubes. Some beginners have such dirty colors that they can not paint a lemon, it becomes a lime.

Too small brushes

Too small watercolor brushes

It is not uncommon for a new student in my courses to have (too) many brushes, all in size smaller than 8. They have a lot of small brushes, sizes 1, 3, 6 and even smaller. For many beginners, a large brush is one that for the more experienced is a small brush. Most people use far too small brushes. You should have at least a size 12-14 as a standard brush. All smaller brushes are used to paint details and small things.

Cuddles with the brushes

Cuddles with the watercolor brushes

Just like with paper, some people love to touch their brushes, when they take out their chosen brush, the first thing they do is pull it through their fingers, and then they cuddle with it for a while, there is no other description, they caress it in a loving way. It is not good to transfer grease and dirt to your brush, avoid touching the hair of the brushes. You should also preferably not “paint” with a dry brush on your face as I have seen some students do.

Masking tape

Masking tape in watercolor

If you have read other posts on this blog, you have understood that I am a strong supporter of stretching the paper. It is a prerequisite for getting the most out of your material. But some beginners just stick a dry piece of paper on a board with masking tape, a behavior that I sometimes see even experienced watercolor painters engage in. The paper is not stretched and the surface is not treated, moreover, when they use water on the paper, it will rise in a little hill because it can not expand when it swells from the water. In other words, it is a very bad idea to tape a dry watercolor paper to a board. Yet many do so. Make a real stretch instead. It is actually better to paint on a loose sheet of watercolor paper than to tape it to a board with masking tape.

To be continued…

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