All beginners paint watercolor with far too little paint in the brush.
All? Yes, I actually think so. It happens at every course. Experienced participants paint fluently while those who are new, paint carefully and dry. I have taught watercolor painting classes for almost thirty years, so I have seen many beginners struggle with their colors. The most common mistake beginners make is not filling their brush with paint.
Let me show you what I mean with these two videos. A square must be colored. I mix a grayish color. I use leftover paint from a previous painting for this. The same color mix is used for both attempts. I do my best to emulate how the beginner approaches such a challenge.
The first common mistake that many beginners make is to initially draw the contours of the surface with the brush. Especially if you only use a little paint in the brush, this can be devastating to the result. Also notice how lines are drawn with many small brushstrokes instead of long distinct ones.
After the shape is created with a line, the surface must be filled in, this is done by the inexperienced artist with only a little paint in the brush. Probably more than one dip of the brush is needed, because the artist does not fill his brush with paint, it is not possible to get the same amount of paint on the next attempt. Perhaps the second brush stroke is more fluid than the first, resulting in unwanted effects.
When the entire surface is covered, and the artist should be satisfied with the result, an unjustified desire arises in the beginner to fix a few small mistakes. I have seen countless previously nice paint surfaces ruined by students who cannot leave a small mistake uncorrected. Never process an already painted color layer further. Small mistakes can create character in a painting, corrected mistakes are usually ugly.
My second attempt at coloring describes how I usually paint, fluidly (filled brush) with few overpaints. Lines drawn with only one brushstroke. Pour the surface smooth if necessary. Never rub the paint surface. Paint quite quickly.
Here is one of my “truths” that all my students have heard before:
“A beautiful and crooked line is better than a perfect but ugly and boring one“.
The example below comes from a course in Tuscany, two students tackle a similar landscape, both paintings are roughly the same size. The first painting is made by a student who has not painted fluently. While the other is painted by someone who has the ability to use a filled brush, thus creating finer color surfaces. That’s my opinion anyway. Filled brush and reasonably fast brushstrokes give better results than just a little paint in the brush and meticulous painting.
(Click on the images to see them larger)
Many people confuse painting fluidly with using a lot of water. Sometimes when I tell a student that she should paint more fluidly, she immediately adds more water to the paint mixture. But painting fluidly has nothing to do with the amount of water, it just describes painting with a lot of paint. The color can be dark or light, with a little or a lot of water in the mix. It doesn’t matter how much water is included, what matters is how you paint: With a filled brush.