Introduction: Make Art for Cheap - Borrow a Kid's Watercolor Paint
Art supplies don't have to cost a lot of money.
I'm not what one would call experienced with watercolor, but I recently bought some cheap watercolor paint for my kids. One day I wanted to try painting some things myself. It had been years since I'd tried watercolor.
I highly suggest using watercolor paper. Other paper can disintegrate under repeated rubbing with a wet paintbrush.
If your watercolor paint is also
stolen borrowed, the colors might be mixed and muddy. Clean them before painting on your paper. Wet them with a brush, rub the paintbrush a bit to loosen up the top layer of color, and wipe it with a clean paper towel.
Sometimes I have a hard time visualizing things. I sketched the image lightly before painting. A thin pencil works well for this.
Because this was a portrait, I started by mixing a peach shade with red and orange. Watercolor paints don't often come with white (and when they do, it's not very opaque), and you're supposed to use the white of the paper for light colors. That means adding lots and lots of water to just a tiny bit of color so the white can show through.
From what I've seen, watercolor is often done with several washes of light color layered on top of each other. I first painted the face with the lightest (most watery) layer of color. It's hard to see what color the watery paint will be on paper when it's in a little plastic dish, so have a paper towel or other scrap paper nearby to test the color with a swipe of your brush. It also helps to wipe off your brush if you don't want it to drip on your painting.
I then added another layer of peach to the areas of skin with a little more shadow. I mixed a bit of brown and added a touch of blue to the peach for another light layer of shadow.
If you're painting a person, you might notice that their face looks uneven and wrinkled while you're adding shadows. That's okay. You can smooth out the color later with a brush dipped in clean water.
I used a small brush and started with a watery dark brown when I painted the eyes, because I wanted to leave room to make some parts darker. If you look closely at photos of people, you'll notice many have a light reflection in their eyes, usually on the iris or pupil. That part is best left white, so make sure to carefully paint around it. The eyes tend to look old and tired when you first start painting the details around them. Don't worry about that; just paint the lines as you see them. After the details are added, darkening areas like the corners of the eye, the eyelashes, the pupil, and eyeliner (if the person is wearing it) balance the image and make the eyes look younger again.
If you add too much paint and it starts to flood your paper, just press a clean dry brush, paper towel, or cotton swab to the area to lift off the paint. If the paint is dry where you want to remove it, get it wet with a clean brush first and then sop it up. Sometimes I put a good amount of paint in an area then remove a little of it because it's easier to create a smoothly blended area that way than to try to line up brush strokes of varied concentration of color.
A good rule to remember, I think, is to make sure to blot the paintbrush a bit on a paper towel before painting any details. Let the brush soak a lot of watery paint if you're filling in a large area with light color. Watercolor moves into any area that's wet, so make sure the surface is dry if you're adding detailed lines that you don't want to bleed. Make sure the entire area is soaked if you're trying to paint it a smoothly blended color.
If you did borrow your paint, watch out for little paint gnomes who might try to take it back or assist your artwork. Sometimes you can distract them by handing them other paper, but it doesn't always work.
I used some watercolor pencils for the flipflop on a ribbon because I didn't have any magenta or cyan watercolor paint. For the record, RED AND BLUE ARE NOT PRIMARY COLORS. I'd rather not start a holy war in the comments, but... you can't get cyan or magenta from mixing any other pigment colors. Look at the color printer ink cartridges if you don't believe me. They're not red, yellow, and blue; they're magenta, yellow, and cyan (and black usually). Watercolor pencils work in a similar way; you can still mix them with water in a dish, or you can LIGHTLY rub the pencil over the textured watercolor paper, then add water with a brush to smooth out the particles of water soluble color. My watercolor pencils were $5 for a set of 26 at the craft store. I wouldn't pay more for them because my kids sometimes eat them.
On a side note, water soluble pencils for marking fabric cost a bloody fortune at $2 or more each - the watercolor pencils work the same, are much cheaper, and come in a wider variety of shades. Just make sure not to heat the fabric you've marked until you wash out the watercolor pencil.
I painted dots in the background then added a light gray wash. I'm not sure what other instruction to give... I'm not exactly a seasoned artist, but the basics of watercolor painting seem pretty straightforward. Mix paint with water, apply to paper. Add more paint if you want it darker. Add water and soak up the excess if you want it lighter. Wet paper lets the paint spread. Dry paper keeps the brush strokes defined.
I guess there's one more thing. If you make a mistake that you can't seem to fix or if someone criticizes or points out flaws, remember that art is never wrong. You can make up a reason that the smudge represents something deep like inner conflict over wool versus silk or the struggle of anorexic elephants in antarctica, or you could simply claim "artistic license." It helps if you can make your tone sound nonchalant with a tinge of incredulity at the critic's ignorance. Keep practicing until it's second nature: "I meant to do it that way." "That's how it's supposed to be. It's art."
Thanks for reading!
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