I Heart Watercolors

After the post I wrote couple of weeks ago I felt like it would be nice to talk about what I like about a particular medium.

I actually really like using watercolors. I didn’t come by this naturally–I had a couple of teachers that essentially assigned weekly drills–but despite their fussiness I find them to be the most convenient paints. They don’t require any sort of special surface other than thick paper, dry very quickly, and take almost no time to set up. I also enjoy oil painting, but I’ve tried painting outside with oils exactly once in recent years, and my main take-aways from that experience were that photo references are really great to use and the outdoors are overrated.

A couple of things about watercolors–I know I used to feel like if I didn’t get it exactly right the first time when using this medium my painting would be Ruined Beyond Repair and it was stressful to start. Watercolor pencils look like regular colored pencils but are water-soluble (you can essentially erase them with a wet brush, or at least blend them into a wash of paint) and are a life-saver if, like me, you like to sketch out your composition before starting. Also, if you’re careful about it it’s possible to lift up nearly all of the pigment if you do mess up while painting. Just add more water to the wash and gently blot with a paper towel. You can even do this after the paint has dried, although it’s more effective if you can blot up the paint before it’s had a chance to soak in. You’re going to want to be mindful of your paper while doing this as the danger is in wearing away the paper’s surface and making the surface of the pulp clump up, but watercolors are actually a lot more forgiving than I think people realize.

My choices in subject matter for watercolor paintings mainly fall into two categories. The first is buildings/cityscapes. I like playing with structure and geometry in my compositions, as well as depicting the landscape that humans have built for ourselves.

The other main category is creepy coastal scenes, and, sigh. Every time I have a water image I want to paint my brain goes “Oh, it’s water, you should use watercolors, because water. But it’ll be too boring, better add something ominous.” I wish I had a more elegant thesis, but…

All images in this post are by Celia Yost

Celia Yost

Celia Yost is a graphic artist and painter by both training and trade. She's also prone to ill-advised craft projects and yelling about politics.

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