Why Paintings Fail

Have I got a treat for you today! Iain Stewart’s watercolor paintings (featured here) are just breathtaking, and it’s my pleasure to share them with you today. While viewing his works (below) is a great way to find inspiration and to study them for color, composition, and more, you can benefit in an even deeper way with his painting tips–an exclusive bonus at ArtistsNetwork–on painting expressively, making your paintings succeed, and creating gorgeous shadows.

Watercolor painting (and tips) by Iain Stewart | ArtistsNetwork.com

Constantine’s Column–Istanbul by Iain Stewart

3 Painting Tips from Iain Stewart

1. I often say in my workshops, “Suggest; don’t state.” This can be applied differently in many situations, but the heart of the message remains the same. The more you invite your viewers to draw their own conclusions about what you’re attempting to convey in a specific work, the more engaged they become in the piece itself. Suggestion, rather than direct resolution of portions of a painting, also can be a very effective tool in directing the way in which the eye is drawn through the painting and the subject is revealed.

Watercolor painting (and tips) by Iain Stewart | ArtistsNetwork.com

Apse End Notre Dame–Paris by Iain Stewart

2. I’m asked quite often, “What can I do to better my painting?” My answer usually surprises most beginners, as it has nothing to do with watercolor application. The simple truth is that daily drawing from life will greatly improve how you see, edit, and record your surroundings. The best tools for this exercise are a sketchbook and pencil. They’re very easily carried with you. I always have them in my car, any bag I carry, and when traveling, I usually include a small watercolor palette with the sketchbook. I think that, too often, there’s a misguided need to create a “real painting,” and this important step is missed in the learning process. A sketchbook is where you should be working out your ideas and experimenting, failing and having successes.It’s an essential part of the entire process that, personally, I couldn’t live without. A good drawing can carry a poor painting at times. A poor drawing is the first step in a failed painting. Learn to use your sketchbook regularly and your painting will follow.

3. Let your shadows breathe. I usually finish a painting in three or four passes. I use a variegated wash technique in most steps that not only includes cool and warm hues, but also relies heavily on well water to vary the strength of the wash. This is especially important in the later stages when adding my final darks. I find that if they vary in tone as well as hue the result is more lively.

There’s so much more to learn from Iain Stewart, and you can start with his DVDs and companion PDFs. Do any of the painting tips above speak to you more strongly than the others? Tell us about it in the comments section of this blog post.

Until next time,
Cherie

Cherie Haas, online editor**Subscribe to the Artists Network newsletter for inspiration, instruction, and ideas, and score a free download on Watercolor Painting for Beginners: The Basics and More.

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