Working with A Medium that Flows and Glows | Watercolor

Painting inspiration by Leslie Redhead. The following is an excerpt from Leslie’s Watercolor 365: Daily Tips, Tricks and Techniques

Watercolor painting tips | Leslie Redhead, ArtistsNetwork.com

Red Hollyhocks (watercolor, 17×11.5) by Leslie Redhead

Working with A Medium that Flows and Glows

by Leslie Redhead

Watercolor relies on the nature of water when it flows and mixes. Too much or too little water used at the wrong time can create unexpected complications–or it can provide some exquisite results. There is so much beauty to be found in its fickle temperament. Watercolor flows and it glows. It moves and dances unlike any other type of paint, allowing the painter to move and dance with it. The luminous quality of the paint can provide a freshness in a creation of art that is unique to this medium.

It’s watercolor’s changeable nature that makes it so exciting. Due to watercolor’s temperament, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Some of us have to ease into it and others just take the plunge. And when you think you have it all figured out–it’ll surprise you with more possibilities. Trying to understand it can take a lifetime, but once it has a hold of you, it can be a love affair that lasts many, many years.

It’s my own love affair with watercolor and the joy that it brought into my life that led me to write Watercolor 365. I have been an instructor in Victoria, British Columbia, and developed friendships with many of my students. I have seen the art of painting heal broken hearts, restore energy to defeated bodies, and ease troubled minds. Not only have I experienced the confidence that painting brings to an anxious soul, but I have seen the confidence of my own students increase. I deeply care that these students–and now friends–continue on in their artistic journey.

After a move to Vancouver, I started a daily blog called Watercolor Weapons: Tips and Techniques for Conquering Watercolor, as a way to stay in touch with my former students. This blog offers watercolor painting tips and encouragement to continue to paint and pursue a creative life. Upon starting Watercolor Weapons, I began receiving questions from not only my students but from others around the world about watercolor and my studio practices. These questions and the answers were posted weekly and are now my Studio Secrets (many of which you will see in my book). After a year of posting daily, I realized I had the beginnings of a book (that and all my beloved students requested that I do one). Thus, Watercolor 365 was created to offer tips and inspiration throughout a year of painting. 

Watercolor painting tips | Leslie Redhead, ArtistsNetwork.com

Splash of Red (watercolor, 22×30) by Leslie Redhead

Watercolor Studio Secrets #1 (Week 1, Day 7)

Over the years, I have received e-mails with questions about some of my painting preferences and techniques. I have decided to dedicate one day each week to answering such questions.

This week’s question is from Carol in Vancouver, British Columbia. She asks, “I have heard that watercolor paper has sizing in it. What is sizing?” 

Watercolor painting tips | Leslie Redhead, ArtistsNetwork.com

This article is an excerpt from Watercolor 365 (order your copy here!)

Sizing is a chemical substance, usually a gelatin, that has been added to watercolor paper for a couple of reasons. First of all, sizing protects the paper from falling apart and possibly returning to a pulpy mess. The sizing keeps the paper fibers together. Second, the addition of sizing helps the paper be more water-resistant and thus less absorbent. Without the sizing, the paper becomes more like blotter paper, which sops up all the paint and water into one big mess.

Sizing can be added to paper either internally or externally, and sometimes it’s added in both ways. Internal sizing is added when the paper is still wet and before it has been put in a mould. External sizing is added to the paper after it has dried, improving the strength of the surface and water resistance.

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