Color and Light | Exceptional Watercolor Paintings

Today’s guest editor is Rachel Rubin Wolf, artist and author of many North Light Books; most recently she edited Splash 14: Light and Color, which is a compilation of the “Best of Watercolor” paintings discovered in the Splash Art Competition. The following is an excerpt from this celebratory book.

Brothers in Arms by Kim Johnson
Brothers in Arms (transparent watercolor, 30×22.5) by Kim Johnson (

Light and Color

There are no two words that describe watercolor like light and color. In fact, these two art elements are watercolor’s essence. The breathtaking joy that prompts many watercolor painters to paint is awakened in a moment of wonder–a glimpse of backlit hair, rays streaming through a window, a dark purple shadow against a golden tree.

Jan Archuleta’s moment happened when she saw echinacea “glowing in the sunlight and the upper petals cast dramatic shadows on the lower petals.” Kim Johnson saw a man whose “sunglasses and hat left him nearly entirely in shadow, but I loved how the strong cast shadows sharply defined his face and shoulder.”

For Dave Maxwell, “An ancient English motorcar with chrome surfaces reflects midday sunlight from a surrounding enclosure of buildings, providing shapes for whimsical abstract designs.” Preparing for breakfast, Frank Spino was captivated by color while watching his wife squeeze “oranges over the ribbed dome of the juicer when one of those longed-for lightning bolts of inspiration struck.”

Makin OJ by Frank Spino
Makin’ OJ (transparent watercolor, 24×18) by Frank Spino (

In northwest China, “the combination of warm and cool creates a rich, luminous feeling of rays” for Wen-Cong Wang, while Fealing Lin creates “a saturated peachy light” to make her viewer feel the relaxation and warmth she experienced. Jimmy Tablante was inspired by the “deep emotive colors combined with the strong contrast” he saw while walking near a park in Honolulu.

There is nothing that so inspires us as the light and color all around us. I hope that the wonderful artworks collected here will stir you to take note of your own inspirations, whether in an exotic place or in your own kitchen before breakfast.~Rachel Rubin Wolf

Browsing through Splash 14: Light and Color, I was struck by the plethora of styles of the watercolor paintings. Keep a copy on hand for inspiration on compositions, subject matter, color or light, or just because, like me, you simply love to let your eyes roam across the images, soaking in their beauty and enjoying the imagery that your fellow artists have created.


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