25 Watercolor Paintings from 25 Top Artists

Watermedia Paintings You’ll Love

Since this year (2018) marks a significant anniversary for Watercolor Artist, what better way to not only celebrate 25 years of publication but also 25 years of remarkable watermedia paintings?

From watercolor paintings by famous artists and beloved instructors to works from painters who, at the time of publication, were at the cusp of their careers, here are 25 watermedia paintings from 25 talented artists. Get ready to be inspired to grab your paintbrush and start painting.

To progress your love of watercolor with skill and know-how, consider the Watercolorist’s Essential Workshop: Color and Value.

And enjoy this free watercolor lesson on painting the colors of the night to kick off the lesson!

 

1. Bideford by Frank Webb

1. Bideford by Frank Webb | 25 watermedia paintings by 25 top artists, brought to you by Watercolor Artist and Artists Network
Bideford by Frank Webb, watercolor on paper, 22 x 30

When Frank Webb works on location, he recasts the landscape, infusing what he sees with the qualities he thinks are important in a painting.

“In general, I use intense colors, which are completely arbitrary, having no reference to the local color,” notes Webb. “But, for me, the shapes are the most important element. Good shapes must be created. They can’t be copied.”

2. October Russet by Tony Couch

2. October Russet by Tony Couch | 25 watermedia paintings by 25 artists
October Russet by Tony Couch, watercolor on paper, 20 x 30

To paint autumn foliage, like that seen in October Russet, Tony Couch sticks to a range of warm colors — from red to yellow/green. To keep his colors bright, he places complementary colors near one another on the paper. But, Couch doesn’t mix the complements, which would create a dull gray.

3. Koi 98, No. 1 by Cheng-Kee Chee

3. Koi 98, No. 1 by Cheng-Kee Chee | 25 watermedia paintings by 25 artists
Koi 98, No. 1 by Cheng-Kee Chee, watercolor on paper, 30 x 40

Watermedia Paintings like Cheng-Kee Chee’s Koi 98, No. 1 come to life as an expressive, intuitive abstraction. They’re filled with the surprises and accidental happenings that characterize wet-into-wet painting.

Colors blend and follow their own laws, and the paint is allowed to work for itself. Following that, the painting process moves into a more conscious and structured phase.

4. Lily Sleeping by Mary Whyte

4. Lily Sleeping by Mary Whyte | 25 watermedia paintings by 25 top artists
Lily Sleeping by Mary Whyte, watercolor on paper, 26 x 21

For the painting, Lily Sleeping, Mary Whyte’s goal was to not only recreate the quality of light on her subject’s face, but also the feeling of warmth and safety, and to capture the look and feel of child’s dream.

“To suggest the pattern of the quilt, I laid down washes, then dabbed in places with crinkled plastic wrap,” explains Whyte. “To create an otherworldly, dreamlike effect, I dropped pieces of yarn into the background as well as pieces of paper towel I had cut into leaflike shapes.”

5. The Wash by Milford Zornes

5. The Wash by Milford Zornes | 25 watermedia artists by 25 top artists
The Wash by Milford Zornes, watercolor on paper, 22 x 30

Line is the most important graphic element in a painting, followed by value then color, according to Milford Zornes (1908-2008). When painting, he mentally traced the progress of a line in four ways: horizontal, vertical, angular and curved.

“When I’m painting a tree,” said Zornes. “I think to myself, ‘OK, go vertical out of the ground for the first trunk. Stop. Curve into the branches. Stop. Thrust out at an angle for the smaller branches. Stop.’”

6. Tenuousness by José Apaza

6. Tenuousness by José Apaza | 25 watermedia paintings by 25 top artists
Tenuousness by José Apaza, watercolor on paper, 22 x 30

The dim values in Peruvian-born, Mexican artist José Apaza’s Tenuousness reflect the meditative state of the figure. “Every human being is a summary of universal wisdom,” he states. “Humble people are my greatest teachers and have exerted a great influence on me.”

7. Camara de Lobos, Madeira, Portugal by Eugen Chisnicean

7. Camara de Lobos, Madeira, Portugal by Eugen Chisnicean | 25 watermedia paintings by 25 top artists
Camara de Lobos, Madeira, Portugal by Eugen Chisnicean, watercolor on paper, 17 3/4 x 25 1/2

Moldovan artist Eugen Chisnicean painted Camara de Lobos, Madeira, Portugal on an island in the Atlantic Ocean called Madeira.

“It was such a different world, unlike any place I’d ever been,” recalls Chisnicean. “The scene had everything I needed to make a painting: mountains, houses, boats, people. I tried to combine all the elements in a natural way and to create harmony between the shapes.”

8. Tapestry by Paul Jackson

8. Tapestry by Paul Jackson | 25 Watermedia Paintings by 25 Top Artists
Tapestry by Paul Jackson, watercolor on paper, 27 x 56

While standing on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, Paul Jackson took reference photos for his large painting, Tapestry.

“The photos were shot at dusk, but they allowed me to keep track of all the buildings,” says Jackson. “This isn’t photographic realism. Everything is in this painting — all of my feelings about, and memories of, New York City.”

9. Wind Song by Joseph Raffael

9. Wind Song by Joseph Raffael | 25 Watermedia Paintings by 25 Top Artists
Wind Song by Joseph Raffael, watercolor on paper, 66 x 45

The subject of artist Joseph Raffael’s Wind Song is his garden. For the artist, this garden is a constant source of inspiration.

10. Foxy Lady II by Frederick C. Graff

10. Foxy Lady II by Frederick C. Graff | 25 watermedia paintings by 25 top artists
Foxy Lady II by Frederick C. Graff, watercolor on YUPO, 23 x 32

Artist Frederick C. Graff believes it’s crucial for his art to go beyond simply recording facts and to convey what he sees in an “unrestricted yet semicontrolled” way.

“In Foxy Lady II, for example, the complex array of planes in the foreground suggests the paraphernalia of a boatyard without actually describing it in detail,” notes Graff. “Likewise, the bluish-green masses in the background give the impression of a forest of pine trees.”

11. Green Dot Jug With Sunflowers/Maine by Carolyn Brady

Green Dot Jug With Sunflowers/Maine by Carolyn Brady | 25 watermedia paintings by 25 top artists
Green Dot Jug With Sunflowers/Maine by Carolyn Brady, watercolor on paper, 30 x 20

The striking still life, Green Dot Jug With Sunflowers/Maine, by Carolyn Brady demonstrates why the virtuoso colorist is considered a master of contemporary American Realism.

12. Equilibrium by Denny Bond

12. Equilibrium by Denny Bond | 25 watermedia paintings by 25 top artists
Equilibrium by Denny Bond, watercolor on paper, 30 x 22

Denny Bond created Equilibrium while dining in Jamestown, Rhode Island. “I was originally attracted to the light hitting the teal walls,” explains Bond. “So I urged my wife to move into the light but still leave room for me to see the equestrian image painted on the wall.”

He continues, “The story created itself. All of the elements were there. They just needed to be brought together.”

13. Stars and Stripes by Judi Betts

13. Stars and Stripes by Judi Betts | 25 watermedia paintings by 25 top artists
Stars and Stripes by Judi Betts, watercolor on paper, 15 x 22

In this soft and poetic rendering, Judi Betts uses the primaries and their complements. She exploits a variety of shape, size and value, creating lovely neutrals in the background of her floral painting, Stars and Stripes.

“Colors can be lullabies or symphonies, but what makes them sing in either case is the position of complementary colors,” says Betts. “Colors surrounded by their complements cause an explosion. It can be subtle or monumental.”

14. Damp Morning by Dean Mitchell

14. Damp Morning by Dean Mitchell | 25 watermedia paintings by 25 top artists
Damp Morning by Dean Mitchell, watercolor on paper, 10 x 15

Dean Mitchell manages to find the quiet poetry in the subjects of his paintings that may otherwise be overlooked, such as in the down-at-heel houses featured in Damp Morning. The open space in the center of the composition forms a place for the eye to rest and meditate.

15. The Mall by John Salminen

15. The Mall by John Salminen | 25 watermedia paintings by 25 top artists
The Mall by John Salminen, watercolor on paper, 29 1/2 x 35

For this snow-covered composition, John Salminen used a group of passersby to add a sense of scale. “The cold winter sunlight filtered through a maze of frost-covered limbs,” he says, “giving the scene for The Mall a frigid luminosity.”

16. Girls on a Date by Dongfeng Li

16. Girls on a Date by Dongfeng Li | 25 watermedia paintings by 25 top artists
Girls on a Date by Dongfeng Li, watercolor on YUPO, 30 x 22

A professor of art at Morehead State University, Dongfeng Li paints a variety of subjects including people of different ages and backgrounds, like the young women featured in Girls on a Date. In each case, the artist manages to capture the humanity, grace and dignity of his subject.

“Their different backgrounds can create interesting contexts,” states Li. “I’m curious about these differences; so it’s one of my primary motivations in creating my work.”

17. Winter Road by Ian Ramsey

17. Winter Road by Ian Ramsey | 25 watermedia paintings by 25 top artists
Winter Road by Ian Ramsey, watercolor on paper, 18 x 24

The white paper, or snow, became the platform of Ian Ramsey’s painting, Winter Road, a scene in Southern Wyoming.

Winter compositions rely greatly on the negative space provided by snow. The darker elements of the grass banks, ruts and background hills guide the eye down the road to the farm buildings.

18. Mission District, Riverside by Frank Francese

18. Mission District, Riverside by Frank Francese | 25 watermedia paintings by 25 top artists
Mission District, Riverside by Frank Francese, watercolor on paper, 21 x 29

“There’s a little magic in Mission District, Riverside,” says Frank Francese. “It doesn’t happen for me all the time. It happens more if I just let myself go and trust my judgment and my heart.”

The artist chooses color based on emotional response rather than what he actually sees. “In fact,” notes Francese, “I usually work from a quick black-and-white felt-tip field sketch. Then, I just make up my own colors as I paint.”

19. In Shine Mirror by George James

19. In Shine Mirror by George James | 25 watermedia paintings by 25 top artists
In Shine Mirror by George James, watercolor on YUPO, 28 x 37

Following the death of his father, George James (1932-2016) painted In Shine Mirror to memorialize him in a portrait. “Instead of creating an exact likeness, I tried to capture his essence by leaving out the face,” explained James. “I used mirrors to imply spirituality and reflection.”

20. Michelle by Scott Burdick

20. Michelle by Scott Burdick | 25 watermedia paintings by 25 top artists
Michelle by Scott Burdick, watercolor on paper, 27 x 20

The idea for Scott Burdick’s painting, Michelle, came before he even sat down with his subject.

“This vision I had of this painting was so clear,” recalls Burdick. “I even did a sketch of it before the photo session to help Michelle understand the mood I was after — that split second of rising in expectations as someone enters a room. The rest is left up to the viewer’s imagination.”

21. Fishermen, Myrtle Beach, S.C. by Serge Hollenbach

21. Fishermen, Myrtle Beach, S.C. by Serge Hollenbach | 25 watermedia paintings by 25 top artists
Fishermen, Myrtle Beach, S.C. by Serge Hollenbach, watercolor on paper, 8 x 10

In Serge Hollenbach’s watercolor painting, Fishermen, Myrtle Beach, S.C., five fishermen are linked in value to the slats of pier’s fence — balancing the verticals against a strong horizontal format.

22. Bewitching Branches, Backwoods V by Christine Cozic

22. Bewitching Branches, Backwoods V by Christine Cozic | 25 watercolor paintings by 25 top artists
Bewitching Branches, Backwoods V by Christine Cozic, watercolor on paper, 29 1/2 x 41 1/2

Part of a series of eight, this watercolor painting was a departure for Christine Cozic when she started the piece in 2006. “I had done botanicals, but they were more tropical flowers,” notes Cozic.

The 45-minute drive to her daughter’s school in Northern Louisiana each day introduced the artist to “all these gorgeous colors on the trees.”

23. Fjord Dal by Stanislaw Zoladz

23. Fjord Dal by Stanislaw Zoladz | 25 watermedia paintings by 25 top artists
Fjord Dal by Stanislaw Zoladz, watercolor on paper, 22 x 30

The snow-covered mountaintops and white patches of fallen snow in the foreground contribute a balance of shapes in Polish-born, Swedish painter Stanislaw Zoladz’ painting, Fjord Dal.

“In April and May, after a long winter, the light comes back to Norway with force,” says Zoladz.

24. Urchfront Flowers by Charles Reid

24. Urchfront Flowers by Charles Reid | 25 watermedia paintings by 25 top artists
Urchfront Flowers by Charles Reid, watercolor on paper, 22 x 24

Artist Charles Reid believes the beginnings of paintings are more important than the finishes. “Sometimes you’re so keen to paint a flower accurately, you become tight and literal,” he explains. “The trick is to allow your paint and a little water to do the painting for you.”

25. The Red Sweater by Jean Pederson

25. The Red Sweater by Jean Pederson | 25 watermedia paintings by 25 top artists
The Red Sweater by Jean Pederson, watercolor on paper, 14 x 11

The skillful use of shadows and highlights in Jean Pederson’s The Red Sweater not only helps to create a strong painting but establishes a feeling of strength within the subject, too.

“Though starting a new life in Canada, this young man hasn’t forsaken his identity as Ugandan,” says Pederson. “For many immigrants, melancholy accompanies hope — a feeling I tried to convey in The Red Sweater.”

Be sure to tell us which of these 25 watermedia paintings is your favorite in the comments. Happy painting, artists!

A version of this article, written by Anne Hevener, first featured in the 25th Anniversary issue of Watercolor Artist

14 thoughts on “25 Watercolor Paintings from 25 Top Artists

  1. Martha T says:

    Hands down, for me, Mary Whyte is a master of watercolor. She evokes emotion, passion, and movement with the use of textures, lines, light, contrast, shadows,…. color is secondary to all the other elements of her work yet it is used judiciously too. The human element of her paintings tug at my heart. YOur work is so beautiful ,Mary. Truly the Lord has given you a gift. He has blessed all artists with the apply to create but you see through His eyes.

  2. Marion H says:

    I love to paint flowers, so both Charles Reid and Carolyn Brady do great work. Then both Dean Mitchell and Eugen Chisnicean paint lovely landscapes. Love all the colors

  3. elizabeth q says:

    Great artistry evokes emotive response. All were good but….

    #6 made me feel at peace.
    #14 I wanted to see the better houses.
    #18 I was ready to dance.

  4. Rhonda R says:

    I love them all but my favorite is Mary Whyte. She has a wonderful sense of capturing the child sleeping . I love the way she creaed texture in her painting.

  5. Judy C says:

    Sorry but I can’t pick just three! These paintings have been completed by top of the top! Every single one of them deserves to be honored. Fantastic paintings!

  6. Judy E says:

    22. Bewitching Branches
    I’m very drawn to this painting-The colors and the mangled branches-I know I have seen similar scenes in rural Louisiana.

    13. Stars and Stripes
    Color combinations are awesome.

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