Back in February (during the pre-COVID era), my husband and I were strolling through our favorite, local outdoor shopping center and we wandered into a home decor store called Z Gallerie. I loved the ridiculously gaudy nature of the shop’s collection. My husband hated it. “It’s all useless!” he declared with a broad sweep of his hand and an exasperated sigh. I giggled because, well, he’s absolutely right. Who needs a giant glass octopus beverage container for their dining room table? But who wouldn’t want one? One piece did catch my eye, though: a large, framed watercolor painting of four horizontal brush strokes in varying shades of pink. It was so simple, yet the massive, metallic frame made it seem glamorous. The price tag read $249.95. “I bet I can make this for under $50,” I told Jimi. He looked at me with genuine concern and asked, “But why would you want to?”
The next day I went to Michaels and purchased paint, brushes, paper, and three frames for $25 (thank you for those coupons, Michaels— you are truly the new Bed, Bath, and Beyond). I then stashed the bag with all these goodies behind my dresser and promptly forgot about them. My inspiration was as fleeting as the fads at Z Gallerie.
Fast forward to a few months into quarantine: I re-discovered that bag of brand new art supplies and felt like I’d won the lottery! Hurrah! A new project I can use to distract myself from how terrifying the world is right now!
Instead of recreating the original watercolor inspiration piece, I decided to instead focus on learning basic watercolor technique. My friend, Lauren, had heard about a class that her husband’s friend was conducting via Zoom. We both signed up and logged on at the appropriate time. For $10 we got an hour-long tutorial on the various painting techniques used in watercolor.
Now, I definitely didn’t need to pay ten bucks for a class. The personal interaction was sweet and it was great to feel like I was supporting the artistic community, but tbh there are so many great resources on YouTube. This video includes all the basic watercolor techniques we learned in our $10 class. And this one is a great one for making small flowers (actually, everything on Shayda Campbell’s channel is magic). Lauren and I have been sharing videos and our latest endeavors with each other since that first class. It’s nice to have some accountability (and encouragement) along the way.
I’ve been painting about once a week (on average) for 3-4 hours a session during the last three months. I’ve never practiced art this consistently before and the amount of tangible progress I’ve made is incredibly motivating. Watercolor is an easily accessible art form (low cost, simple technique, plenty of access to instruction) that offers unlimited growth potential. I’m starting to learn how to blend and shade colors, how to get the right water : pigment ratio on the page. It feels very organic and exploratory.
The other great thing about watercolor painting is that it is fundamentally an imperfect art form. Water has a mind of its own and soaks into the page in different ways. You can drip it, push it, dry it, and try to force it to do what you want. But ultimately, it’s simply going to do its thing. Everything you make with watercolors is going to be unique and flawed– and the final product will be better for it.
Interested in trying your hand at watercolor? Here’s some equipment to get you started:
I purchased my paints and brushes at Michaels, but these are really similar.
This is the exact pad that I currently use. I typically cut the sheets down to 8″x5″ in order to fold them into 4″x5″ cards. I do like having the option of using the full sheet for a landscape or a framed picture, though!