Watercolor Painting for Dummies

After many years of wanting to learn how to watercolor, I finally sat down and bought the supplies. This book was well recommended by a number of sources, so I got it with several other books. I am quite pleased with Colette Pitcher's presentation in this book. Watercolor Painting for Dummies

The other books tend to skim topics as if they're unimportant, and leap right into twelve-part petals. Colette takes it slow. She explains how transparent watercolors are see-through, while opaque (non-see-through) watercolors tend to have Chinese white in them. And then there are acrylics, which are also opaque, but these dry solidly. They won't re-wet. These kinds of details are important, quite helpful, and other similar books don't seem to cover them.

She talks about how old watercolors had issues with fading in light, but that newer ones are much sturdier. That a key to watercolor's luminosity is that light shines through the transparent layers, bounces off the paper behind it, and reflects back at our eyes, giving it a glow. She talks not only about painting, but about spattering, using non-brush objects to make textures, and much more.

She covers the emotions of painting. She says "art tends to be stuffy, pretentious, and cerebral." Instead, she pushes us to be relaxed and free. Practice every day, even for a few minutes. Buy inexpensive but good quality gear - don't let yourself quit out of frustration with cheap, inferior tools. Play with "blooming" paint and other "errors". Make your own color charts to know how your particular paints work. And, most of all, have patience. Let yourself rediscover a child-like awe of the world.

She gives guidance on showing your artwork. Use white mats for art shows, and avoid cardboard / newsprint backings as the acid will damage the watercolor paper. Make sure the mat keeps the glass from touching the print, and look into glare free / UV blocking glass. She talks about drawing basics, for developing your starting sketches, and how to make a tic-tac-toe grid to place items of interest. She even provides a set of "course assignments" on things to work on, to develop your skills.

There are only a few issues with the book. First, I found a few typos and layout issues that should have been caught and fixed. This isn't a self-published book; the Dummies publishing group is massive. Their editors should know by now how to proof a book. Next, the examples given for us to follow don't ramp up smoothly. First we're dabbing paint randomly on a page, and then we're constructing a full landscape. I'd like to see more steps in between about how to make trees, for example.

Still, compared with the other options out there, this is a great guide with a wealth of information. Well recommended.

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