If there’s one aspect of my creative world that is my nemesis, it’s watercolors. I love the look of watercolor paintings and, conceptually, it doesn’t seem much different than working with colored pencils: draw design, do an underlay of color, then fill in main color. Seems simple, right?

WRONG! Or at least not for me. I gave watercolors a good effort several years ago, but abandoned them due to frustration and the fact that I wasn’t striving terribly hard to work on my art. But now, my determination to improve my watercolors has been renewed. Unfortunately, in the meantime, my skills haven’t magically taken a quantum leap.

Getting Equipped

Before I share my sad attempt at watercolor, I just want to say the quality of my art should not have any bearing on the quality of the supplies I’ve chosen.

For my main watercolor paints, I couldn’t resist the very cute and handy Winsor & Newton box of watercolors. Not only does it hold the paints, but even has a secret palette compartment and a teensy-tiny water dish! I’m sure a normal artist would create lovely things with these paints.

winsor newton, watercolor

I’ve also armed myself with some Derwent Inktense pencils. I’ve been playing with the Inktense blocks for some time now and love the strength of the colors.

And as a substrate, this piece of “art” was done on Ampersand’s Aquabord (sort of like Claybord but with a bit of texture)

No, Really, I Know What I’m Doing

This painting was based on a photo I am planning to use for a future piece of colored pencil art, but I thought the crocus’s form was simple enough for my first renewed attempt with watercolors. So much for thinking.

Finn McSpool (from Crawcrafts Beasties) even stepped in to judge the progress of my work.

watercolor, beastie

For the most part it started out okay; the background wasn’t too shabby, the stems/leaves were mediocre, and the shadowing filled in just as I pictured it should in my head.

But the final product. Um, not so good. Sigh….

watercolor, saffron, botanical art

Look, Finn McSpool is so ashamed of my watercolor ability he’s closed my box of paints and turned his back on my work. Woe is me.

watercolor, beastie

Your Assistance Please

I don’t know why I keep on with watercolors. I create perfectly fine pieces of work with colored pencils, but there is just something about watercolors. I think it’s that I’m too stubborn to give up on this challenge.

Although I would love to take a watercolor class, that’s just not in the creative budget at the moment. For now, I need to resort to books and/or videos (and of course practice) if I want to get better at this. I’ve come across some okay books, but could really use some advice from those who have figured this medium out regarding how you did it.

So, any watercolor artists out there? If you can recommend any books or videos that helped you learn your skill, I’d love to hear from you. 

And, to everyone: Is there a skill you just can’t seem to get the knack of? I’d love to hear from anyone who wants to share their creative woes. 


Tammie Painter is the author of The Trials of Hercules and an artist who dedicates herself to the tedium of creating Images with colored pencil. Her work is currently being featured in a Solo Exhibition at Red Soils’ Entry Gallery.

12 thoughts on “Oh, Woe is My Watercolor

    1. Oh, yeah, North Light has great books. I’ll have to check out the videos. Thanks! I think water colors are so hard for me because I like to be very precise. Gotta loosen up a bit, I guess. 😜

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  1. I haven’t painted anything with water colors, however, I have many paintings I’ve done with acrylic paint. I enjoy the fact that it is a water base and it dries quickly. I’ve done a few small things with colored pencil, but it requires a lot of time and patience, but the advantage is not having to replenish supplies as often.

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  2. Gaaah, I’ve never been any good at painting… the most help I could potentially offer would be to make an attempt myself so you feel better about your own work. And trust me, you would.

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      1. Right, you’re on! But I’ll be using cheap poster paint for my efforts, and wearing one of Boyfriend’s shirts back-to-front while I work for the full primary school painting experience!

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      2. We’ll let the results speak for themselves, shall we? Although if I can convince the art world that I’m some sort of idiot savant, I’ll be sure to credit you as my inspiration 😆

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  3. Not that I’m an amazing watercolor artist, I’m probably mediocre – okay on my best days 🙂 but I think maybe you could start with watercolor pencils alone first. Because you have such a mastery of pencils, I think you may enjoy just plain, normal water colour pencils – not ink tense, because it’s ink and it s well more intense colour wise – draw with them and then add a bit of water her and there… I’m sure a great mind such as yours has probably thought about doing that…. I’m just saying maybe don’t dive right in the deep end with the watercolour, go there gradually??

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    1. Ah, i do have watercolor pencils as well as Inktense and was just playing around with them the other day. My main problem is I need to not strive for the realism and detail as in my colored pencil stuff and try to be a bit looser when using the watercolors. And I have found I prefer the inktense in many ways because it’s so lively and stays put when I put it on the paper unlike those pesky watercolors! 😜😜😋

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