the avoided medium

I’m terrible with watercolor paints. Let’s just put that out there to begin with. I’ll give you a look at my attempts with watercolors over the years, and when compared to my capability with oil paints, pencils, color pencils, even charcoals, you’ll probably understand why for the most part I avoid this medium.


the first “real” attempt at watercolors once I was in high school. Pastels had to be used to try to fix some of this… hot mess.

Wagon Ride

senior year of high school I finally tried again. It’s obvious that my pen work is better than the watercolor work. At the time I was proud of this.

Irina Slutskaya 2

Watercolor pencils, but still, same sort of thing.  

Draco Malfoy

Watercolors with some color pencil enhancement. Just a mess.

So now you understand, at least in part, that watercolors are not my friends. I have tried them many times and never done well with them. Some of my favorite artists use watercolors though, and what kind of artist would I be–what kind of painter–if I had to avoid multiple mediums because I’m not any good with them? (I avoid acrylics because I don’t like them and they don’t work well with how I paint.) I’ve always felt like artists should be good with many mediums, but he great with one. Oil paints are sort of my great medium.

Not kidding when I say oil paints are my preferred medium.

Not kidding when I say oil paints are my preferred medium.

Oil paints and I are just bffs. We get each other. And I’m alright with pencils, as any good artist should be. I’m even good with color pencils. But watercolors? No way. I wasn’t an art major, so I never had to learn how to work with all these different mediums, never properly learned how to work with them. I’m basically a self-taught artist.

But when some of your favorite artwork by other artists is in watercolors, you get the itch to try them, time and time gain. And so, when my older sister, who now has her MFA in sequential art, asked me if I wanted any art supplies for christmas, I asked for things to do inking portraits with, and based on the image I sent her, she got me the most amazing watercolors I have ever touched in my life. Dr. Ph. Martin liquid watercolors. And then suddenly, I could watercolor.

Wait, I can watercolor?

Dr. John Watson

Sherlock Holmes 2

Yep. I can watercolor. Cool beans. Also, I love Sherlock. Best tv show ever. I adore Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch. So, so much. Are either of these paintings perfect? Haha, no. But they’re good.

So the tools: Dr. Ph. Martin liquid watercolors in turquoise blue and coffee brown (the second one used both in a 2:1 ratio to create the viridian hue), Windsor-Newton sable brushes (a fine point and a wash brush), and Fluid watercolor block pad (the paper is bound on two sides so that it can’t curl while you’re working). The Sherlock one has some white color pencil to fix a few things. The watercolors act a little more like inks than like watercolors themselves, but that’s because I had only ever worked with those crappy watercolor sets, rather than the good stuff. The paint will dry out, but you can reconstitute it, which means you never have to waste it. When you mix the colors they can separate some when you water them down and as they dry, which you can see if you look for in the Sherlock one.

I didn’t realize how much of a difference the right paint would make. It makes all the difference in the world, and I’m no longer struggling against the medium but being able to work with it.