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Watercolors: From Grade School to Great Art
One medium art students learn to use is watercolor paint. Learn why it’s both fun and deceptively difficult with Groupon’s introduction.
A watercolor painting begins with a brush, heavy paper that won’t warp beneath the weight of water, and watercolor paints—each a mixture of pigment, arabic gum, and texture-enhancing additives such as glycerin or even honey, squeezed from a tube or picked up by moistening a dry cake. From there, the artist can choose from a palette of techniques suggested by the medium’s flexibility and unpredictability. With a large brush and an angled work surface, anybody can create a full, even wash of color. Applying a damp brush to dry paper offers control over the crispness of the line, whereas a wet-on-wet technique produces large areas of color that blossom across the page. Masking fluid can block off areas of pristine white—a necessity when working with truly transparent watercolors, which do not come in white—and a sprinkling of salt creates a snowflake effect.
Abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning reportedly said that watercolors were “the first and the last thing an artist does.” Children are often given a box as their first step up from crayons, but the very mutability that makes it an attractive medium to parents also makes it difficult to master. Once applied, the paint can always be re-wetted and manipulated, meaning that the small accidents of working with liquid can be reshaped. At the same time, the paint’s transparency means that nothing can ever be truly covered up. These factors make watercolor painting an inherently improvisational technique, but with practice comes the ability to better guide the pigmented pools.