Striking a Balance

Click on the photo for an online demo from the book Vibrant Flowers in Watercolor by Soon Y. Warren

Most people think of watercolor as a medium best suited and usually used for quick, fluid compositions. But like any other medium, it can be used to create amazing detail, elaborated planned and executed paintings or quite simply paintings that spring alive. Finding this balance can be hard.

When I first started painting with watercolors as a child I mainly painted the Scandinavian landscapes where powerful skies, rolling hills and life by the sea lends itself very well to less fussy, quick paintings. Frankly so did my personality. Only with maturity did I learn some measure of patience. And techniques for improving my watercolors. Combining the fluid, almost zen like confidence of eastern brush painting with carefully painted, layered details is now my preferred style. One such example was the watercolors I painted for the card titled “Mandarin Ducks”, although when I paint for the ecards I tend to paint backgrounds separate from the objects of the painting so that they can be animated.

Click on the mandarin duck to see the card “Mandarin Ducks

There are a number of great watercolor books but I will just mention a few of the ones I have found most inspiring and helpful.

Light Up Your Watercolor Layer by Layer by Linda Moyer is more helpful for somewhat experienced watercolor artists who want to take their painting to the next level in my opinion, although it is apparently geared to even novice painters with coverage of some more basic things like color theory and studio setup. The techniques described will take some practice and lots of patience to master but are well worth it.

Watercolor Depth And Realism: 5 Simple Techniques For Adding Dimension To Your Paintings by Laurie Humble is another favorite of mine. I think the cover almost speaks for itself, but again best for intermediate watercolor artists.

Vibrant Flowers in Watercolor by Soon Y. Warren is another advanced book that merges some Eastern aesthetics with western watercolor techniques. The publisher has given access to a demo from the book, so you can get a taste. The layering of washes of primary colors shown in this demo illustrates one of the most important techniques I learned to take my paintings to a new level.

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This Mum LOVES these Mums

Some girls have a thing for shoes, some have a thing for the sparkly … and some like me can go totally nuts for flowers. “I LOVE FLOWERS” is an understatement, so of course I need to regularly go and drool at the huge, local flower market. This usually leads to lots of indecision about what to spend my weekly budget for cut flowers on (the equivalent of $3, which I almost NEVER seem to be able to stick to … he, he).

But this week there was no indecision, because when I spotted these gorgeous chrysanthemums I was sold. I can see why these flowers reign supreme in Asian brush paintings. In addition to the bamboo, plum blossoms and orchid it is called the “Four Gentlemen” in Sumi-e and Chinese ink painting. They represent an exalted place in Oriental culture, representing dignity, grace and strength.

Speaking of orchids, Taiwan is the world’s largest grower and exporter of orchids, so the flower market provides plenty of temptation. Costing between $3-10 for most common orchids, they really are not much more expensive than cut flowers, but provide months and months of blooms. I have been meaning to do an e-card about orchids for some time, hmmm, another excuse to go and do a little ‘research’ 🙂