Wet-on-Wet Watercolor Painting

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Recently, I spent a couple of rainy hours by myself painting with watercolors. I only used two colors and painted five different paintings. I could have kept going, except I ran out of paint boards. Mostly I followed the inspired instructions in my new favorite resource, Art Lessons for the Elementary Grades published by Live Education. Unfortunately, these volumes are only available by purchasing an entire year’s curriculum through Live Ed or on the off-chance one comes up on the used curriculum site. The first three paintings in this post use yellow and blue without allowing the two colors to come in contact with each other. The fourth painting has the two colors mixing to make green.

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I honestly think you can’t learn to do wet-on-wet watercolor painting by reading about it, watching you tube videos about it or even asking someone about it. Yes, there are hints that can be given, but this is something that must be learned by doing. I will go further and say it is something you need to do/learn first before you can bring it/do it with your children. This is not to teach from a place of expertise, but conversely, to teach from of a place of humility and compassion – “compassion” coming from the Latin and meaning “to suffer with.”

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I mean this only slightly tongue in cheek. Wet-on-wet watercolor painting is hard. I remember a couple of years ago, I wanted the boys to paint a really big piece of watercolor paper, something crazy like 24 x 36. They started balking very early on in the lesson, so with a “how-hard-is-this?!x” attitude, I picked up my brush and started to spread some color over the paper. That paper – which was already huge – seemed to expand before my eyes. The white space seemed endless. I quickly changed my attitude. I’ll say it again, wet-on-wet watercolor painting is hard, however, it is an art form I have grown to love for what it is able to produce on a tangible (physical) level and also what it is able to accomplish on an intangible (soul) level.

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If I could give one piece of advice it would be to not overwork the painting. This is so hard for me, and perhaps something that mirrors a personal struggle of not knowing when to leave something alone . . . ahem. I try to stop a painting about 2 steps before I think it is finished. Less is really more with this medium. Letting a painting dry turns it into something else entirely and ideally, I try not to even look at a painting until the next day. If you can sleep between painting and viewing, you really will be able to see the artwork with fresh eyes.

Resources / Inspiration:

  • Art Lessons for the Elementary Grades, Live Education (This showcases several media and is fabulous.)
  • Painting tutorial, Thinking, Feeling, Willing, Melisa Nielsen (I think this is a great primer!)

Supplies:

I keep all my painting supplies in one of those Sterlite plastic drawers in the schoolroom. On painting day, I take out the whole drawer which contains everything we need except the paint boards and the watercolor paper. I put this on the kitchen table and begin setting up painting stations. I fill a cookie sheet with water and put the paper to soak.

  • Stockmar watercolor paint (3 primary colors)
  • Watercolor paper (I just stocked up with a great sale from jerrysartarama.com. No affiliation; I just love them.) (One more thing about the paper, I am up-sizing from 9 x 12 to 11 x 14 for this coming year. I think bigger is better with this medium.)
  • Painting Boards
  • Sponges
  • Watercolor Brushes
  • Cookie Sheet (to soak paper)
  • Jars
  • Towels

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Click to read some general suggestions regarding Waldorf art supplies.

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12 thoughts on “Wet-on-Wet Watercolor Painting

  1. This is great! What a helpful post on a topic I find particularly intimidating. I need about 20 more how-to posts like this, please. ;-)

    • Another thing – don’t even try to introduce form with this medium. With the ages of your kiddos, just play with color: blending, keeping them separate, seeing how they spread on the page. And the painting lessons are usually very short. If you work with a painting too long, it gets muddy. (Ask me how I know this, lol!!)

      Don’t be afraid. If you have the supplies, just get them out and have fun.

      Hope all is well!

  2. Painting IS hard. I have always wished I could have someone show this to me in person. Actually, I am no longer intimidated by the early grades…it is introducing form that gets me. My goal for the summer…to paint more!

    • I agree wholeheartedly!!

      Painting with someone next to you would be ideal.

      You want to know what I am going about introducing form? Watercolor pencils!! They are my new favorite love. I have been painting solid backgrounds with the wet-on-wet method and then adding form and detail with the watercolor pencils. It is not the same soft effect as doing it all wet-on-wet, but it is pretty awesome.

      Keeping cool in Charlotte? We have had more rain than we know what to do with.

      Sheila

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  8. How do you keep your paintings flat as they dry? The edges of our paintings keep warping and makes it hard to display. Do you tape it down before painting?

    Thanks!
    Dionne

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