Painting strong watercolours – how do you do that?

Alan Brain is a professional painter and art teacher who is known for his paintings with feelings.

I am often asked about how I get watercolour to be so strong, vibrant, colourful, and so on. I am happy to answer folks questions and thought it useful to record them here. I hope it is of value to painters and I welcome any comments, just use the box at the end of the post to add any.

Q. How do you get that powerful colour in watercolour? Mine are all a bit pale.

A. Most watercolour painters use lots of water and small amounts of paint. I reverse that. Get plenty of pigment on the paper that's where the colour is. Water is to awaken the pigment not to dilute it.

Q. What brand of watercolour do you use, they must be particularly strong?

A. I have my favourite brand of course but I will use any quality brand to get a particular colour I like. They are all much the same. I have recently tried QoR and see no difference. I never student quality and think students should not either.  


Q.What is your secret?

A. I don't have a secret. 


Q. What is the best advice you have for a watercolour painter?

A. Use less water. Less that is to paint with but use a lot to clean your brushes and palette; if they are not clean you are certain to spoil the colour the manufacturer produced so cleverly.


Q. And the second best piece of advice?

A. Forget all those rules on how to paint watercolours. Yes, including transparency, use white paint for that. Take control. Do it your way. There are no watercolour police. 

Q. How come your colours are so brilliant?

A. In fact they are not, not now anyway. Most of my colours are muted.


Q. So why do they look so brilliant?

A.Brilliant is not the right word, I think you are simply enjoying colour. Colour vision is a wonderful gift. We don't see one colour we see many. Colours in paintings react with each other on your retina so it is the mix of colours that can make a painting "brilliant"


Q. Okay, so how do I mix the colours.

A. By mix we mean to put one colour against another. And this is key. A colour comes alive (or not) depending upon the colour you put down in close proximity to it, particularly against it. 


Q. So how do you decide which colours to put where?

A. Instinctively. Choose the colour your instincts tell you, asking yourself will it feel right. You will quickly learn what works for you and it is a wonderful journey to take. Your repertoire will increase and it will truly be yours. Your individuality will then show in your paintings. I have only one technical piece of advice about choosing colours - if you want them to sing keep the values (tones in UK English) close. Abrupt changes in value inhibit the eye from flowing through the painting. 



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