Learning Watercolour

My watercolour journey

After so many years of pastel and oil painting, I became frustrated with the costs of framing my pastel paintings and the dry time of oil paints.

I always saw watercolours as the timid cousin of the oil and pastel mediums.  Watercolour paintings in my mind were usually amateurish, the work of the beginner. They were not bold, they were watery and bland, so I stayed away.  What a snob!

Recently on a whim, I thought I would finally try painting with watercolours.  I searched the internet for tutorials and artists and was surprised at the level of creativity and skill I saw.  Watercolour, when executed well, can be beautiful, soft or hard, detailed or loose and best of all, fun!

Here are some inspiring watercolour artists I follow:

Tutorials On Youtube: 

The mind of watercolour – informational in-depth watercolour tutorials

Tim Wilmot – traditional loose watercolour tutorials

Alisa Draws – watercolour Illustration techniques

Fran Meneses – watercolour Illustration techniques

Artists On Facebook:

Chien Chung-Wei

Stephen Quiller

Keiko Tanabe

Stanislaw Zoladz

Artists In History:

Paul Klee

Joseph Zbukvic

Thomas Whistler

John Singer Sargent

History of Watercolour Painting

In The Beginning

The first ever painting was a watercolour, painted in prehistoric times with water-based pigments on a cave wall. The oldest cave painting known until now is a 40,800-year-old red disk from El Castillo, in northern Spain. Pigments used in cave paintings include red and yellow ochre, hematite, manganese oxide and charcoal.

Egyptian artists covered limestone walls with whitewash, onto which they painted stylized and symbolic scenes. Painters used primarily black, red, yellow, brown, blue, and green pigments. They mixed their colours in a binder to make them stick to the dry plaster. Iron oxide pigments (red ochre, yellow ochre and umber) constituted the basic palette of Egyptian artisans.

Ancient frescos can still be found in Greece, the oldest dating back to 470 BC. The Greeks contributed to medium creation with the manufacture of lead white, which remained the most used white pigment available to artists until the 19th century. The Greeks also developed the use of red lead.

The Chinese in ancient times painted on silk with water-based inks and dyes.

In The West

Watercolours evolved from manuscript illustrations in medieval Europe.

Preparatory works and rough sketches seemed to be the only use for watercolours for a long time.  It wasn’t until Albrecht Durer, a world-class artist prominent in the Northern Renaissance, put his watercolour works on equal footing with other works in tempera and oils that watercolours began to move into the spotlight.

Watercolour rose to prominence in the 1800’s and was considered a sign of a good education.  The best academies, especially the Brittish Woolwich Military Academy, placed great emphasis on introducing field officers to drawing and painting.  These elite and aristocratic men took these skills into their civilian lives keeping sketching and painting journals.  Colours had to be ground and mixed at the artist’s studio until Winsor-Newton began to produce colours for the government, academics and private individuals.

Founded in 1832 by William Winsor and Henry Newton Winsor and Newton also produced Koninsky brushes and the series 7 brush was set as a standard for quality after Queen Victoria ordered it should be “the very finest watercolour brush” in 1866.

Starting Out

Watercolours are perfect for travelling as they are quick drying and a kit only needs a few colours and brushes.


IMAG0121By mixing colours and amounts of water many colours and tones can be created.  Learning colour theory, the use of colour wheels, experimenting with tone and tonal paintings are all important to mastering watercolour techniques.

I have a lot to learn about watercolour, and although I do have some knowledge of painting, I will have to start this journey from the beginning.


©Ellis C. Landon, 27 January 2018.

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