View Full Version : No-nos and boo-boos

05-13-2003, 05:58 AM
Perhaps this is too negative an approach, but I would like to hear what are the things you would tell an aspiring watercolor painter NOT to do or to watch out for....
What are the boo-boos that you ty to avoid and that you would like to warn others against?

This came to me as I was trying to tone down some too bright purples and my first approach was to use the complimentary yellow...which made a terrific muddy mess. And of course, there are lots of other no-no's that we all know (like "don't start glazing until the underlayer is totally dry")...

Curious to hear what others have to say...


05-13-2003, 06:10 AM
The advice I would give is just to go for it, you learn the most from making your own mistakes and grow as a result ... and to just keep going!

05-13-2003, 06:22 AM
Patience—I would advise a beginner to develop patience enough to let the washes dry before trying to make adjustments.

Patience enough to think about what he or she wants the painting to look like before starting out—where are the lights, where should the darks go, what is the center of interest.

Trying to learn to simplify a composition. What can be left out without too much difficulty, what is essential to include.

Remember—it is only paper and paint. Every painting is a learning experience, even if you only use the back for test swatches of paints once you finish with it and decide you don't like it.

05-13-2003, 07:28 AM
I would say:

DON'T be tempted by instructional books to buy dozens of different colours - just because they use different colours in every painting it doesn't mean you have to! Get 6 basics and learn how they mix before you get more :)

DON'T be too ambitious at first. Stick to simple subjects, the complicated stuff can wait. Why set yourself up to fail? You'll only give up if you feel discouraged.



05-13-2003, 07:38 AM

Ruth has said it all


05-13-2003, 08:15 AM
Buy and use good quality paper and paint. Don't get tempted with the cheaper stuff because the poor quality will diminish your work and dishearten you.

Use transparent colours and stay away from the cadmiums.
Remember that compliments tend to make mud.

05-13-2003, 08:17 AM
Why would anyone want to tone down purples? What a preposterous idea!


05-13-2003, 09:01 AM
Never throw anything away. You may actually like it some day.

05-13-2003, 09:33 AM
Always use good quality paper.

05-13-2003, 09:53 AM
Don't buy cheap brushes or paints!!!!

Buy three good quality brushes at least. I would suggest a rigger, a 3/4 wash, and a round. You can add more as you find what subject and size you like to paint. Also, as Ruth said, start out with just 6 colors--I didn't and I find I don't use a lot of those colors that I bought! LOL

05-13-2003, 10:15 AM
As someone just starting about 2 months ago, I have the "wish I'd have known" perspective and my suggestions echo some of what's already been said:

- Buy quality paint (a limited number) and paper, and "decent" brushes (spend too much and you're afraid to mess them up)

- Just "play" to learn--don't be afraid to "waste" anything because you're learning everytime. Find the child within and have fun--remember what's it like to paint with fingerpaints and see what happens. Experiment.

- Be patient with yourself--don't expect to be a "master" with your first painting. Enjoy the journey and don't worry about the destination. This is one of my biggest problems--I see the "art of the possible" here at WC and think I should be able to paint like that!

- Be patient with the paints--let things dry...thoroughly.

- Spend time on WC learning from a community of artists. Check out library books/videos, find websites and work through some of the exercises. Avoid spending more time reading and web surfing than painting--paint, but be patient!

- Visit local watercolorists, see their work, and talk with them. I've talked to several and asked if I could just watch them while they work--I learn by seeing and it would be really helpful to me to see how things are done. (So far, none of the artists I've met have been willing to do this though they have offered personal workshops for $300/day! Perhaps I committed a faux pas by asking in the first place, but this lack of "support" has been rather discouraging--maybe a topic for another thread).

- Take a watercolor class to learn the basics. (I've been looking, but haven't found one in the evenings when I can participate.)

- Provide yourself a space where you can leave things out--I find it dampens my mood to have to clear a space, get things out, and then pack things back up when I'm done.

- Practice new things, but be patient!

- Avoid buying something new everytime you're near the art store--keep things simple early on and avoid the complexity and confusion of adding new elements into the mix. (I have a really hard time with this one as well!)

- Set aside some time to paint everyday (or every week) and don't feel guilty about it--you deserve some time to pursue a personal interest. (I have a hard time with this one too, but I'm working on it.)

Anyway, my two cents...

thanks for asking


05-13-2003, 10:34 AM
Originally posted by matingara
Why would anyone want to tone down purples? What a preposterous idea!


Exactly what I was thinking! LOL!

05-13-2003, 11:06 AM
My Boo-Boo #1 - buying student grade paints and paper

My Boo-Boo #2 - Not having enough patience!

My Boo-Boo #3 - Futzing with my paintings!

I've gotten over #1 but still have lots of trouble with 2 & 3....

05-13-2003, 11:07 AM

even when you can't actually get your brushes wet.....think about painting.

I find myself "painting" all day long.....in the line up at the bank I think about how I would paint the ladies coat standing in front of me. Think about the possibilities :) Watch how the light hits objects and how would you paint that to indicate texture, form and shape?



GEESH!!! I can't read. lol I just realised this was a BOO BOO list. :rolleyes: I'm going to leave this anyway because it's kind of relevant. lol


05-13-2003, 11:22 AM

what would I do without all of you to brighten my day with smiles.....:)

EM..that's ok;)

Great list from everyone....I have nothing to add......BUT I AGREE ABOUT THE PURPLE and PRACTICE!!!!! most


05-13-2003, 11:34 AM

Giving up watercolours when I had got some grips on it when I was 18 or 19...

Glad I took it up again last year.

So whatever the outcome of your first few paintings... don't give up... keep going!

lyn lynch
05-13-2003, 11:56 AM
Get Michael Wilcox book "Yellow and Blue don't make Green", read it, study it. Then, buy your paints w/eye toward limited palette.
Make color wheel based on paints you have purchased and following advice of Wilcox.
Make color charts based on combinations as recommended by Wilcox.
NEVER, NEVER, NEVER lay one color on top of another without making a sample of effect. Adjust accordingly.
When comfortable w/color palette, buy one large round brush w/a good fill capacity and good point.
Buy one pad of good quality watercolor paper, such as Arches 140#.

[Above assumes have already had some basic drawing instruction--basic drawing instructions primary to beginning any color work, imo]

Expect to make a masterpiece.

05-13-2003, 12:08 PM
My advice would be to start out making a few color wheels with different sets of red, yellow and blue. See how they look together and apart and opposite, etc. Start out with a limited palette and add other colors gradually.

05-13-2003, 12:12 PM
You guys are priceless...

I am loving this and counting (but I ain't telling) how many of these boo boos I've made....
And you should see the box with paints that I do not use...like the cadmiums and the earths (except for burnt siena), not to mention black and Payne's Grey and Neutral Tint....
The problem with all the "buy only the six basic colors advice" is that it's very hard to decide which six, so one gets 9...but since it's hard to decide which 9, one gets 12.... and before you know it, there is the box...

How about those:
Don't overuse frisket
Don't start painting before frisket is completely dry
Don't use a good brush for masking

Don't decide you have ruined the painting before it's time...

And the composition ones:

Don't stick you subject smack in the middle of the page (except under special circumstances)

Don't put horizon half way through the painting...

AND--the one for PAM:

Don't be afraid of the dark(s)

So much for my 2 cents--waiting for more


P.S. Yes, sometimes even purple has to be less purple...


05-13-2003, 01:59 PM
*covers ears and runs screaming fro the room*


never too much purple!

05-13-2003, 02:40 PM

Admire the beauty in nature.....

Or study the way the sun hits the snow on the tops of the mountains like mounds of whipping cream covering blueberry jello...

Or shining on the ocean with it's millions of sparkling diamonds dancing atop a sea of green emeralds......

The shades of green, yellow and blue hiding amongst the branches of a cedar tree.....

The pinks, purples, oranges and yellows blazing in a firey sunset...

And dream about creating all of those gorgeous colors with your Winsor & Newton paints and capturing it all on Arches 140# cold-press paper......


:D :D

05-13-2003, 04:33 PM
ROF, holding sides, LOL

Strawberry Wine
05-13-2003, 07:25 PM
I am guilty of so MANY of the above DON"TS

My very worst is impatience!!!!! When I am painting I want to paint and hate abosolutely hate the waiting until the paint is dry before carrying on BUT I am getting better.

Guilty, guilty, on bad paints (excuse was ignorance and poverty) ditto on bad paper.

All yucky Yarka and Van Gogh being replaced by Di Vinci and W. & N. artist quality paints. W & N Cotman brands I can live with for now.

Boo Boo's. All boo's boo's resulting in the above mentioned impatience. Except for my labradors who sometimes think I have painted long enough and sneak up under my arm and push up causing an unexpected smear of sienna heading skyward.


05-13-2003, 07:58 PM
Originally posted by pampe
*covers ears and runs screaming fro the room*


never too much purple!

LOL! I right there with you Pam!

05-13-2003, 09:19 PM
Been There, Done That :o :D :crying:

Oh what a comfort this thread is................ ( except for Marvin having resumed just one year ago... WAaaaaaaaaILS ;) :D )

05-13-2003, 10:28 PM
Never leave your work where the puppy can eat it. :) (two watercolours, three portraits and counting... :D)

NEVER stop practicing...

lyn lynch
05-14-2003, 01:07 AM
Olga, what you have against Neutral Tint? Neutral Tint my friend.
I whispering in conspiracy: Too much purple indicitive of depression/anxiety
Never wash yucky yellow over anything except yucky yellow; yucky yellow an undernearth color.

* I have too many Starbucks Frappichino today, forgive bad manners of whispering*

05-14-2003, 01:22 AM
I can really relate to what Ruth said about not feeling like you have to have all the colors that are called for in what I call a canned picture. The other side of that coin though is that if you are just starting out color mixing is a bit of a puzzle too.
Just remember...your talent grows with each project so keep on creating!!

05-14-2003, 03:02 AM
I agree with everyone here!
Also..... don't overwork it, I know I had a tendency when I first started water colors to paint and paint and paint, and pretty soon, no whites left, no contrast = dull painting.

And, remember, mixing too many colors results in mud!

I'm also a big believer in background first plan it, paint it, it makes it a whole lot easier than having to go in and fiddle around a perfectly painted rose, for instance. Less chance of messing up your focal point.

But, the big thing is just keep practicing! Paint daily! The best way to learn is by doing.


05-14-2003, 05:17 AM
Am I glad I asked this...I have a deja vu experience with every answer... (except, Pam, I don't recall anyone ever running away from the room when I walked in before.... *muttering 'less purple' and wondering about her newly discovered abilities as a vampire* lol)

Fookie-Lyn: I have nothing against "neutral tint"--it was resting idly on my palette and I never used it, so it's gone and not missed...
That rule about no yellow glazes on top is one of those "no-nos" that I know about in theory...and keep trying to subvert in practice...only to regret it.

Marquisina--I think I need a big "DON"T FIDDLE" flashing sign in my room ... it should alternate with "DON"T FORGET MARGINS" sign which would flash when I draw the picture.

This is fun


05-14-2003, 06:51 AM
Don't bite off more than you can chew, then cry when you choke! That's a kind of folksy way of saying not to be overly ambitious when you start out.

Learn the basics before trying to do complex subjects. There are dozens of kinds of flowers with simple shapes which would let someone learn about having one petal on top of or behind another, shadows, making the centers recede, etc. Why does everyone seem to want to begin with a rose! Surely one of the more complex floral shapes around.

Same thing with buildings. Pick a simple one and learn to do the perspective right, the roof line, the windows, doors, and surrounding trees and shrubs before trying to do a whole street or the palace at Versailles.

I guess you could say when learning to use watercolors that it is good to crawl before you walk and walk before you run. Soon you'll be dancing around with the best. In other words, practice, practice, practice.

05-14-2003, 08:03 AM
I'm sure I've committed all the "no-no's" at least once. But I also like the sentence that says, "There are no rules in watercolors; just consequences".

And is it BillyG that says, "Paint like a millionaire!". I like that rule; which I would like to apply more often.

My advice is if you decide to buy a book, and I've bought plenty and learned from them, is to decide if you like the style of the author before you decide to copy him/her. Seems like common sense, but I haven't always used common sense I guess.

06-01-2003, 10:24 AM
This post should be rated no so much for beginners but for everyone. Sometimes you have to make a mistake just to see what happens, then learn from it (ask any parent of a teenager). This reminder is great to keep you from doing it again when you forget the lesson.