View Full Version : Watercolor and oil painting

07-01-2013, 01:25 PM
I visited a local small town gallery yesterday and came away with some questions about the two art mediums. As the old saying goes “water and oil will not mix” and that seems to be the case with many art galleries, as well as shows when it comes to the two mediums. The gallery that I visited was situated in what was once a large bank building and every wall was taken up with paintings, both large and small. Other than scores and scores of oils I counted 5 pencil drawings and 1 (as in one) watercolor.
I know that this subject has been discussed several times before, but I thought folks might be interested in what the galleries’ owner, who, by the way paints watercolors) had to say on the subject. He told me that it’s simple math about what is displayed in his gallery. His words: “The oils bring a lot more money and need less help from add-ons such as frames, glass, and etc. to sell them”. This begs the question why then is the watercolor forums on Wetcanvas 4 times more active than the oil painting forums? I’ve done a little of both and can attest that watercolor is the more difficult of the two, so why is it the more popular?:confused:

07-01-2013, 02:35 PM
“The oils bring a lot more money and need less help from add-ons such as frames, glass, and etc. to sell them”.
That is something that Char has found and is successful with her gallery wrapped watercolours which need no frame or glass to display.

As to why they are so popular, well, they are beautiful and the materials are safe and easy to set up.


07-01-2013, 03:27 PM
I have an oil painting hanging in the room with battered and broken frame and 40 years old (many times cleaned with a vacuum cleaner). I can't imagine a sheet of paper will take that kind of abuse. But sheets of paper are always within reach for any painting I might want to do at any time of the day or night. And they can be tucked away safely minutes after they are done. Only displaying them is a problem.

Lawrence Fox
07-01-2013, 03:47 PM
I think that some of the activity level here is due, in large part, to our forum moderators and leaders who have always encouraged interaction, and have created and maintained a very active and organized place to hang out--which in turn attracts all sorts of people who want to keep pitching in. (And maybe, he said with an evil grin, watercolourists are just friendlier and/or more willing to come up with opinons and answers than others).

I too visit some of the other forums on WC! from time to time and constantly come back here to be amazed by the high levels of activity and inter-action amongst the members.

Just my 2c worth!

07-01-2013, 05:47 PM
Lawrence, you may well be on to something with your observation. For the last several months I’ve been away from the very busy watercolor forum and spending time on the not so busy photography forum. Common sense tells me that there are more people using the camera than are using watercolors, yet it is not reflected in the activity of that forum. Although there is plenty of snapshot activity in the photography area, the artistic and informational areas do not seem to be receiving much activity. Yorky who is a photographer posts over there from time to time, so he might be able to shed some light on the differences between the two forums.

Yorky, I had forgotten about the gallery wraps and I have evenmade a few when I initially began watercolor. Curiously, I never got around to painting one of the wraps. :)

07-01-2013, 05:57 PM
The thing about the Watercolor forum is that we are happy to see people of all abilities post their work and we always give constructive criticism to help beginners improve. I am pleased to know several members who started from scratch and are now accomplished painters.


07-01-2013, 07:33 PM
The thing about the Watercolor forum is that we are happy to see people of all abilities post their work and we always give constructive criticism to help beginners improve. I am pleased to know several members who started from scratch and are now accomplished painters.


I agree with your statement 100%. I wish the photo forums were set up in like fashion so as to better encourage sharing of photo techniques. As far as how to generate more participation in the oil painting forum, I haven’t aclue. :)

07-01-2013, 09:02 PM
Hi John... you've asked a question that raises more questions than there are answers.

It is my personal experience that the viewing public consider oils or acrylics to be more artistic. I don't pretend to understand this paradigm, but simply accept the fact that it's prevalent.

People seem to be uncomfortable with the seemingly long list of supposed restrictions concerning preservation of watercolours. The need to be framed, placed behind glass, touched only by acid free mats and backer boards and hung away from direct light. *Phew* Large pieces become quite heavy. Glass glare can be a detraction.

Of course, placing anything in direct sunlight is not recommended, but no one says this about the other two mediums.

But... no other medium can replicate the beautiful reaction of water and pigment like watercolour... The process of watercolour painting is unlike any other medium and the techniques can take some amount of time to learn.

Have you checked out the number of watercolour books that are available? You won't find that many for oils and acrylics.

That brings us here to this Forum. Our Leaders have always looked upon the Forum and a place to learn and grow our art. Emerging Artists are gently critiqued and encouraged with positive advice. More experienced Artists share their techniques in the Learning Zone and Studio.

As Doug mentioned, I have begun gallery wrapping my work. I did that to compete with the acrylics and oil paintings that seem to popular in my Gallery. It's been quite a successful transition. There's no worry about framing costs as it is now an option to potential buyers. The pieces are not heavy and glare isn't an issue. However, the finished pieces really don't look like true watercolours.

My thoughts are that art is art. At the end of the day, I still paint in watercolour. I just finish my work a little differently.

Lawrence Fox
07-02-2013, 01:52 PM
Char--I'd also say it's because more painters in oils and acrylics seem to paint in styles that are considered more "up to date" and "collectible" than most watercolourists...but whenever we have an exhibition at the Mill Pond Gallery, the watercolours get the most "oohs" and "ahhs".

Another thing is that watercolours are still, in some academic circles, denigrated as a "practice medium" for "pre-production sketches". "Serious work" is done in oil or acrylic. My alma mater high school (finally) has a terrific arts program which includes visual arts (painting). All of the focus there is on oil (water soluble and not) and acrylics. There is no discussion or teaching about watercolours. (I approached the school and asked if they wanted some outside input on watercolours or demos of tools and techniques after the alumni mag came out praising the program. I never heard back from the art teachers.)

What I like the best about the watercolour forum is that we are continuosly running lessons and challenges and that the forum is organized in a way that makes it easier to get to the discussion/debate/learning vs the display of art. In some of the other fora (like Plein Aire or Landscapes, two which I visit from time to time) you have to search about for the instructional bits. I haven't seen too many that maintain the running "great things that I've discovered" thread or the "book review" threads.

07-02-2013, 04:30 PM
I haven't done any gallery-wrapped pieces yet, but I have used the TruVue museum glass and it is stunning. I looks like there is nothing between you and the painting, and yet is is protected by glass. Yesterday I took a piece to a show that just had 1/8" spacers and no mat. That makes it look even more like an oil or acrylic medium.

The big problem with museum glass is the price. I've been checking my area plus online, and so far the best price I have found is Hobby Lobby with a coupon. For instance a 9" x 12" piece $15. It's been worth the extra cost since I'm using it on commissions and getting paid for the framing. If I had a way to cut a sheet myself I could make it much more cost effective.

One of the problems with oils and acrylics that buyers don't tend to think about is how they trap dust, smoke and oils from cooking. That's especially true if they are heavily textured.

If you watch set designs on TV shows and movies almost all the paintings on the walls are framed with glass. I would assume this is because canvas can tear and when props are being moved around the painting under glass (I'm assuming plexiglass or acrylic) is actually less likely to get damaged.


07-02-2013, 10:48 PM
The thing about the Watercolor forum is that we are happy to see people of all abilities post their work and we always give constructive criticism to help beginners improve. I am pleased to know several members who started from scratch and are now accomplished painters.


Actually, I think what makes this forum stand out is the depth and variety of instruction, both in the 'Learning" section, the handbook and the ability of members to jump in and help/advise others. This may be the one of the largest repositories of information available on the web.

Another significant factor, at least to me, is that a great deal of the information can apply across multiple mediums of painting. As an example, I have been interested in acrylics and oil pastels. Neither of these forums provide much or any instructional value organized similar to the Learning Zone. If your looking for help in painting landscapes or portraits where can you go to find the basics? yep this forum that embraces all subjects and provides info on all of them.

It is amazing on how much information is translatable to other forms of art.

Just my two cents/satang


07-03-2013, 05:05 AM
I have found the watercolour forum a fantastic learning place due to the many people who are willing to teach and share. There is also good instruction and help on the acrylic forum but I have not used that forum very much so far.

Although watercolour is a very difficult medium to use it is also in a way an easy option in that the materials are easy to transport and is (compared to the way that I use acrylic. :) ) far less messy. Generally people work on a fairly small scale and it is something that can be done at the kitchen table and put away afterwards.

I have not found a bias against watercolour from the gallery where I exhibit. I wonder if that bias is less prevalent in the uk. And as for the inconvenience of framing, I used to frame all my acrylics although I am now working on canvas.

07-03-2013, 07:13 AM
I think another reason watercolor doesn't get the respect that oils do is the lack of their visability when you visit art museums. They just aren't on display for visitors to enjoy. Ergo, to someone who isn't into watercolors, they mustn't be as "good" as oils, or the museums would be exhibiting them. :rolleyes:

Granted, it might take museums a bit of effort to develop lighting making them feasible for showing long term, but without demand to do so, they would rather spend their scarce dollars elsewhere. And without being acquainted with watercolors, the general public isn't going to make the demand. See the circular reasoning..... :angel:

However, if a museum mounts a John Singer Sargent or Winslow Homer show, it will be packed. I use those two examples because I have actually been fortunate enough to see such shows and they were crowded each time we went. :D

I paint with watercolors because I love the way they look and the way they "work" when painting with them. I'm not in the marketplace, so it doesn't bother me if I don't sell my paintings in a gallery, I just like making them and showing them in local art shows. :heart:


07-03-2013, 10:23 AM
There is little doubt that the moderators have done a fantastic job in bringing together and keeping so many artists and viewers to the watercolor forums. I do wish some of the other medium forums were as active, as I have an interest in other forms of art, along with the watercolors. Moderators can only do so much without active participation of the artist, however.

Saint Ragdoll
07-06-2013, 09:45 PM
Maybe watercolors dont get respect because they are viewed as a beginners or childs medium. There are all sorts of childrens " beginning to paint" watercolor/gouche sets....Children's art classes usually feature watercolors. I dont know of any childrens beginning classes that offer oils, and I havent seen any childrens "beginning to paint" kits that are oil paints.
Not the only reason buy maybe one reason watercolors arent viewed the same as oils.
Saint Ragdoll

07-08-2013, 12:52 PM
Maybe watercolors dont get respect because they are viewed as a beginners or childs medium.
Saint Ragdoll

Ding Ding Ding! I think we have a winner!

I'm new to art but I'm pretty good at understanding and breaking things down. I had this same conversation on Facebook. Most of my friends think that oil is the professional medium and that watercolor is for kids. Everyone remembers their first art set, which was most likely some cheap watercolor set with a cheap 99 cent nylon brush. They recall the kiddie paintings that they did and this becomes their representation of what watercolor is.

Many also like the vibrancy and wowness of color that is possible and most often represented in oil paintings.

I remember reading an Alvaro quote on here about why watercolor is seen as inferior and how he blames the artists and their cookie cutter uninspired paintings as why watercolor is not respected and I tend to agree.

As a newbie, when you look around at paintings on the net you see all these bold and colorful oil paintings while most, not all of the watercolor paintings are tight, too traditional, weak in color and do not have any oomph behind it.

For watercolor to become popular the artist will have to start taking more chances and start thinking outside the box. The public and especially the layman are looking to be wowed.