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Making Art

A Daily Dose of Watercolor

watercolor abstract painting

Photos by Heather Linder

I don't really like being told what to do, and I've always had a hard time following directions to the letter. On the satisfactory sliding scale of elementary school, my only "S" was in the category of "controls talking." I pretty much bring that mentality to my art as well.

So the One Watercolor a Day course by Veronica Lawlor is truly my kind of art guide. It's a self-described "six-week course in exploring creativity using watercolor, pattern and design." The best part of the project for me is the approach outlined in Lawlor's introduction. Her book is not a step-by-step guide to mastering watercolor. Rather, it's an exercise in finding your own voice as a painter and getting comfortable capturing what's in your mind's eye.

I love when Lawlor writes, "Perhaps the message of watercolor is simply to let it flow. Be open to it; experiment with it; allow it to lead you through many, many pictures."

This course is both enjoyable and challenging. I didn't follow it day-by-day (I'm sure you're surprised), but I picked out the lessons that most struck a cord with me and spoke to my goal in learning watercolor.

One of my favorite projects discussed painting garden scenery and gave tips such as starting with a very loose, rough sketch to give the picture boundaries without being too constraining. The author suggested being free with color choices and adding paint both before and after water.

I tried to think outside of my watercolor box and even tried a technique where I used a damp paper towel to rewet the piece and then add details back in. The book gave enough structure to set you in the right direction yet enough freedom to encourage creativity.

watercolor technique

The book is filled with stunning works of art that are aspirational to both new and experienced watercolor painters. Check out this beautiful spread on people in nature. Maybe by the end of the six weeks I'll be brave enough to take on human subjects.

one watercolor a day natureone watercolor a day painting

How do you best learn new art techniques, through exact instruction or trial and error?

Heather Linder

Heather is a journalist and writer living in Chicago with her composer husband and art-loving puppy, Lancelot. She's on an endless quest for the city's best coffee and is endlessly inspired by Chicago's magnificent skyline. Heather is a bookworm, aspiring chef, and NPR fanatic. She's in the process of teaching her beagle to use a French press and overcoming her fear of DIY.

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Art should be something like a good armchair in which to rest from physical fatigue.

Henri Matisse

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