Q & A

 Q & A



Q. – What is the meaning of … staining, opaque, transparent, and permanent, in the description of watercolor paint?


A. – This area is very confusing for all watercolor painters because the information and rating is different among manufacturers.  I use Sennelier watercolor paint because it has the highest pigment concentration of any brand they include honey which brightens up the color, and are with out ox gall.  It has colors that no other manufacturer have. and some of my favorite colors like Yellow Ochre Light, Cerulean Blue, and Lemon Yellow, have less, little, or no white paint in them. 


Now back to your original question, I will answer in layman’s terms.  Staining refers to the fact that the color will stain the paper and not be able to be removed.  These colors are created with materials or chemicals that are dyes and such.  (All of which I avoid using because I like to lift off dry color later if need.)


Opaque and transparent refer to how clear the color dries after application.  This may be because of white paint added or the component needed to manufacture the particular color.  Think of the difference between orange juice without pulp and another with heavy amounts of pulp included.  It is still orange, just a matter of one being more clear.  A new painter would want to avoid opaque paints as they can cause one to end up with muddy colors sooner.  (Sennelier paints again have a greater quantity of transparent colors and have been making watercolor for over 140 years.)


Permanent refers to the “light fast” quality of the color.  Again in layman’s terms, this means that some colors will fade spontaneously (Fugitive is the term used for these colors).  These colors should be avoided because the color that looks great today and can fade 25 – 50% in a few years causing some great distress, not only for the artist but for the collector as well.  


Q. – Do you prefer watercolor paper over watercolor canvas?


A. – For me it is not about which I prefer it’s about understanding the characteristics of each and using those characteristics to your advantage.  I of course grew up painting on paper and realized quickly that you should use high quality paper or your results will fail ; not because of your skill, but the simple fact that poor quality paper is much more difficult to paint with. Fabriano watercolor paper is what I use especially the ,EXTRA WHITE' ARTISTICO.
They especially work well with my lifting off dry color techniques.


Watercolor canvas by Fredrix on the other hand has been out for only 8 years and I feel has some unique characteristics that appeal to me.  First as a teacher I can keep the student’s spirits high by being able to wipe off any mistakes again and again.  Thus we can reduce the amount of frustration or disappointment on their part.  Additionally the chances of a watermark or blossom appearing are greatly reduced when painting on watercolor canvas.  On watercolor canvas the colors look brighter and the contrast bolder because there is absorption into the surface of the watercolor canvas.  Another major difference is that when you finish a painting on watercolor canvas you can spray seal (varnish) vs. preserving it under glass.  Again that is a great difference because I often do night scenes or ones with dramatic shadows.  When you frame and place a piece of glass over them there is a great amount of glare and reflection making it difficult to enjoy the art.  Now with my paintings on watercolor canvas you can view them unaffected by reflection, glare distraction.   Now for the first time I can paint some very large works of art 30 X 40, 30 X 60 even 30 X 72 without the problems of glass, weight, breakage, glare, reflection and distractions.  (I’ll discuss later why I never spray varnish a watercolor painting on paper.)




Q. – How important is sketching in creating art?


A. – Well the backbone or the solid foundation to most art is the drawing; and your drawing skills with pencil will cross over into your brush skills.  Things like correct prospective … proportions … etc. are important because it gives the viewer a comparison as to how they see the world around them.  You don’t want a viewer of your art to be distracted by unfamiliar angles or size comparisons that they are used to causing their focus to be distracted away from your “artistic direction” towards an issue that you were not intending.


This does not mean after you have a drawing in place that you have to paint up to that line perfectly.  My purpose for painting is to stimulate the viewer’s imagination into a world of color, or contrast etc., not trying to decide if I intended the roof of a building to be awkwardly constructed or why the bird in the sky looked like an airplane.



Q. –  What do you look for in a good brush.


A.  –  I examine a brush to see how many parts and in different ways the brush will transfer paint fluidly for me.  I avoid having 4 – 8 different brushes so each will make a different mark instead can I get my ¾ flat brush to perform using its … end, side, edge, corner and belly to capture the essence of different objects in the landscape.  Will it hold a lot of color … let it go evenly and bounce back into its original form quickly and easily.  That’s why for the most part Kolinsky Sable is the type of hair most of my brushes are made of.  I rely on 3 brushes for 90% of my painting.  A ¾” flat (for 16 X 20 and smaller size paintings, otherwise a 1” flat).  A size 8 Rigger/Liner; but for my round brush I use a synthetic/blend that is large (size 16).  Remember you are only as good as your brush will allow. Detail work I use a sable RAPHAEL 8404 size #7



Q. –  What is your favorite color?


A. – I don’t have a favorite color anymore.  If you do, it will become evident in most of your paintings.  For me it was Permanent Magenta; and then one day when I was looking at a display of several paintings I noticed that color was in all of them (warm and cool dominant).  It took me awhile, but I broke the habit (along with making every finished painting look like a “Tom Lynch”) by that I mean I may favor color and contrast but I can do other things too.



Q. –  IF you had one word of advice to give someone what would it be?


A.  –  I would advise anyone to never stop learning.  I have passed by many artists that I greatly admired because I knew that I could always get better.  That may seem hard for some when they win an award, get published, or write a book but … trust me for yourself and the world never stop challenging yourself and the world never stop challenging yourself.  Don’t paint what comes easy.  Someone once told me if you are not a little scared when you start you will never get better. The other bit of advise is to think like an  artist by not having the name of the object in your mind while painting it.


The challenge for me is now working more plein air and as well as working very large.  (After that I have three other areas on my short list that need improvement.)



Q. –  Which painting of yours is your favorite and why?


A. – The usual answer to that question is … my next painting.  The reason for that is I never want to get comfortable or think that I have arrived.


I have created some paintings that were technically more skilled in concept, theory, or technique than others.  I usually save those for a period of time to look at and learn from so I will be more consistent or successful with future efforts.  But I soon move on, set those aside, and strive for my next favorite the next I sit down to paint. 



Q. –  I constantly get caught up in the mistake I make in a painting.  How can I change that?


A. –  There is a lot to be said for the psychology behind creating a successful painting.  I strive for a positive mentor attitude at all times (even if a certain area is failing) I block it out and work hard at thinking that the problem will be easily solved and the rest is going to turn out great.  This attitude, if you will, has served me greatly in many ways.  So quickly learn the meaning of and follow the guidelines of PMA (positive mental attitude).