Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Wandering Watercolor or How to Keep a Watercolor Journal

Just like a camera is an excellent way to remember a location when traveling, a watercolor journal can do the same thing for the artist.

If you would like to remember your travels through your “artistic” side, but have not tried a watercolor journal, you are missing out on a lot of fun on your trip.  You probably have questions….such as the ones below:

·        What supplies do I need?
·        How heavy and how big?
·        How messy?
·        How do I get started?

I’ll respond to each of these questions and try to give you some answers.

What supplies do I need?
First off – you won’t need as much as you think you will and all of the supplies can be slipped inside of a tote bag or large purse.   The following is what I have in my travel watercolor kit.

·        Watercolor Paper - Journal:  There are many watercolor journals out there with different types of paper and bindings.  The most forgiving paper is a 140 lb. weight, which will allow you to work the paints.     The bindings can vary from the basic stitched or glued design of a book to a spiral bound notebook.   I have tried both kinds with success.  On my most recent trip, I found a beautiful leather bound book with handmade paper for 40% off at a local hobby store.  I usually try for smaller rather than larger for the journal.  My journal is 6.5” x 9.5.”  I have used 7” x 10” and 9” x 12” in the past.  The paper preference, as well as size, is up to you.  A word of caution:  Handmade paper is not forgiving of mistakes and does not allow for working the watercolor paint or lifting.  Handmade papers absorb the color much faster than a standard watercolor paper.    If you are not familiar with handmade papers, I would suggest a standard 140 lb. watercolor paper for best results.

·        Watercolor paint: 
o   Pan watercolor set:  I have a Winsor & Newton pan watercolor set with 24 colors and a built in palette.  It is not too large and works out great.  Each pan can be replaced when empty to keep this set in great shape for a long time.


o   Watercolor pencils:  I prefer the flow of watercolor paint over watercolor pencils.  However, pencils will work,  if that is your preference.

·        Brushes:  I always carry a #6 round brush and a small liner brush.  I do not like using the “waterbrush”  that contains water in the handle.    I prefer a small plastic contain for my water and my “standard” brush.  However, I know of several people that love the portability of the “waterbrush.”  I usually carry a plastic bottle of drinking water for my watercolors and use the lid for my water container.  The paintings will be small and I find that to be sufficient.    A word of caution:  Let your brush dry before placing it back in your tote bag or watercolor set.  If it gets tossed around in travel, the bristles can dry in an awkward shape and it may or may not be able to be restored to its original shape. 
·        Pencil, eraser and waterproof pen:   A mechanical pencil with extra lead is the easiest type of pencil to pack.  A standard pencil will also work as long as you remember to pack a sharpener.  I like a kneaded eraser to erase any lines that I don’t want to remain in my painting.  A “Sharpie” fine point black permanent pen is good to have on hand if you are looking for bold permanent lines in your sketch.

·        Masking tape:  Not all watercolor artists use masking tape in journals.  I like the “framed” look that it gives to my paintings, and it also “saves” me a clean space under the painting to write comments and the location the painting has captured.  I place the masking tape along the outside edges of the paper; giving me the open inside area for my work. 

How heavy, and how big?
How heavy?  Just a couple of pounds – much less than most women’s purses.

How big?  Of course, depending on the size of the journal you have selected, about the size of a hardback book.  A small tote bag to hold all of your supplies and a small school pencil case for the loose items will keep your watercolor travel kit portable and ready for any trip. 

How messy?
Not messy at all!  I am a very messy painter and can almost go through a roll of paper towels every time I paint.  For some reason, I find that there is barely any mess at all with this type of painting.    I do keep a pocket pack of Kleenex handy…..just in case. 

How do I get started?
Grab your watercolor travel kit and go! 

If you have never painted outside your studio, it may take some getting used to the idea.   When we travel, it is usually to relax and most artists find painting relaxing.    So, take the time to sketch your impressions of an area.   If you see a location that you feel would make a great larger painting, do your sketch with a quick watercolor putting down the colors and your feelings.  Then take a photo of the same site and use your watercolor journal and the photo to complete a larger watercolor back in your studio.

So, start wandering and Happy Painting!





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