What am I doing wrong? Can’t replicate technique!

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  • This is probably an odd question…but here it goes.

    I am a beginner with watercolors. I made one  painting of an octopus using wet to wet technique and was pleased with how it came out.

    I tried to do a second painting of another octopus and I cannot, for the life of me replicate my techniques! I had to rework the blue numerous times just to get it kind of satisfactory. And the purple is driving me nuts, it’s streaky and temperamental and I can’t get that nice blend from the first painting.

    I would appreciate anyone who can offer any type of advice on how to improve! Thanks so much. Below are photos of my first and second pieces:



    First painting


    Not an odd question at all.  Reproducing what works is one of the hardest things to learn about watercolor, I think.

    Did you use the same paper, paint and brush? All of those things can make a difference.  Beyond that it is a matter of practice.

    Some tips:

    Pay attention to how much water you are using – you might even want to use a dropper or spoon to put the water in a dish (not one you’ll want to eat from) or palette in order to control the amount of water you are putting on the paper.  If you mix paint and water, pay attention to whether the mix is watery, creamy or thick.

    Also pay attention to the how wet the paper is.  Timing can be critical – is your water puddling, is there a shine on the paper or does it look dry.  Take note of what your paper looks like when your wet-into-wet fails and when it works.  Then the next time, aim to add your paint when the paper looks like it did when it worked.  Temperature and humidity can affect how fast the paper will dry, too.

    Some paint pigments EXPLODE on the paper, expanding and traveling almost out of control. Others tend to sit there, no matter how wet the paper is.  Most are somewhere in between.  The way a color reacts can vary from brand to brand, so learn how your particular paints react.

    I always think it is a bit like learning to drive.  At first, it seems like you’ll never be able to keep track of everything but after a while, you know what to pay attention to, and hardly realize you are doing it.

    Hi Sandra, thanks for the reply!

    I did use the same paints, brushes and paper. I’m guessing it has to be the amount of water I used because that is the only thing that could have changed. I was trying all different amounts on water on a scratch sheet of paper last night and I still could not figure out what I did the first time around. So frustrating!! But I will keep trying until I get it right.

    omi this is a good question.  Following… I gave up reproducing, feeling like watercolors were the Zen medium and I had to roll with the happy accidents and just be present for what I was doing this moment…  Sandra is right on the water thing — and now I pay more attention, but i still can’t replicate!

    Excellent response to the question and all good suggestions and points.

    I’d add too that no matter how hard we try, no two paintings turn out the same. I think the second painting is unique in its own right.

    watercolour is a very difficult medium to copy, especially any wet in wet, depends on the humidity. i think you’ve got 2 different paintings to play with!! 🙂

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