GUEST ARTIST: Why Watercolor? by Joe Cibere

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor Painting by Joe Cibere - Venice - #doodlewash

My name is Joe Cibere and I could go on and on about the magical qualities of watercolor, but you already know about those. Simply stated, watercolor has made me a better painter, because I only have to paint half a painting and let the medium paint the rest.

The biggest cause for failure is trying to do too much. You don’t have to put down every brush stroke you just want to get it started and I’m always amazed at the results. It’s a partnership…

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor Painting by Joe Cibere - #doodlewash

Skies are the perfect subject to learn how to paint watercolor

I became interested in transparent watercolor through Nita Engle as our commercial art backgrounds were similar. I presently teach and reside in Southern California and I’m active doing demos, classes and workshops as I enjoy paying it forward.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor Painting by Joe Cibere - Surfer's Dream - #doodlewash

Joe is signature member of the National Watercolor Society.  His abstract realism” paintings integrate strong design and balance with a sense of illusion and have appeared in “Watercolor Magazine” and in the International Artists book “The Watercolor Sky and Cloud Techniques of 23 International Artists”.

“The challenge is to know when to stop and let watercolor take over and paint itself. That’s why the most successful paintings seem almost effortless.”

My background is from the commercial art side. I spent most of my career as a freelance artist and the discipline that requires has been very beneficial. Knowing how to draw and design is vital and I’m thankful that I had to hone those skills by doing thousands of storyboards and many illustrations.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor Painting by Joe Cibere - Wetlands Sunrise - #doodlewashMy process is straight forward. I usually start with a doodle/thumbie using a black marker and create a “notan”, Japanese for darkness & lightness and then add mid-tone. I don’t do a pencil sketch because that’s what it is, a sketch, not a value study. This study gives me my three values and those define my shapes.

Also, I can play with the proportion of my painting without spending a lot of time. This is the fun part for me because I can solve most of the visual problems. I can then figure out my color palette if I want and then all I have left to do is paint. What a concept! Knowing how to draw is a given so keep a sketchbook and use it. When using photo reference create don’t copy!

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor Painting by Joe Cibere - Process - #doodlewashThis is from my online class named “MidTone Crisis” and was intended for artists who end up with all midtone values and no darks or lights. Boring… I did my value study then painted it with waterproof ink then added color for a powerful painting.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor Painting by Joe Cibere - Port Pro - #doodlewash

My process is simple:

1.    Paint your midtones leaving white

2.    Paint your darks

3.    Paint the detail if necessary

If you did your value study you’ll have your roadmap and foundation to just let you paint with confidence.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor Painting by Joe Cibere - #doodlewash

One thing I’ve learned over the years is there is no magic brush, paint, paper, palette etc. When I do demos, unless it’s a specific technique, I will be asked questions about what kind/brand of brushes I use or a specific color or special paper or whatever as if that is the secret to making a successful painting.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor Painting by Joe Cibere - Man fly fishing - #doodlewash

For me, it is once again all about the shapes and values. Yes, good paint, brushes and especially paper will make a difference and give you a much more enjoyable experience. We coined a phrase in class and sometimes we call painting watercolor “Funstration” but there are no magic materials.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor Painting by Joe Cibere - #doodlewash

I use a Robert E. Wood palette, various brands of paint including Holbein, Daniel Smith, Da Vinci to name a few. I use synthetic brushes and they work well. I use large brushes, 1 ½ – 2” angled flat and some big rounds and smaller ones for detail if needed. My subject matter will tell me to use flat or round or a combination.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor Painting by Joe Cibere - Flowers - Welcome Sunshine- #doodlewash

I do a lot of demos on a 11×15 140lb coldpress Strathmore pad and larger sizes, 24×18 Artisco Fabriano extra white 140lb cold press. I also use Arches full sheet. I use a small Windex spray bottle that will sprinkle and spray and an atomizer for mist. By the way, I use Pebeo drawing gum for my liquid frisket as the color is grey and I can see where I put it.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor Painting by Joe Cibere - Daggies Beach - #doodlewash

This is where I live and so lucky to have so many paintings in my backyard. I have a studio at Studio Channel Islands in Camarillo, CA and work with about 45 other artists working in all types of media.

More examples of indicate, don’t state. Leave something for the viewer to fill in…

Coming from the commercial illustration/design world my first love is design. I’m a shape and value guy first. Color, edges, technique are all important but if you don’t have interesting shapes defined by value you’ll probably be disappointed but the result.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Cowboy's Dream - Watercolor Painting by Joe Cibere - #doodlewash

Thanks for letting me share a little of my world. I love feedback so feel free to comment below or contact me.

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Give watercolor a chance to paint itself once you get it started, and you’ll be amazed. Hope this perspective makes you a better painter. I love watercolor!

Joe Cibere
Online Classes

Recommended3 recommendationsPublished in Featured Artists, Tutorials
  1. alexankarr1 5 years ago

    I understand less than nothing of the technical terms involved, but the end results are gorgeous!

  2. Annie 5 years ago

    Love your article and your art! Thank you fr submitting!

  3. Miriam Figueras 5 years ago

    Hello, this is beautiful work! I love how negative space is used in some of the illustrations and also movement. One can perceive the commercial background and it is great how you managed to get the best from both worlds. It works perfectly! So inspiring.

  4. I will leave the watercolour to you Joe. You do it so beautifully. Thank you for the inspiration on this fine Friday morning.

  5. Susan Feniak 5 years ago

    I am in awe. Thank you Joe. Thank you Charlie for sharing Joe’s work.

  6. Susanna Maurer 5 years ago

    Amazing! 🙂

  7. Bill Jackson 5 years ago

    Appreciate your words about values in painting

  8. gulliena 5 years ago

    Love love love your art work!
    How do you manage to do this is beyond me!
    Its always been a dream for me to be able to do only 5 to 10% of what you can create in art.

  9. SHARON HASCHALK 5 years ago

    Joe, thanks for the advice stressing shapes and values – darks/lights. Your work is just fabulous!

  10. A Quiver of Quotes 5 years ago

    Stunning, bookmarked it to come back later, to enjoy and seek inspiration.

  11. Linda Murray 5 years ago


  12. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 5 years ago

    Thank you, Joe, for a fabulous watercolor class. I learned a lot reading your words and seeing your work. I especially like the examples of you sharing your mid tone values technique and the tip about Pebeo drawing gum. Your art is exciting and fresh.

  13. memadtwo 5 years ago

    Amazing skies. What a wonderful touch you have. (K)

  14. beverlydyer 5 years ago

    I think I’m one of those folks who often ends of with midtones…eek! Thank you for encouraging me to push it further. Cheers, Bev

  15. Joe, l love how you describe watercolor. I so agree. Part of the fun is not having control of what happens. Your work is awesome! 👏

  16. John 5 years ago

    Thanks Charlie for another wonderful introduction and to Joe for sharing. Just as well I’m already totally hooked on watercolours as seeing such stunning work – and feeling it to be so beyond my reach – could easily make me feel like hanging up my brushes! Just wonderful and really inspiring!

  17. carol 5 years ago



  18. Mary Backer 5 years ago

    Love your work! Reminds me somewhat of Robert E. Wood. Good use of color & values.

  19. Virginia Craig 5 years ago

    Great article, and love the advice, inspired by this!

  20. Pauline 5 years ago

    Hello Joe !
    Thank you for sharing with us – I discovered your art work a while ago and I find it very inspiring, colorful and luminous.
    I think your one of these artists able to create value for watercolor and revitalize the genre of.

    Greetings from Paris – France !

  21. TanaBelle Watercolors 5 years ago

    Beautiful, BEAUTIFUL, work!!!!! I love the colors and values!

  22. SeemaMisra 5 years ago

    These paintings are simply stunning. Love the contrasts, with any hardness at all. And yes, there’s no magic material!

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