My name is Jensen Cheong from San Jose California. My teacher Harding is a professional Watercolor painting artist, who published 2 fine art books in the 60s, who is the founder of Harding Fine Art Studio, where, for 3 years, I studied fine art theory, gypsum sketch oil and watercolor painting. This included still life, model painting and going outside and painting scenery as well. I define myself as a semi-professional artist.
I never quit painting, though sometimes I paused quite a while, even years. Since three years ago, I have been painting in watercolor most of time, and also participated in watercolor artist Tim Wilmot‘s online workshop and contacted him for his valuable critiques on my watercolor work. I use source photos that I shoot during traveling as reference to paint watercolor. The majority of my subjects are street scenes and scenery but sometimes portraits and still life.
I opine the most important key of painting watercolor is the ability to control color value. This means the ratio of water and pigment that we have to master in the way that we can optimize the result of the final works.
Besides, the relation of edges and the area next to the edge, this means the degree of the edge’s softness and hardness have to be just right and fit in the whole picture. As to perspective, I think it’s the basic knowledge learnt, but I always pay attention during sketching as it’s sometimes carelessly overlooked.
Regarding composition, I know it is good for watercolor to simplify it, from time to time reminding myself not to going into too much details, which is indeed not easy in the practice. What we know in our mind is one thing, and how to reflect that into painting is another. To that end, it is technique and experience. In my own experience, that mood and state are not constant. I can sometimes feel the painting going on smoothly, sometimes “it’s not my day.”
Another challenge is to refrain from too much repeated brushing after the first wash. Actually, it is again the ability of controlling the value well. To improve, more practice is the only way. We painters all face a question of “when to stop?”
There, however, is no standard or criteria. My experience is that when you see there is no more room to adjust, just stop, because it is the utmost of your level. However, if there is a teacher, he can tell you where to change or improve.
The other thing is style. I think each artist/painter would form his/her unique style after accumulation of certain works, similar to singers or composers. Why? In my view, personal style is shaped by 1). your preferred artist works that influence you 2). your teacher’s impact 3). your preferred pigment and paper you are using 4). your personal character.
For myself, in my early watercolor works, I can see the reflection of oil painting because I did a lot of oil paintings when young. Now, I’ve been trying to dilute such shadow to build up light and a bit of a rough watercolor style – that’s why I chose Mr. Wilmot for his critiques. I have two other me-likey watercolor artists, Alvaro Castagnet and Joseph Zbukvic, each of them presenting far different personal styles.
In addition to technique and experience, tools for watercolor painting are important, too. Big brands of pigment, paper and brushes are definitely much better than cheap ones, but to get used to which one fits most is personal preference after you have tried and compared.
The watercolor paper I use mostly Saunders, sometimes Hahnemühle and Canson, 300g/, cold press, medium rough, in sizes 18×30″, 12×16″, and 9 x 12″. The brands of watercolor brushes I use are Raphael, Escoda and Sealodan, either synthetic or squirrel hair. Watercolor tube pigments I use are Winsor & Newton.
My own goal is to try to break through, which is not easy. When I look back at my previous watercolor works, I see where I could have been improved. Therefore, I always hold a positive and humble attitude to listen to other’s comments.