GUEST ARTIST: “An Artist Transformed by Watercolor” by Jill Williams

Moonlight Watercolor Painting by Jill Williams

Hey there, I’m Jill Williams, a Southern watercolor landscape artist, full-time bus life gypsy, nature enthusiast, and painting instructor. Paint, coffee, kayaks, full moons, bacon, campfires, and sunrises are just a few of my favorite things. I’m passionate about drawing, watercolor, and opportunities to connect with other artists to help elevate their creative awareness and skill. It’s an amazing privilege to help creatives expand so they are making greater strides with their own painting goals.

Orange Flowers Watercolor Painting by Jill Williams

I grew up in rural Georgia, about an hour west of Atlanta, with my parents supporting my creative endeavors from an early age. I’ve been drawing since age 6, and was pretty much self taught until my first art class in high school. After high school, I began experiencing my first course work and training in art, and was over-the-moon excited. I had a great foundation in drawing early on in my college career, and still consider sketching and drawing the foundation to all painting.

I currently work professionally as a watercolorist and instructor in-person and online workshops, but I spent many years finding my way, as many creatives do, into the marketplace by lots of trial and error. Over the years, I’ve worked a variety of artistic jobs that kept me close to my creative process, including picture framer, stained glass artist, graphic designer & illustrator, muralist, and of course, painting & drawing instructor.

Stormy Sky Watercolor Painting by Jill Williams

I enjoy drawing and painting with various media, but I continue to return to watercolor over and over. The transparent qualities, the feel of the paper, the unique tendencies of the watercolor to ‘have a mind of its own’, and the painting process itself have always intrigued me since my first feeble attempts as a preteen. I enjoy working realistically in sketching and color work, mostly as an exercise to keep my skills sharpened. However, years of realism began to weigh on my creativity and I knew I wanted to convey more expressive qualities and content to my work. This began a journey to more representational and figurative work, which is the basis for my style now.

My Watercolor Style

My landscapes are figurative with a pensive mood, that invites the viewer to recollect their own relationship with the nature of their youth, and to find a new place for it in the forefront of their daily experience. Capturing the magic of moonlight, backlit trees, stormy clouds, and the complexity of tangled thickets are just a few of my favorite subjects to work with.

Night Sky Watercolor Painting by Jill Williams

Painting abstract landscapes in watercolor has become my expression of gratitude for the amazing, sacred, and mysterious beauty of nature, and her seasons, and life lessons. I love sharing the imagery I create with others, helping others learn to craft their own imagery, and to see collectors thrilled with the work I produce.

The Transformative Power of Watercolor

Watercolor has become my medium of choice over the years, not only because of its particular beauty, but because of the life lessons I’ve learned through experimentation, and the continued pursuit of mastery.

Forest Trees Sunlight Watercolor Painting by Jill Williams

In addition to being an artist, I can definitely describe myself as a recovering perfectionist, which has played its own role in my growth (and sometimes demise) as a painter. I lost my way as a painter during the years that I was raising my 2 amazing sons, like so many other artist-moms! The demands of full-time mothering and homeschooling consumed my time for many years, but I begin a slow, and often frustrating return to painting in 2006. Watercolor was my friend and teacher through the years that many creative moms experience as they rediscover their artistic selves after motherhood. My sons are adults now and working on their own creative pursuits…they continue to bring me joy!

Today, I’m incredibly grateful to have learned the value of waiting, wondering, and welcoming the unexpected, through my watercolor journey. Having an intimate relationship with your materials and process is one of the most unique aspects of any painter’s life. Seasoned painters can often overlook the creative possibilities of such a relationship, and new painters are seldom exposed to the idea!

Valuing Process Over Perfectionism Unlocked the Door to My Own Style

Waiting…

Trees Sunlight Watercolor Painting by Jill WilliamsWatercolor is continually moving until it dries. For some, waiting for paint to dry can be a great annoyance, but I’ve learned to value drying time as magical, with the medium using the opportunity to reveal it’s own capabilities without our ‘fiddling’.

Wondering…

Learning to let go of unhealthy adult patterns like busyness and distraction is an ongoing process, but landscape painting has allowed me to rekindle my great love and admiration for nature, and restore the childlike awe it produces. Being intentional about transferring that sense of wonder into my work is one of the great invitations I respond to when working with watercolor and it’s wild tendencies.

Welcoming the Unexpected…

Learning to cooperate with watercolor, rather than control it constantly is a battle that I’ve learned to enjoy loosing. I replaced the word ‘mistake’ with ‘experiment’. Once I did this, new possibilities and imagery evolved that has ultimately led to me narrowing my own particular voice as a painter. It can be said that watercolor has been a great deliverer of my perfectionist tendencies, and I’m much happier and fulfilled in my life overall because of this wonderful medium.

Starting a Painting

My paintings begin with lots of observation and time outdoors to gather images with my phone, as well as the experience of being on location and taking in the surrounding beauty. I will sketch from life and from photos, often merging recollections as modifications into the composition that more reflect my mood, than the actual scene. I get excited by an empty white page, and will begin by sketching lightly on my watercolor paper for most paintings, but I may spend time working out a composition on newsprint if I’m feeling uncertain about its direction.

Frosted Pine Watercolor Painting by Jill Williams

I mostly work with smaller sheets of watercolor paper, rather than full sheets, now that I’m traveling full time because of limited space. I also work quickly in the beginning, laying base tones and blocking in shapes, but then build layers and details with a variety of tools to create visual texture for the wild and tangled imagery that I like to produce.

My Favorite Materials

Papers

Beauty Berry Watercolor Painting by Jill WilliamsMy watercolor paper of choice is Arches 140lb cold pressed, which I buy mainly as whole sheets, then tear down into 1/8 size sheets that measure approximately 7.5” x 11”. Arches has a tremendously resilient surface that accepts multiple layers of pigment, scratching, burnishing, and of course scrubbing, all without pilling or falling apart. I believe that choosing a quality watercolor paper is the most critical consideration for materials. Even when I used budget paints and brushes early in my career, splurging on paper produced elevated results every time!

I also enjoy using Winsor & Newton Watercolor Sketchbooks for quick plein air sketches because of the handy and attractive spiral bound books they offer. Also, with the smaller sizes especially, Winsor & Newton paper tends to lie flat, even after wetting, so taping isn’t always needed. Hahnemühle sketchbooks are also a favorite for plein air, with sturdy, attractive binding, and heavy quality paper that also tends to remain flat after wetting.

Wildwood Watercolor Painting by Jill WilliamsFor sketching, I really enjoy Stillman & Birn sketchbooks. Their papers are very sturdy, and the tooth is perfect for graphite or charcoal, and even ink. They all have sewn binding that really makes the books heirloom quality once you’ve filled them with beautiful works. The sewn binding still allows the user to open the book fully for creating double page spreads. They even take a light wash of watercolor or gouache very well.

Pigments

I use primarily Daniel Smith pigments along with a few Winsor & Newton colors, including their gouache. I’m always in pursuit of visual texture in my work, and prefer pigments that will granulate. Daniel Smith has a variety of pigments that provide these effects, particularly their Prima Tek series of colors. Another feature I look for in pigment is vibrancy, and again, Daniel Smith offers several vivid quinacridone pigments that never disappoint! I always tell my students that a color can always be neutralized, but never intensified.

Flowers Watercolor Painting by Jill Williams

I enjoy working with vivid tones so I have a much wider chroma spectrum. When I need vivid yellows and pinks for a sunrise or flowers, they are on my palette, but I can still deepen those for more muted subjects. The Winsor & Newton colors I use are, Winsor Red, and Winsor Violet, along with Permanent White Gouache. The red and violet are long time favorites for intensity of color and clean mixing, and still remain on my palette after many years. The white gouache is opaque, and I incorporate it often in my more abstract pieces with different layering effects, often tinting with other watercolor pigments, to create a variety of subtle visual textures and patterns.

Brushes

I use Trekell brushes nearly exclusively. The brushes that I use daily, include a round #12 Kolinsky sable, a round #6 Kolinsky Sable, 1/4” Squirrel Dagger, and #0 Rigger. I do have other brushes in my kit for scrubbing and larger wash areas as well, but are typically inexpensive ones that can be easily replaced.

Clouds and Grass Watercolor Painting by Jill Williams

The Trekell brushes are surprisingly affordable for the quality, and are well made. Kolinsky Sables are my favorite because of their water retention and find point, even with a large diameter brush. They allow me to produce especially even washes, and are unparalleled for coverage when compared to synthetic brushes.

Additional Supplies

Along with watercolors, I use Derwent watercolor pencils and Daler-Rowney Acrylic Inks to generate more visual texture. The pencils allow for very direct mark making, and the inks’ opacity and deep values contrast deeply with the watercolor, creating more visual interest and texture. I’m a huge fan of granulation, and Winsor & Newton’s Granulation Medium is in my kit at all times. I do tend to use it primarily with watercolor pigments that already granulate, in order to intensify the effect, and it’s brilliant with granulating the acrylic inks.

I employ a variety of materials to generate visual texture, including the use of salt in various size granules, water and/or alcohol spritzing, masking fluid application, Gulf paraffin wax, granulation medium, General’s charcoal powder, scratched marks, lifting, and what I like to call “collaborating with watercolor”. This collaboration is essentially allowing and promoting ‘blooms’, splotching, spreading, and any other natural tendency of the medium to interact with the paper and adjacent pigments.

Moon Watercolor Painting by Jill Williams

I love allowing these movements to be incorporated into the intentional planning and brushwork that I bring to the piece. Other household items that I employ are cling film and cheesecloth, which produce fantastic and completely unpredictable visual textures, that often define the course of direction for the entire painting. The experimental journey of each painting is thrilling.

My Painting Community

I’m absolutely passionate about watercolor, and I love sharing my knowledge and encouragement with others, and helping them achieve their own artistic goals. I have a welcoming and inspiring watercolor community online with several ways to connect, including an affordable annual watercolor membership called Watercolor With Jill, where

I paint live with members every single week! There are also other prerecorded workshops that can be purchased with lifetime access, with new titles becoming available throughout the year, as well as in-person workshops that are currently being scheduled through 2023.

Jill Williams Watercolor Artist head shotI also have completely free watercolor offerings which are great for trying out my community and content at no cost. I host a private watercolor group on Facebook, with painters from around the world, who actively post and encourage one another. I also share first access content there, including painting challenges, demos and tutorials, and workshop updates. If you’re looking for tutorials exclusively, please subscribe to my YouTube channel, where I offer ongoing instructional content.

To follow along for watercolor resources, access to new available work, and an inside look at our life on the road, please connect with me on Instagram or my Facebook Page. I look forward to seeing you online, or in person soon! Let’s Connect at the links below!

Jill Williams
Website
Instagram
Facebook
YouTube
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11 Comments
  1. Laura Kate 3 weeks ago

    Jill – your style of landscape painting is one I admire greatly and would emulate. Thanks for sharing, especially images of your paintings and explanations of how to achieve similar textures.

    • Jill Williams 3 weeks ago

      Laura, thank you very much. I appreciate your comments and I’m glad you were inspired. 🙂

  2. Edo Hannema 3 weeks ago

    Love your work Jill. I see a lot of good influences. Go this way further. Nice, free and fresh.

  3. Sandra Strait 3 weeks ago

    Your loose and lovely style is inspiring!

  4. Lynn Leonard 3 weeks ago

    Wonderful article for those of us who are part of your painting community, Jill, as well as those just learning about your insightful, passionate approach to watercolor painting as well as your generosity as an instructor!

  5. Mary Roff 3 weeks ago

    Beautiful art and approach to painting. Thank you for sharing!

  6. Nellie 3 weeks ago

    Jill, just awed by your work! And your journey is yet more inspiring, recovering perfectionists get it! My daily reminder is “progress, not perfection.” I love how perfectly imperfect art is and you bring all the joy with it!

  7. Varsha Koli 3 weeks ago

    Love your style!! Amazing textures & color play!

  8. mjmarmo 3 weeks ago

    A wonderful read! I love your style and your landscapes! Love the sentence about learning to cooperate with watercolor instead of trying to control it. That speaks to me!

  9. Lin Powell 3 weeks ago

    Very intriguing art. It feels full of mystery and unexpected beauty.

  10. jskunstweven 3 weeks ago

    Wonderful artwork. I like your style of art and that you are living in a bus. I always draw when on the road.When packing stuff in the caravan my art travelbag goes in first.Your art work is so inspirational for a beginning watercolorpaintert like me.

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