My name is Rémy Lach. I live near Paris, in France. As for my artistic background, I only drew and painted 2 hours per week during plastic art courses in middle school. In a nutshell, I wasn’t born with a paint brush in my hand. To be honest, I used to live a pretty ordinary and happy life until watercolor decided to knock on my door.
My watercolor journey began in 2013. At this time, Youtube wasn’t so popular but I already spent hours and hours on it watching videos on my couch. Lazy man. One day, I stumbled upon a video from Direk Kingnok, a Thai watercolorist. I couldn’t take my eyes off this video. I was like a child watching “Frozen” for the first time. It was magic for me. Everything was memorable: the confident brush strokes, the light on the painting, the watery effects…
I bought a 10€ set of 12 half pans from Winsor & Newton Cotman and started my journey. The first attempts were successful. The colors blended nicely. I discovered the power of watercolor. Wow, nice! I would then be able to master this medium in no time. I was so naive, and so wrong. I was such an amateur and watercolor reminded me of it relentlessly.
When it came down to a whole landscape painting, I can’t remember how many times I failed. I constantly switched between joy and despair. I looked at how people painted on Youtube and I tried to reproduce the same paintings. Unsuccessfully…
My Erratic Learning Curve
One night in 2014. Already 2:00 am… Not tonight! Not again!! As yesterday… and the day before yesterday… disappointed… I looked dully at my watercolor painting. Actually, it is looking at me… with dead eyes. No light, no mood, no atmosphere. Nothing.
I messed this painting up. This time, I put too much water when I shouldn’t, creating these so-dreaded cauliflowers. I know them too well. I can feel my best friend coming right away to taunt me: Frustration. Its voice pops into my head: “Why not give up on painting? See, you just embarrassed yourself. Stop doing it, for God’s sake. This path is a dead end. Start something new instead! Something that would make you happier.”
That same voice telling me that I shouldn’t paint because I’ll screw up.
That same voice which makes me click on the Netflix app just after I decided to paint.
That same voice convincing me that I’m too tired to paint after a working day as an engineer. Unfortunately, I know that voice too well.
Here is the sad truth about watercolor: Frustration will become a close friend to you. And it sometimes becomes unbearable. At this time, I didn’t know that I would struggle for 2 whole years. 2 years before painting the first landscape I would be proud of.
From this moment, I started painting 2 to 3 landscapes every week for 1 year while working full time until 2016. I gained momentum. I even succeeded in selling up to 12 paintings in one exhibition. Good job, kiddo!
My Watercolor Supplies
With that money in my pocket, I upgraded my art supplies. I bought a Holbein palette. An easel, some masking tape, a bottle spray and some minor stuff. I stuck exclusively to Arches paper rough 140 lbs. I used Winsor & Newton professional quality tubes. At this time and until now, the brushes I had were still the first ones I bought: Raphael 803 brushes size 0/3, 2 and 4, and a synthetic brush with a fine point.
If you want to know the exact references of all my supplies, you can check my website where you can download the .pdf checklist. For each supply, I go deep into what I would recommend and the product references I exactly use (the exact colors etc.)
Then… Then I became a father, the best job in the world. A job which required me to make some sacrifices. Among them, putting watercolor aside for 4 years. Until recently, I started to paint again in March 2020 as I now have more time.
I also created a Youtube channel for those who want to join me in this artistic and fabulous journey. I know how solitary this painting activity may be. I can only help if we can support each other.
My Painting Process
I usually paint at night, when children are asleep. I pick a photo according to composition, light and mood. I mainly choose landscapes as there are already so many subjects to paint: rural landscapes, cityscapes, snowy landscapes, seascapes etc. I describe my art as atmospheric watercolor landscapes.
I tweak the photo so that it matches the result I have in my mind. I draw a quick sketch (5 to 10 minutes max) to get the big shapes on the paper. And I start painting. The painting process itself takes on average one hour.
Actually, watercolor fits my personality quite well. Since I started this Youtube channel, many people ask me the best advice I can give to a complete beginner in watercolor. Still with me? Okay, let’s move on then!
How To Improve In Watercolor As A Beginner
Having failed many times, here is what I would suggest to someone who starts painting in watercolor:
1. Learn the technical skills first. Know how to create a wash and a graded wash. Be familiar with color mixing, wet in wet techniques, dry brush marks and learn how to avoid cauliflowers. There’s a ton of free tutorials on the web which are very well explained. Use them to your advantage.
2. Choose a mentor. Someone whose work inspires you. Learn everything you can learn from this person. One tip: It’s better if you have access to painting videos from this artist as you will have to reverse engineer the paintings. Try to recognize when this artist uses the techniques you acquired in step 1.
3. Lastly, copy the paintings you analyzed until you end up with a satisfying result. There is no shame in copying for a learning purpose. The purpose in this process is not to find your style, it is to learn the technical moves. Select the simplest subjects first and as you improve your skills, you can switch to more difficult topics.
Then, you reach a tipping point where you actually enjoy the painting process more than before as you are no more limited by your technical skills. Then, you can broaden your vision by getting inspiration from other artists (not necessarily watercolorists by the way). I would not recommend checking other artists’ stuff before mastering the technical part first or you may end up switching relentlessly from one artist to the other without actually improving.
When you reach this point, then you have achieved a huge milestone! Congratulations. You can give yourself a pat on the back. Take the time to appraise what you already accomplished so far. You deserve it.
How To Find Your Own Style
I have some bad news for you…only then can the real journey begin. The good news? It’s fun. It’s real fun. I mean: Finding your own style and exploring new compositions and new subjects is what I find the most satisfying moments. Recently, I decided to give a shot to snowy landscapes:
Then I spent some time exploring asian landscapes:
It’s a never ending process and it makes you grow as an artist. It also makes you grow as a human being. Thanks to watercolor, I learned to embrace frustration. Of course there will be some failures. When I started painting, culpability was striking me like a lightning bolt whenever a painting didn’t turn out the way I wanted.
But I now feel gratitude when my best friend, Frustration, knocks on my door. I now understand the happy truth behind watercolor: Frustration is what comes before fulfillment. And fulfillment leads to gratitude. And gratitude is closely linked to happiness.
So… Wanna be in? Yes? Nice!!! Welcome on board then. I hope you don’t care about my strong Frenchy accent (as you could have read it!) and I’m glad we met. If we get to know each other, I would suggest you to subscribe to my YouTube channel. I share every week a time lapsed painting demonstration.
Take a seat, have some rest and let’s start painting! I would like to thank Charlie for his incredible work. It takes so much courage and perseverance to inspire people with his daily post. Respect to the man! Peace, joy and long life to watercolor!Recommended3 recommendationsPublished in