by Wilma Wei
As the shelter-in-place continues through May, I, along with many people, have decided to experiment with new hobbies and activities. Quarantine has been a good opportunity for me to continue and improve my painting, and this article is for all of us stuck in quarantine who want to try out water-coloring and sketching, or anyone who needs help looking for inspiration.
I start off with a mind-map to generate some painting and sketching ideas. A mind map is a way for me to organize my thoughts and ideas that show relationships between different words visually. For a mind-map, I begin with a broad topic, like favorite places or objects, and I proceed to draw lines off of the first bubble and simply scribble relating words through word association. Once I have enough words on the outside, I highlight some interesting subjects that resonate with me, and then I decide which ones I want to sketch out.
Once I decide what I want to sketch, in this case a redwood forest, I either have a reference photo of my own, or I surf the web for examples of redwood trees for more details that I might not be able to draw from memory.
After I finish my initial sketch of just the forest, I add any abstract aspects or pieces. For little abstract accents, I like adding wavy lines, clustered dots, or jagged lines. If I feel like I want to try something different than just a simple redwood forest, I like experimenting with two different subjects by combining them. With my current piece, I did another mind map of objects that I liked, and came up with my water bottle. As strange and different as these two objects sounded, I toyed with the idea, seeing if I could combine these two. After some sketching and thinking, I ended up with the idea of putting a redwood forest inside my water bottle.
After I sketch, I like to trace over my pencil lines with a Micron Pen. Any waterproof and fade-proof pen of any tip size should work for you – I just prefer Micron Pens because of how smooth they are when I trace. I highly recommend going over your sketch with a pen if you choose to watercolor over it so the lines on your painting stay crisp and distinct.
When I begin painting, I make sure to have my palette, brushes of varying sizes, and some paper towels to wipe my brushes clean when I switch colors. For beginners, I would advise starting with lighter colors and gradually using darker tones, and in general, I recommend just experimenting until watercolor feels more comfortable.
Although this was just my personal style of painting, feel free to do whatever your instincts or ideas tell you. Choose a comfortable time to start, a comfortable location (sometimes painting out in the sun is really relaxing for me), good company (FaceTime some friends), and just have fun!