Learning Watercolor with Jack Reid, Part I

In November 2012, I started learning transparent watercolor with Watercolor Basics by Jack Reid (looks like there’s a Kindle version available now). Although there were some minor issues with that book (e.g., he doesn’t tell you that alizarin crimson isn’t lightfast…he also didn’t have a formal understanding of color theory, among a few other things), I still think it’s the best beginner book on watercolor I’ve encountered so far.  I strongly recommend it if you’re serious about learning this capriciously difficult technique.

This series will show you the paintings you’ll create while working through his book.  I freehand copied the underlying sketches in pencil, then painted over them as he instructs in his book.

The very first painting, “Boat in Water”, shown below, is an exercise in using flat washes in ultramarine blue.  Flat washes are the foundation of watercolor painting and are the most basic technique.

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The next exercise is “House in Winter”, another exercise in flat washes, this time with burnt sienna and ultramarine blue.  I used 90-lb paper for this exercise, which buckled a little with application of the large washes.  The weight of your paper is very important in transparent watercolor.

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He then teaches how to execute a graded wash, in which the value or hue changes gradually.  I call the first exercise associated with this technique, “Ominous Sky”:

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The next technique is wet-in-wet, in which you paint over a wet area.  The first exercise associated with this took me a long time to execute correctly.  It looks simple but is diabolically difficult.  It’s called “Two Pines” and involves painting over a graded wash that’s still wet:

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To be continued!

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