Creating dreamy masterpieces and learning to be watercolour wizards

Creating dreamy masterpieces and learning to be watercolour wizards


Junior Reporters Helen Wu used darker tones for her flower.
Photo: Helen Wu

Most of us enjoyed our primary school art classes, but since we don’t use those skills very often they can be easy to forget. Junior reporters Helen Wu and Sebastian Wong went to Studio 83 to get a refresher course on mastering the art of watercolour painting.

A creative island of calm

If you think a gallery located in Central can’t escape its hustle and bustle, think again. Entering Studio 83, you step into a tranquil and delightful space. Vince Li, who studied cinematography and illustration in the US, was our instructor. He welcomed us to the joyful world of watercolour.

Before painting anything, we went through the equipment we needed: watercolour paints, brushes, palette, watercolour paper, watercolour pencils and portable brush.

A full spectrum for Helen's test piece.
Photo: Helen Wu

One of the keys to mastering watercolour is colour charting. You can play with colours, for instance, mixing red and yellow to produce orange, but the colours on your palette will look quite different when you put them on your paper and mix them with water. Plus, the amount of water you apply will determine whether you get a dark or pale orange.

We tested the three primary colours (red, yellow, and blue) by painting grids of them and combining them in different ways to compare the effects.

And then comes the fun part: colour blending!

Wet a square section of your paper and dab different colours inside it, one next to the other. Try to get the colours close, but don’t let them touch. Then just watch: water will magically bring the different colours together in a beautiful misty effect!

After all these appetisers, we finally came to the main course: learning how to draw spheres and flowers. For a beginner like me, figuring out how to start my artwork is always a challenge. But here I was reminded that shapes are my friends! It’s much easier to draw the outline of, say, flowers, when you remember that they are developed from triangles or ovals.

Helen Wu

We’re totally stuck on masking tape art – and you should be too

Easy to learn the basics

Watercolour painting might seem easier than other painting methods considering how little equipments it requires, but it sure takes some polished and refined techniques to create a perfect art piece. During the session that we had at the laid-back gallery Studio 83, we had the project of painting a simple tulip and a rose.

Sebastian works with bright colours for his lotus.
Photo: Helen Wu

The first part of the lesson gave us the skills to draft and outline or painting. Then we got to use the essential skill we were taught: leaving a blank space. It is quite interesting that making sure to leave a blank space – keeping it unpainted and white – is actually the first step in watercolour painting. We used that blank space to create the highlight for our flowers, and then we could finally start working with colours.

Apart from the highlight, which is the brightest part of our image, to create a 3D illusion on paper, we to have mid-tones, core shadows, cast shadows, reflective light, and finally, the negative space. It was a bit difficult to understand what all these terms mean, until we actually put them to use in our project.

The mid-tone is the space where the light hits evenly, essentially the main body of the image; the core shadow is the shadow that’s still on the object itself, the space where light doesn’t hit directly; the cast shadow is the shadow that comes into everybody’s mind first, the literal shadow that’s on the background, let’s say the floor or the wall. The reflective light is the slightly lighter part within the core shadow, where reflective light hits; while the negative space is optional, drawn only when exaggeration of the main object is needed. Putting all of these complicated techniques to use on our painting, I’d say we did a pretty good job, considering that we were only first-timers!

Overall, watercolour painting is very enjoyable, and easy for everybody to get the hang of. There’s nothing that would take years of practice like other art forms such as carving or sculpting. From mixing the colours with water, to controlling the proportions, it’s quite straightforward and easy to understand. Everyone should try their hand at this beautiful art form. Just like our teacher said, you can do watercolour painting anytime, and anywhere!

Sebastian Wong

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Watercolour wizards


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