Calico Art - Carol Vaage

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In the Beginning

Scared Stiff!

The desire to express, to paint was so strong, but the fear of starting to paint was stronger. When you grow up believing you are not an artist, it is easy to convince yourself that is a truth.

Art for me started only after I had retired - when I had unlimited time and the yearning to learn. Watercolour paintings fascinated me - with the fluidity, delicacy, blossoms, and back runs. I loved it all.

I walked into a Daniel Smith store, the question was "Where do I start?" And so this blog post is dedicated to that scared stiff feeling of picking up a paintbrush and having a blank piece of expensive paper watching me, waiting for the first mark.

Some advice?



Experiment by yourself, where you're free to try things out. Invest in better quality paper, and good, artist quality paints. Have 2 or 3 excellent brushes versus a quantity - bargain variety.

Break/cut/tear your paper into 5 x 7 size. And play. Use one side of your paper, and when it's dry, use the other side.

Puddle Play

Drop a puddle of water, add some watercolour paint with your brush. Watch the movement, try leading the front edge of the puddle down, or across. Try sweeping marks on the puddle - upwards, across, down. Make the puddle stronger by adding more pigment. Let these experiments dry, so you can see what watercolour will do.

Brush Play

Get to know your brushes and what they can do. Dip your brush, so it's very wet and soak up colour. Make dots, lines, swirls, sweeps. Now try a drier brush, by dipping in water then wiping it on a towel to take off the bead of water. Now make dots, lines, swirls, sweeps.

Colour Play

Document the qualities of your colours so that you know if they will disperse and travel, or stay put. Are they opaque or transparent? Will they granulate? See the blog post for a more complete description on documenting colour.

Play with Mixing Colours

Some colours should never mix and some make the most beautiful combinations in surprising ways. Until you experiment and get to know which colours work well, you will face the danger of creating mud when you paint. Hint: Use a colour wheel to help.

When you've played with these four elements, you will have experience and knowledge and will be yearning now for technique. Now is the time to begin a new phase of learning.

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