Watercolor Painting: A Comprehensive Approach to Mastering the Medium

Watercolor Painting: A Comprehensive Approach to Mastering the Medium

by Tom Hoffmann


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The beauty of a watercolor painting lies in its diaphanous layers, delicate strokes, and luminous washes. However, the very features that define the beauty of the medium can make it difficult to master. This complete guide to understanding the relationships between color, value, wetness, and composition unravels the mysteries of watercolor to help your practice evolve. 

Experienced teacher and acclaimed artist Tom Hoffmann offers a unique, inquiry-based approach that shows you how to translate any subject into the language of watercolor. With Hoffmann as your guide, you’ll learn the key questions to ask yourself at every turn and time-tested methods to help you reach solutions.  

Hoffmann’s thorough explanations and step-by-step demonstrations delineate the process of composing a painting in watercolor, while art from more than thirty-five past and present masters, including John Singer Sargent, Ogden Pleissner, George Post, Emil Kosa, Jr., Mary Whyte, Trevor Chamberlain, Lars Lerin, Torgeir Schjølberg, Piet Lap, Leslie Frontz, and Alvaro Castagnet serve to illustrate and inspire. Whether you’re a serious beginner or a seasoned practitioner, this book will guide you toward the all-important balance between restraint and risk-taking that every watercolorist seeks.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780823006731
Publisher: Clarkson Potter/Ten Speed
Publication date: 12/11/2012
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 450,543
Product dimensions: 9.40(w) x 11.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Tom Hoffmann is a practicing artist and teacher who has been dedicated to the watercolor medium for more than thirty years. He received his BFA from Amherst College and an MA in Art Education from the University of London. His paintings have been exhibited at the Seattle Art Museum, the Frye Museum, Tacoma Art Museum, the Copley Society of Boston, and the Park Avenue Armory in New York City.  He currently teaches three levels of watercolor classes at the Gage Academy of Art in Seattle, Washington.

Read an Excerpt

"Having observed the progress of many watercolor students over the years, I can make a few informed generalizations about the limits we put on our own range. Most common of all is the tendency to stop short of the deep, rich, darks the image may require, This is why it is especially important to ask late in the painting process: Are the darks dark enough?
Of course, certain technnical concerns can affect how dark the paint can be, but these can usually be solved with a piece of practice paper and a spirit of inquiry. The trickiest issues seem to have more to do with psychology than technique. For example, all watercolor paint dries lighter than it appears when it is wet. This is always true. You knew it the first week you started painting, right? There comes a point after which it is just plain silly to use this as a reason for not getting dark enough darks. You've got practice paper. Do the work, and make sure. You are the one who is in charge of your paintings."

Table of Contents

Watercolor Painting
Introduction: Understanding Watercolor    
Chapter One: Translating a Subject into the Language of Watercolor  
Being Mindful of Your Subject         
Revisiting Your Purpose      
Identifying the Tricky Parts  
Knowing Where to Begin    
Knowing When to Stop        
Maintaining Intentionality with Your Marks 
Recognizing What Works   
Using the Language of Form          
Chapter Two: Knowing What Not to Paint 
Identifying the Major Shapes          
Creating a Five-Value Monochrome Study           
Evaluating a Simplified Study         
Creating a Two-Layer Geometric Sketch 
Thinking about Stopping     
Creating a Three-Layer Thumbnail Sketch           
Chapter Three: Seeing in Layers   
Resolving an Image through Layers
Learning to Exercise Restraint       
Identifying Individual Layers   
Evaluating the Layers             
Chapter Four: Understanding Value             
Identifying the Lightest Part of the Picture    
Reserving the Whites             
Reserving Non-White Elements        
Identifying the Darkest Part of the Picture    
Bracketing the Values            
Knowing How Dark You Can Go       
Critiquing the Darks    
Knowing When to Depart from “Accuracy”  
Chapter Five: Sharing Control of Wetness              
Working with Hard and Soft Edges              
Planning the Wetness of the Paper              
Providing Enough Time for Each Task         
Gauging How Much Paint You Need            
Gauging the Wetness of the Brush   
Rewetting an Area      
Knowing When to Depart from “Accuracy”   
Chapter Six: Getting the Most out of Color              
Serving Your Main Goals with Color             
Evaluating Your Palette          
Mixing Your Colors      
Identifying the Dominant Color          
Evaluating the Effects of Color Temperature           
Knowing When to Depart from “Accuracy”   
Enlivening Your Darks            
Choosing Colors for Your Neutrals   
Chapter Seven: Developing an Instinct for Composition    
Sketching Your Subject          
Translating Form into Content           
Knowing When to Depart from “Accuracy”   
Creating the Illusion of Space            
Being Mindful of Abstraction              
Establishing Balance              
Chapter Eight: Becoming Your Own Teacher          
Identifying the Qualities of a Good Teacher             
Establishing Who Is in Charge          
Painting for Its Own Sake        
Devising Alternate Strategies           
Identifying What Worked Well            
Expanding Your Range          
Asking the Questions             

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