Books for learning to paint in watercolour

In this post, I give some brief notes on how useful different books for teaching watercolour painting has been to me so far.

Ron Ranson: Watercolours

This is one of my two top favourites. Ranson teaches a way to paint that is thorough in learning how to do it, but also a way of painting that i like, which is fast, and having results that are not so fussy or fiddly.

Jean Haines: Colour & Light in Watercolour
This book has some amazing paintings especially concerning the use of colours. However – for me – when I try the exercises I find it hard to make them my own. I am too much of a beginner to be able to get the basic composition right in this style. What comes out when I do the exercises are bad copies of Haines work. Maybe in a few years, when I have learned more, I can revisit the book.

Terry Harrison: Painting Water in in Watercolour
Harrison has good tips on how to learn how to paint water – I especially liked exercising to use masking fluid. The results that come out when I paint are a bit stiff and fiddly. That’s of course due to my own limitations, but for now I am leaving this book after having done perhaps half of the exercises. I will go back to Ranson’s books, because, since I am learning, I want to learn a style that helps me create the type of watercolours that I  find more aesthetically pleasing.

Ian King: Watercolour Tips.
This little Collins Gem book teaches the Norwich School of painting, showing a method for how to paint landscapes step by step. It is really good, and it is small enough to have in the handbag or in a pocket.

Hazel Sloan: 10 Minute Water Watercolours.

This is my other top top-two favourite. The book is focussed on teaching what techniques to use to make a small painting in less than 10 minutes. I use it to make tiny practice paintings when I take micro-breaks when i write or code. I love this book so much. I take it with me every time I travel, keeping it close (it is a tiny ‘Collins Gem’). It’s like anything can happen to me, but that’s OK, because I can console myself with painting for a few minutes (with the tiny painting kit that also lives in my purse).

For learning to paint, I have decided to not take any courses in person, I only use books and online video tutorials. The reason is that I have this tendency to, when I learn something, to not only soak up the knowledge someone imparts, but also soak up norms and values about how things ‘should’ be, what styles or subjects are more ‘worthy’ than others. I don’t want that. I want to continue be free in my learning of painting, and keep the painting corner of my life as a sanctuary from judgement.

Anyway, If you are thinking of taking up painting as a relaxing hobby, but are swamped with other obligations: I recommend the “10-minute Watercolours” Collins gem. If you have a little more time, I recommend also getting any book by Ron Ranson.


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