Painting Watercolors (First Steps) by Cathy Johnson - moving water exercise

Watercolor lessons from Cathy Johnson

Part of learning how to paint with watercolors is about just doing it and getting familiar with the tools, but I also love learning from experts. I treated myself to two books (print versions, not Kindle version) by Cathy Johnson — Painting Watercolors (First Steps) and Creating Textures in Watercolor.

Her loose, confident, and sketch-like style is what I’d like to get to with my own skills. By following her examples, I hope to learn what it feels like to emulate her style as a way to develop my own.

Painting Watercolors (First Steps) by Cathy Johnson - moving water exercise

My moving water exercise from Painting Watercolors (First Steps) by Cathy Johnson

One thing I’m struggling with is being patient enough to let the layers dry before adding details on top of them. I keep ending up with a mushed-together blob like in the dark areas below.

Painting Watercolors (First Steps) by Cathy Johnson - mountains, cliffs and other rock forms exercise

My mountains, cliffs and other rock forms exercise from Painting Watercolors (First Steps) by Cathy Johnson

I love the way my little red building turned out! The wet-in-wet variegated wash was intentional with this one, not the result of rushing layers.

Painting Watercolors (First Steps) by Cathy Johnson - buildings in landscape exercise

My buildings in landscape exercise Painting Watercolors (First Steps) by Cathy Johnson

Apples have become my achilles heel…there’s something about the red color and highlights that is ellusive to me. But the peach and strawberry turned out well. The strawberry was better for me because it has small, controlled highlights. And the peach doesn’t shine and features softly blended shades. Which was totally fun to do.

Creating Textures in Watercolor by Cathy Johnson - fruits

My apples, peach, and strawberry from Creating Textures in Watercolor by Cathy Johnson

For these, I’ve been using Fabriano Artistico 140 lb. cold press watercolor paper in Traditional White. It’s stating the obvious, but the experience of painting on this paper is hugely different from using my Stilman & Birn Alpha Series sketchbook.

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