Six versions of the same watercolor still life exercise

exercise for a simple still life in watercolor Fabriano Studio paper and Princeton Neptune 6 round brush
My sixth version of this simple little still life exercise, after experimenting with different brushes and papers.

My YouTube history is crowded with watercolor videos, including some by artist Chris Petri. The influence of Charles Reid on his work caught my eye, and I like how he makes demonstrations of watercolor painting principles and techniques.

Since I’m trying to balance the actual practice of making art with the reading and watching lessons, I buckled down on Sunday night with some different watercolor papers, a variety of brushes, and Chris’ video on a loose and simple watercolor still life.

I started with a page from a Strathmore 500 Series watercolor pad and a Princeton Neptune size 6 round brush. My primary problem here was the backruns from going back in to make color adjustments. Plus the paint seemed to dry really quickly on the edges.

watercolor still life exercise on Strathmore 500 cold press paper with Princeton Neptune 6 round brush

Next in the Strathmore pad was the Escoda Versatil 8 round. Similar issues as with the Neptune.

watercolor still life exercise on Strathmore 500 cold press paper with Escoda Versatil 6 round travel brush

The final sketch in the Strathmore pad was with a Master’s Touch 8 round. It looks totally out of control with too much water.

watercolor still life exercise on Strathmore 500 cold press paper with Masters Touch 8 round brush

I like this paper, but I think I needed to move much quicker at the edges of the paint and resist going back in to touch damp areas with water on the brush.

Once that page was filled, I switched to a scrap of Fabriano Artistico cold press watercolor paper. I found that the edges of the paint dried quickly and I didn’t move fast enough around the shapes. But when there was a solid wet area and I added a different color, it spread smoothly. Which wasn’t exactly what I was going for in this case.

watercolor still life exercise on Fabriano Artistico cold press paper with Masters Touch 8 round brush

Another try on the Artistico paper, trying to work out the shaping of the apple and vase.

partial watercolor still life exercise on Fabriano Artistico cold press paper with Masters Touch 8 round brush

I was pretty frustrated by this point because I had tried two high-quality papers that I typically like using. Not wanting to totally give up, I pulled out a little square of Fabriano Studio watercolor paper and went back to the Princeton Neptune 6 round. I feel like there were a lot of improvements by this sixth version. I wish the harsh highlights were a little softer at the edges, but I’m pretty happy with the vase.

exercise for a simple still life in watercolor Fabriano Studio paper and Princeton Neptune 6 round brush

Doing this exercise over and over was helpful because I got more familiar with the shapes and colors, and saw how slight changes in process and materials resulted in sizable differences. There’s an exercise in Daily Painting by Carol Marine where you take one simple object, divide your surface into about 8 squares, and paint the object again and again with 10-minute intervals. I want to give this exercise a try because I’ll be able to see the object in front of me rather than imitating another artist’s interpretation of the object, like with this video.

Here’s the video I was following for this activity (I see that he went in after filming to add the apple stem and a touch of green on the tomato, which I didn’t do):

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