Penny Lulich is an award winning watercolorist. She has been juried into both local and international watercolor shows.
It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like That Time Of Year.
Early morning frost (and in some places, snow) is on the ground. Colored leaves have all fallen and turned brown, crunching under foot as you walk outside. It must be time to put some coffee on, set up a space for yourself, and pull out those watercolor cards you've had stashed away in a cupboard or drawer. I love painting cards this time of year. Winter scenes are my favorite subject, and there's a good reason why. Having lived in the Pacific Northwest almost the entirety of my life, I've experienced many snowy cold winters. I know what evergreen trees and snow capped mountains should look like in winter. I have a mind full of memories, and I'm able to draw on that to paint whatever I like. Of course, it helps to have some knowledge of watercolor technique, but the real painting for me, is done intuitively.
Read on if you want to know how I do that, and what kind of techniques will help you paint beautiful watercolor cards.
Card Prep For A Picture Perfect Finish
- Tape your cards: That is to say, tape around the edges of your cards before you begin painting. This will give you a clean, white border. I use painter's tape that I purchase at a craft store. It's a little more expensive than using plain old masking tape, but it comes off the card easier, and without tearing the paper. It doesn't matter so much how wide you make your borders. It's a matter of preference, but the borders give the painting a beautiful mat finish and it looks very sharp, and professional too.
Two Brushes To Paint Cards
2. Use a smaller round brush: I use two basic brushes for my watercolor card paintings; A Princeton Heritage round #8, and a Creative Mark Mimic, Rigger brush. The rigger brush is mostly for fine detail at the end of the painting, such as twigs on a tree or wires on a fence. I use the Princeton brush for everything else.
Paint and Paint Colors For Watercolor Cards
The nicest thing about creating watercolor cards is that they are by nature very small paintings, and they need small amounts of paint. I started out using a fairly inexpensive student grade paint that gave me just six different colors. Now, I use fine art watercolor paint and I have twelve colors. I must admit though, I only use six colors and these are my favorites for most of my winter scenes. In my palette I use Prussian Blue, Cobalt Blue, Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Red, New Gamboge, Titanium White. Occasionally I will use a very cool blue for the sky, like pthalo blue, but any other color comes from mixing what I already have in my palette. This way, the colors harmonize and I can get a lot of color variation.
The Painting Begins! Have Fun! Use Your Imagination!
If you ask me where I get my ideas for painting winter scenes, I would have to tell you that I really don't know. Sometimes I'm inspired by my surroundings. Winter storms can change a drab landscape overnight, and the foliage you barely cared for the day before is suddenly transformed into a divine work of art, and you just want to paint it.
The main thing is to think of what you'd like to paint (perhaps draw it out first), and then dive right in. The more you do this, the better you'll get. Keep working at it. Don't paint what I paint, either. If you live in a desert, and you love palm trees, then paint scenes like that. Whatever it is you love, practice painting that.
This Scene Inspired By A Photo
But, to be honest, most of my inspiration comes from my own fertile imagination. That, combined with years of wintery memories, is where my best ideas come from. When I have the correct size brushes and the paint colors I need, I can create any scene I like. Generally speaking, there is pretty much just three parts to these little paintings. Sky, land, and some shapes that look like trees or structures, and/or figures. Throw on a little snow by using the titanium white, mixed with a little water on the brush (tapping it against your hand to create a splatter effect) and you have a beautiful winter painting.
The Finished Product
All you have left to do is allow the painting to dry completely, then carefully remove the tape, sign the card, and package it up in clear bags made just to hold your card. You can, of course, write in the card and send it off to your best friend or a special family member. It's always fun to get a hand made gift, and these cards are definitely a gift.
Watercolor Winter Scenes For Fun and Relaxation
When it comes down to it, we paint because it's enjoyable. We like how we feel when we accomplish something. So, try to relax and have fun painting your cards. Maybe find others who would like to paint with you. Doing so is a great way to get help when you feel stuck in a painting, and it's encouraging as you see how much you improve. Bottom line is, it's time to get painting those winter scenes.
Succeed With Simplicity
If all you can paint is sky and snow, then practice that. You can add a tree when you're feeling brave. Use your painter's masking tape to tape off a tree when you tape the edges. That's one tip I tell my students when they're starting out. When you are just beginning in watercolor, simple spells success, so keep it simple.
- 5x7 Blank Watercolor Cards. Check at your local arts and crafts store.
- Watercolor paint.
- Painter's masking tape (I like to use a colored tape so I can see the edges of the paper better.
- Container of water
- Watercolor brushes
- clear bags