5 Watercolour Exercises to Try and Enjoy

5 Watercolour exercises to try and enjoy #surelysimpleHello! Today, I’m talking about watercolours. I’m a big fan of watercolour- and I hope you are, too! And if you’re not a fan yet, well, then maybe you should try it sometime. It’s amazing. 

What I’ve noticed in all artists (including myself) is that we are all so obsessed with the result. We want whatever we make to come out looking beautiful and just perfect. And once we ‘perfect’ our style, we do not make any effort to try new things, for fear of them going wrong, or even diverting a little from the main track. 

For me, in watercolour, this always happens. I pretty much have a formula for the watercolour I create, which involves pencilling the details first, and filling in with colour. Safe, with guaranteed results. However, one day I realized, that watercolour is best when it’s freehand. Watercolour cannot be restrained- it’s a free art, liberated of all doubts. And I was just thinking, with my paintbrush perched on the paper, ready to fill in all the details I had so painstaking sketched out (drawing is the skill where I’m most confident, so after drawing an outline, I’m pretty much all set): am I even doing watercolour? I mean, here I was, using watercolour, not as the versatile medium it is, but more of a plain colouring tool. 

So I decided to actually practice watercolour. 

It’s funny, but this is the first time I’ve actually painted with watercolour, not for the sake of creating a pretty picture, but for actually learning how to paint with it. And the best part of this whole exercise is that- I really, really enjoyed it.

I enjoyed painting for the process, and not the result. To me, that’s a great thing. And it’s all thanks to watercolour. 

5 Watercolour exercises to try and enjoy #surelysimple

All the exercises you see below are made freehand (no pencil or any outline involved). It may be a little scary if you like a bit of outline to keep your hand steady, but take it from me- watercolour is the best when there’s a bit of risk. Also, I used a no 7 round brush for all these ( the brushes pictured are just for show). This means that even for the thinner lines, I learnt how to manoeuvre the big brush and not take the easy way out by using a cute grade 1 liner brush. Also, it’s easier to load more paint into a bigger brush. Practice with a bigger brush for more proficiency and control.

So, here we go! Here are my 5 watercolour exercises to try and enjoy:

1// Circles5 Watercolour exercises to try and enjoy #surelysimple

I especially enjoyed painting circles, because, not only are they great freehand practice but it’s just so much fun to watch the interesting way the circles bleed colour and create a unique pattern. Try this:

Colours: I like using 3-4 colours in patterns- here, I used lemon yellow, crimson and orange.

  • Start with a large circle anywhere on the page using one colour.
  • Clean the brush and add the second colour. paint an adjoining circle on the first circle created. Watch the colour bleed a bit and enjoy.
  • Keep painting circles with different colours.

There are many ways of doing this. You can also paint circles with one colour at a time and wait for them to dry. Then paint the next layer of circles and so on. However, the way I used above (spontaneous and no waiting for the colours to dry) caused this lovely imperfect look with the colours intersecting and distinct. It’s much more fun to do this than wait for each circle to dry- when it comes to practicing and just enjoying the watercolour effect. Also, the result is very rewarding.

2// Narrow Rectangle Pattern5 Watercolour exercises to try and enjoy #surelysimple

5 Watercolour exercises to try and enjoy #surelysimple

This one is super fun! I used different shades of blues. First, load your brush with paint. Paint the outline of a rectangle starting from the bottom (or top) edge of the page. Then, paint it in and then using the same brush paint the next one. It becomes lighter. Use this lightening effect wherever you like, and keep alternating between different shades of blues. It makes a dramatic and pleasing effect. Also, this really helps you practice drawing lines and understanding proportion. As you may see, my rectangle shapes are not perfect. I know that when I do this exercise a second time I will create more defined shapes. Great practice and you get a pretty picture too!

3// Blend and Bleed Geometric shapes

5 Watercolour exercises to try and enjoy #surelysimple

5 Watercolour exercises to try and enjoy #surelysimple

I just made up this exercise because I got a bit boring with drawing only one shape on a page – and I wanted to see the bleed effect more. I seriously love watching the colours blend and bleed! 

  • Start by painting a circle with yellow. While it’s still wet, dip another colour (i used red) in the centre, and watch the colour spread.
  • Then using the colour you dipped in the centre (red), paint the next shape with that. Dip another colour in the second shape’s body (blue.)
  • Use blue for the next shape and dip another colour in the centre.
  • Using the colour dipped in the centre, keep going.
  • Alternate shapes and colours for a fun and enjoyable painting process.

4// Cheshire Cat Smiles5 Watercolour exercises to try and enjoy #surelysimple

5 Watercolour exercises to try and enjoy #surelysimple

Okay, I’m not really sure what these shapes are – so I settled on calling them Cheshire Cat Smiles! Or maybe, striped lemon slices? Anyways, all you have to do here, is draw semi circles and then add thin lines. I used the large brush for the thin lines too -good practice! This is specially good for fine-tuning your fine lines. (All made freehand, obviously!)

5//  Triangle Pyramid 5 Watercolour exercises to try and enjoy #surelysimple

5 Watercolour exercises to try and enjoy #surelysimple

And finally, we come to the fifth exercise. Make this triangle pyramid freehand and use a separate colour for each row. If you notice, in my triangle pyramid, the left side is straight, but the right side went a bit wonky. So, this exercise really helps on building understanding on creating identical shapes (the little triangles). I would have given it another go, but by the time, I was pretty much zapped. I think I’ll try it again another day. All this watercolour was fun but it’s challenging too! Anyhow, I really enjoyed creating without any restraint and any rules! Fun, fun, fun. And I got some practice in the process.

5 Watercolour exercises to try and enjoy #surelysimple

So here are 5 watercolour exercises to try and enjoy.

But these are not the only ones, there are so many more you (and I) can come up with. You can try painting more shapes, flowers, lines, words, polka dots, anything at all! 

5 Watercolour exercises to try and enjoy #surelysimple

5 Watercolour exercises to try and enjoy #surelysimple

The only thing you have to make sure is: just enjoy the process! -Aaria

If you fancy another artsy read, here are some tips on creating abstract art.