Studying the Past-Masters of Watercolour Painting
by JL Farmer

OK, so now we're painting watercolours and as many beginners find out - it's not too easy, to start off with. Having said that, given time, we can become proficient in our work. We do this by experience, through trial and error, by learning about the basics of paint control, colours, perspective, tonal range, shadows and light and many other essential elements of watercolour painting.

Another great way to improve our vision and gain inspiration is by studying the Past Masters of watercolour painting. Through our studies, we can learn how to identify technique, composition, colour range and perspective - to name but a few useful elements that require full consideration.

For sure, as watercolour artists, we need to absorb ourselves in our art (after all, we're artists now, right?. One great way of doing this is by studying the works of other artists and by visiting as many art galleries and exhibitions as we possibly can. By doing this, we will learn to view a painting in a different light: we will notice the nuances of change of light, perspective, tonal value and colour. We will then be able to view a painting with a critical eye, knowing what to look for. Some non-artists don't know how to do this, because they have not yet learnt how to read a painting. Most non-artists simply express their opinion as to whether they like a painting, or not (as the case may be) and maybe comment on their like of the use of certain colours, or the sky, for example. This last statement is not intended to be derogatory in any way; but one question begs an answer: how can we assess the qualities of a painting if we don't know what those qualities are? This issue is surely all about the consideration of learning - and with watercolour painting we have plenty to learn - in terms of techniques, colour mixing and other important issues.

Another good means of artistical absorption is to subscribe to watercolour magazines. Three of the best magazines are Artists & Illustrators, The Artist's Magazine and Watercolor Artist. (I used to have subscriptions to two others but found them to be too commercial.) As well as the printed versions, these three magazines offer a low-cost digital version which can be purchased via the Zinio App (inexpensive way) or from (more expensive way) and can be read on a computer and/or a digital device - or both, as one chooses. This is great, because Apps like iBooks only allow people to read magazines on a computer (as opposed to an IOS device) if they have a newer operating system. I love receiving these magazines and become completely inspired as I read through their pages.
Inspired enough to pick up a paintbrush? Heck, yeah.

Below, I offer links that will assist the beginner (and not-so-beginner) to improve on their vision of watercolour painting and carry that vision forward into their own work. I hope you will enjoy reading the links on this page.

Please click on a link below to access the artist's area on this page, or scroll down to read all the artists.

Winslow Homer      J. M. W. Turner   John Sell Cotman   Richard Parkes Bonington    David Cox    Thomas Girtin

Winslow Homer (February 24, 1836 - September 29, 1910) was an American landscape painter and printmaker, best known for his marine subjects.

Wikipedia     Winslow Homer - The Complete Works     Google Images

Winslow Homer: Behind the Scenes (A great resource for studying technique)

Winslow Homer in the National Gallery of Art

Winslow Homer at the Portland Museum of Art

Winslow Homer | Thematic Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Peter Wood: Near Andersonville: Winslow Homer's Civil War

Homer, Part 1 of 3    Homer Part 2 of 3     Homer Part 3 of 3

J. M. W. Turner (23 April 1775 19 December 1851) was a British Romantic landscape painter, water-colourist, and printmaker. Turner was considered a controversial figure in his day, but is now regarded as the artist who elevated landscape painting to an eminence rivalling history painting.

Wikipedia      Turner: The Complete Works    Google Images    The Turner Society

THE LIFE AND ART OF J.M.W . TURNER, RA By Eric Shanes, Chairman of the Turner Society (pdf)

Permanent Collections

Turner in the National Gallery, London

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) | Thematic Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Simon Schama's J.M.W. Turner 1 of 4    Simon Schama's J.M.W. Turner 2 of 4

Simon Schama's J.M.W. Turner 3 of 4    Simon Schama's J.M.W. Turner 4 of 4

J. M. W. Turner - Turner and the Romance of Britain - Part 1 of 8

John Sell Cotman (16 May 1782 24 July 1842) was an English marine and landscape painter, etcher, illustrator and author, a leading member of the Norwich school of artists.

    Google Images    

BBC - Your Paintings -
John Sell Cotman

A new Norman Conquest? John Sell Cotman in Normandy

First exhibition devoted to John Sell Cotman's significant Normandy works opens at Dulwich Picture Gallery

John Sell Cotman - British Museum (pdf)

Particularity of place @ The Spectator


British Masters: John Crome & John Sell Cotman

Cotman in Normandy: Curator's Lecture

Cotman in Normandy at Dulwich Picture Gallery

Richard Parkes Bonington (25 October 1802 23 September 1828) was an English Romantic landscape painter, who moved to France at the age of 14 and can also be considered as a French artist, and an intermediary bringing aspects of English style to France.

Wikipedia     Google Images

If you would like to add a Past Master (of any nationality) section to this page, please send us full content with graphics and links, by email
. Please also express your permission for us to publish on this web site and whether you would like your name and location to be mentioned with your input, or whether you wish to remain anonymous. Please note that published content is permanent and that if your content is accepted and published it cannot be later edited or removed. Thank you.

JL Farmer
Wednesday February 13, 2013

Page updated March 12, 2016


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