Watercolor Definition and Meaning

The watercolor etymology leads us to acquarella, a word from the Italian language. A watercolor is a painting that is captured on cardboard or paper, the colors of which are diluted in water. The concept also makes it possible to refer to the colors used in this type of painting and to this kind of artistic technique in general.

Historians believe that watercolor emerged a century before Christ in China, when paper began to develop. The Arabs, during the 12th century, brought paper production from Asia to Europe and thus, over time, watercolor was installed on the Old Continent. Thus, among European artists, the watercolor technique succeeded the fresco. The German Alberto Durero and the Italian Raffaello Santi were some of the pioneers of watercolor in this region.

The watercolor paintings are made with different pigments that are usually bound with gum arabic. Water is a very important component in this technique since, according to the amount used, more or less transparent colors are obtained. The type of paper also affects the result of the work. Artists often choose the paper according to the texture and tension, taking into account their work plan.

For its part, gum arabic is a sticky and amorphous substance that certain plants exude and that when it comes into contact with the air becomes hard. Although it is not soluble in alcohol, it is soluble in water, and is used as a thickener in the pharmaceutical and gastronomic industries. In the case of the kitchen, it is ideal to provide elasticity to certain dishes and desserts, such as marzipan and jelly beans, although it also serves to give the appropriate texture to certain drinks.

The watercolor is based on the washes that the artist applies. With a cloth, a sponge or a brush, it is possible to add or remove water, achieving greater or less transparency. Sometimes, a great transparency of the painting is sought so that the paper provides the luminosity.

Tips for getting started with watercolor painting

Watercolor is an especially versatile material, and this can lead to the first experience being very rewarding or very frustrating, since everything depends on the objectives we set for ourselves and the way in which we approach the technique.

A tip that teachers usually give their students is not to think so much about the results they want to obtain, but to let themselves go and enjoy each step; Furthermore, we should never pretend to make a masterpiece out of the blue. So it is important to arm yourself with patience and face learning with perseverance, knowing in advance that it will take us a lot of tests to get a satisfactory product.

Regarding the medium, it is recommended to use a sheet of paper of considerable thickness. The first step is to make a sketch in pencil, without pressing too hard, so that it is possible to make as many corrections as we want. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, we should not seek perfection or aim for a high degree of complexity: few elements, simple and impressive, are a good starting point.

Once we have the pencil design ready, it is time to prepare and apply the watercolor. Ideally, place a small amount on the palette, lightly moisten the brush and dilute the paint with a few drops of water, until it reaches the proper thickness for handling. Throughout the process, we must let the sheet dry, in order to work in several layers, among other things.


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