At the Lynda English Studio we have students of all ages coming in to start taking classes. The first question they ask is “Can anybody paint?”  I believe that almost anyone who has the desire to paint, can paint.  That desire, plus instruction, plus a lot of practice will usually give the student success. It is our job to help students succeed and enjoy the actual work of painting as well as producing something to hang on their wall.

The second question is, “which medium is best to start with?”  some people have always loved watercolor or always wanted to paint in oil; but for those who don’t already have a favorite, we have information.  We are going to look at several media and talk about the pluses and minuses of each one.


Here in the South, for a very long time watercolor has been the medium of choice, not just with beginners, but with seasoned painters, as well.  There has been a South Carolina Watercolor or Watermedia Society for as long as most of us can remember.  This organization has educated artists, usually with annual workshops and sponsors a yearly competition.  That show travels through the state, so beginners will have an opportunity to see some of the best work in the state at a venue near them.

Watercolor paints have pigment that is suspended in Gum Arabic.  After paints are placed on a  palette, they will quickly dry, but can be used again by just adding water.  These paints dry again at the end of the painting session and last on the palette or in the tube for decades.  There is very little waste when painting with watercolors; you don’t have to throw away unused pigment.

Be warned that some watercolors in sets or marked as student grade will not mix well and will not give the student the brilliant color that watercolor is known for.  To  encourage the purchase of the ARTIST grade paints, many teachers suggest that students purchase just the primary colors (Cadmium Yellow Light or Pale, Alizarin Crimson, and French Ultramarine Blue) and learn to mix all the other colors.  The other pigments can be added as the student progresses. Often it is the case that beginners will need only one brush for a while.

With the purchase of paper, no other supplies are necessary to paint numerous paintings ranging from realistic to abstract.  All of these supplies are easy to travel with and cause no breathing concerns.

There are a few minuses.  Because watercolors usually work on paper, the paint soaks in and that process will change the color, shade, and intensity.  This will require several layers of paint with waiting time between each layer.  That layer must be dry before you can go back into it, so that is another minus.  The painter can paint in other areas while that drying occurs.

Sometimes mistakes do happen and they are harder to correct in watercolor.  errors can be scrubbed out, but since the paint soaks into the paper; it may be difficult.

Water dropped accidently on a finished or unfinished piece can do real damage.  Finished pieces must be either stored carefully or framed.  To display a finished piece, it must be framed.  Glass is acid and will ultimately damage a piece of work; therefore a mat is required.  For a watercolor to be framed properly; everything that touches it should be acid free.  Be sure to check with your framer to insure that that is the case.

Damage to a watercolor is difficult to repair and caution is required when hanging so that works are not in bright light.  This all sounds like no one should choose to paint in watercolor.  That is not true.  Look at the wonderful works by Turner and Sargent and many local and area artists. B y the way, Lynda English won the South Carolina Watermedia competition last year.