Portfolio: Expressive Painting: Tips and techniques for practical applications in watercolor, including color theory, color mixing, and understanding color relationships (Portfolio, 7)

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The next book in Walter Foster Publishing’s popular Portfolio series, Expressive Painting is the ultimate beginner’s guide to watercolor painting using dynamic, vibrant colors.

Following the same clean, contemporary, easy-to-read, and easy-to-follow layout and design of the other books in the series, Expressive Painting gives beginning and aspiring artists the information they need to paint colorful watercolors that convey mood and emotion on canvas.
The book covers essential painting topics, including color theory, color mixing, selecting color schemes, and working with tools and materials, as well as watercolor painting techniques, such as painting wet-into-wet and wet-on-dry.

Helpful tips are called out throughout the book for easy comprehension and reference, while step-by-step projects build on the featured techniques, allowing artists to practice making their own dynamic, colorful watercolor paintings.

Beginning and aspiring artists will learn all they need to know to start creating watercolor art that’s full of color and emotion.

From the Publisher

Portfolio Series

Learn all you need to know to create your own masterpieces!

Placing People In A Scene

Look at a photograph taken from your last vacation. Notice the people in the scene. Assuming you were standing when you took it, you will see that everyone’s heads generally line up with the horizon line. Use this guideline when placing people shapes in your paintings.

Preliminary Work

Everything starts with selecting a subject to sketch or paint. I suggest that the subject itself really doesn’t matter—it’s what you do with it that counts. Sometimes the search for that perfect, inspirational scene intimidates us, and we are afraid to start, assuming that our feeble attempts to depict it will fall far short of our expectations.

Subject & Point of View

Thumbnail Sketches

Focal Point

Quick Sketching



Color & Value

In the example here, I have painted the same scene three times: once with the correct colors and values; once with the correct colors but all the same value; and once with the correct values but wrong colors. Which one makes a better painting? I vote for the one with the correct values and colors.

Time of Day

One way to make a painting stand out is to vary the time of day. Most paintings and sketches are done in perfect daylight, perhaps with the sun casting a nice shadow to the left. Changing the time of day alters the lighting dramatically and creates a unique view of your scene. Here are a few examples.

Urban Subjects

Urban scenes are about texture and the intricate division of space. Pen and ink is a good medium for conveying this. You want to suggest the illusion of detail, rather than actually include it. Be bold with your pen. When you put a line down, do it with confidence. Explore positive and negative shapes.


Often, what isn’t painted is just as important as what is. Leaving white (or negative) space around or within a painting helps the eye focus on what is important. Explore vignettes in the study sketch phase, and learn to appreciate what isn’t painted.