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monochromatic painting exercise

4 color painting exercise

It’s been a while and I hope you are having a wonderful summer! While I enjoy the summer in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, I am busy updating my course and filming new lessons. The above two paintings are two of the lessons I am going to include in my Watercolor Essential course. I’ve been listening to students’ feedback and modify/update the course to make it easier for you to learn and improve your skill. In this course, I am going to answer some of the biggest questions you might have about watercolor. Things like “figuring out paint and water ratio”, “color mixing”, and the big question on “how do I paint a loose painting?” Speaking of loose painting, I actually have a question for you. What is a loose painting for you?

What is a loose painting for you?

I feel like we are using the term "loose painting" very loosely (pardon the pun). How do you define a loose painting? Do you use that to describe a specific style? Or the amount of detail in a painting? Or how abstract the shapes are? While I do have my own opinion on what a loose painting means, I want to know more about what you think. The biggest mistake I can make as an instructor is to assume what my students think. So, if you have a moment, please let me know what is a loose painting for you and why do you want to learn how to paint a loose painting?

New Painting Video

Even though I said I was going to take a pause on YouTube, there are a few videos I’ve already made. So I want to share it with you. Enjoy!

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Mijello Mission Gold Watercolors Review - my painting with it - YouTube

You can say this post is sponsored because I got a box of Mission Gold 34 color set from Mijello straight from Korea. So in this video, I’m going to talk about how I got it, what do I think of it, and as a bonus, I’m going to share the painting process of this painting using only the Mission Gold paint. Let’s dive into it.

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been contacting different paint manufacturer. I want to see if any of them will want to work with me by having me test out some of their paint. I contacted Daniel Smith, Holbein, and Mijello. Last month, EO Song, from the overseas sales department from Mijello replied to me. She told me she will send some color to test and ask what color do I use. I replied to her and after like 2 weeks, I got a huge box from them. And I was floored by what they’ve sent me. I encourage you to watch my latest YouTube video for the detail. Here are some quick rundown of the things I discovered:

  • They are very easy to revive paint. Most of the colors melt very easily with a little fiddle of a wet brush.

  • The colors are very vibrant, intense, and consistent.

  • Some of the colors with the same name that look very different between Mission and Daniel Smith.
    Like Cobalt Turquoise, a color that I use a lot to mix my greens. The Cobalt Turquoise from Mission looks more like Cobalt Turquoise Teal from Daniel Smith, while the Cobalt Green from Mission looks more like the Cobalt Turquoise I’m familiar with from Daniel Smith. And the Cerulean Blue from Mission also looks very different from Daniel Smith and other brands. It’s a very beautiful blue, but I think their Cobalt Cerulean Blue looks more similar to the Cerulean Blue I am used to. So I definitely recommend you to do some research on your end if you decide to switch brand.


  • The earth tone colors from Mission Gold feels more intense.
    When it comes to earth tones like Yellow Ocher, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber and colors like that, I usually expect them to be a bit more muted and dull. But the ones from Mission feels very vibrant and intense. To a point, I feel it looks a bit “cartoonish” if you know what I mean. However, that’s not saying it’s bad, it’s just different, and I need to mix more colors into it to dull it down, or in other words, stabilize it.

  • It doesn’t flow as far as my Daniel Smith set.
    When I was doing wet on wet, the Mission Gold paint doesn't spread out and flow as far as my Daniel Smith paint.

But again, like I mentioned previously. If you have a good vision for your painting, it’s just the matter of getting used to the paint and achieve your vision. With the paint I have, I would probably have mix match my Daniel Smith colors with Mission Gold colors. So some vibrant colors like red, orange, and yellow will probably be better off using Mission Gold. And some earth tones like Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, or Yellow Ocher, I will probably use Daniel Smith color for those, since they are a bit more neutral and muted like how I expected them to be. Again, I encourage you to watch my latest YouTube video for the complete detail include a quick painting demo using only my new paint set.

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[Coffee Talk] 3 Ways to become a better artist FOR FREE! - YouTube
 

Last time we talked about why some of the most common question on the internet is actually not the most important ones. And why things like materials and technique won’t make you a better artist. If you haven’t watch that one I strongly suggest you go back and read that one first. Today, I’m going to continue that topic and share with you what should you be doing to become a better artist. And the best thing about them is that they are completely free and you can do it right now!

Train your eyes and your mind

So the first thing is to train your eyes and mind. As I mentioned briefly from the last video. The most important thing a good artist should have is to have a keen eye and a sharp mind in order to have a good vision for the painting. I’ve seen so many artists, despite has little to no experience with watercolor, they were able to produce a beautiful painting with just a few tries. In fact, their painting looks better than some of the artists who claimed they have been painting watercolor for ten plus years. Why? It’s because they have a good vision of how they want their paintings to look like. They know what makes a good painting, and to them, materials and mediums are simply tools for them to achieve their vision. As I said, the material is the extension of you. So, working on improving your artistic core should be the first thing to focus on. I am sure you got a list of your favorite artists, spend some time on the internet and look for their paintings. And I mean, really look into them and study them! Spend a good amount of time on them. Trying to understand why do they paint a certain way, the value, the shape, the visual language they use, and the subject and composition they choose. Really be honest with yourself by comparing their painting to yours, you should be able to see the difference. Ask yourself some hard questions like “what makes their painting better mine?” “What am I lacking?” and “what can I do in my painting to have that same look?” If your eyes cannot see the issues of your own painting and you have no clue what makes a master painting better than yours, you really need to start training your eyes and your mind.

I often look at my own painting and compare it with some of the artists who I look up to and see what do I need to work on. It’s not an easy thing to admit your own shortcoming as it wasn’t easy for me. But remember,

Nothing will change if you stay in your comfort zone.

So get a little bit uncomfortable and really be honest with yourself and study your painting next to a masters painting.

Practice your fundamental drawing

The second thing is to practice your fundamental drawing. Train your eyes to see the fundamental issues such as perspective, lighting, proportion, and scale. Some students sending me some paintings and asking me for feedback. When I look at their paintings, there are some issues that are very obvious to me. Like a portrait with misaligned eyes or a street scene with cars out of scale and people fall off the perspective. These are the things that you need to learn to spot, especially if you want to paint a believable painting.

As much as we just want to paint watercolor, I cannot express how important your drawing skill is. Here’s the thing, practice drawing doesn’t require any expensive material, all you need is a paper and pencil that you probably already have. Start practicing drawing the subject you are most interested in. Draw from photos, from life or copy other artists’ drawing it doesn’t matter. What you want to do is try to practice fundamental, practice drawing good shapes, value, and line works. There are many students who just want to dabble the paint and hoping to create a masterpiece. But that’s not going to happen if you don’t practice drawing. In one of his recent painting film, the master Joseph Zbukvic said…

“This is something, that sadly not many people do. To study the subject properly. All these come out in your proper finished work if you do it. If you don’t, then your main work suffers. You just have these empty promises, paintings that don’t really understand the subjects, they’re just patterns”
— Joseph Zbukvic

Now, Joseph said it so well, I’m not gonna try to say it any better.

Take more photos

The third thing is to take more photos. Wait, aren’t we talking about watercolor? Well yes, but again, watercolor is just a medium, and so does photography. And taking photos is the most direct way to capture your vision. And no, you don’t need to use a fancy camera, your phone will totally do. Look for interesting shapes and lighting around you. Compose your photo as if you are composing a painting. Don’t just hold up your phone or camera and take random photos because you see pretty things. How would you present it in your own way? Can you envision this into a painting? There is so much thought you can put into a single photo, and if you put some thoughts behind every photo you take, you will improve the way you see things and your sense of composition.

Many of my paintings are painted from the photos I took. The painting doesn’t start when the paintbrush touches the paper, it starts when I took that reference photo. You should always look for interesting subjects around you and see if you can take an good photo of it. If you look at your photo and you are able to envision a painting out of it, then you are well on your way to make a good painting.

Now, I understand each and every single one of the things I just listed worth its own video or even its own course. But I also want to remind you that they are all free for you to do right now! All it takes is time, and that’s something most people don’t want to spend. We all want some quick ways to become a better artist and something that will instantly make your painting better. But tough love for you, that just doesn’t happen that way. Putting the mileage in is very, very important. What I want to do is to help you along and provide you a good path to it, as I am walking that path as well. So keep going, every little thing you do helps, and just because you don’t see the result right away, doesn’t mean you are not moving forward.

New painting video

I did a live painting demo on YouTube this past Sunday. In case you missed it, you can watch it here. I really enjoyed painting this one because how simple and powerful this image is. And best of all, it doesn’t take a long time. The whole painting took about 30 minutes. Enjoy!

[Café Live] 30 minutes Minimalistic Watercolor painting of a misty morning - YouTube
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This is a YouTube video I uploaded a few weeks ago. I thought to share it here as well in case you missed it. If you don’t feel like watching video. I also have the transcript typed out for you. =) 
[Coffee Talk] Are you asking the wrong question? - YouTube
 

I’ve seen so many of these questions floating around the internet. And quite a few people asked me those questions as well. But quite honestly, they are often the wrong question to ask. Some of the most popular YouTube videos about watercolor is about these two topics: Materials, and Techniques. So questions like "What brand of paper, paint, and brushes do I use? What’s the size of the papers and brushes? What colors of paint do I use?" and so on. And the technical questions are usually about "How do you do wet on wet, wet on dry, making washes, how do you mix certain colors".. and so on. Now, don’t get me wrong. These questions are legit and it is great to know. But quite often, they are the wrong questions to ask. Notice, I said “wrong questions” not “bad questions” Why do people ask questions? Because there’s a problem to solve. But if you ask a good question at the wrong time, it’s not going to solve your problem. Therefore it is a wrong question to ask.

Knowing all the materials and techniques won’t make you a great artist. Especially if you want to paint and create a believable painting that’s based on reality.  I have some great photographer friends who took amazing photos just with their phone or their point-n-shoot cameras. Yet they always got questions like “What camera are you using? What setting? What program did you use to edit the photo?”. And when my friends told them that “oh I shoot it with my phone.. and with a free simple app for editing.”, they were disappointed. That kind of made me wonder what do they expect to hear when they asked those questions? I am sure some people who ask genuinely want to learn to become a better photographer. But I’ll wager that many people who ask those questions are looking for a magic bullet that will instantly improve and transform their art. Or they are expecting to hear that my friends are using thousand dollar cameras with expensive programs so they can have an excuse about their own photos did not look as good as theirs because they can’t afford the same level of equipment. They thought knowing the exact setting can make their photo looks amazing. However, it’ll be very unlikely that they will instantly become a great photographer by just having expensive camera gears.

 The same thing goes for watercolor, some people are looking for that magic bullet that’ll instantly make their paintings look better. They think if they just get the same brand of paper, brushes, and paint. Or if they just learn that one trick, it can make their painting look like the masters’. And while having good material and technique can give you an easier time painting and can give you more enjoyment at times, it’s not going to make you a better artist. The masters are not who they are because of the materials they use, but the time they put in to learn, practice and honing their craft, as well as having a keen eye and sharp mind to have a good vision for their paintings. Learning the right technique is important, but if you don’t know when and how to use those techniques, they are useless. Learning how to mix a specific color is nice, but a great painting will still look great if change it’s the color or just make it black and white. So you know it’s not it.

 I understand this can be hard to take in, but actually, I want you to feel encouraged and empowered. Because now you know that to a good artist is not made by some external factor or some magic, legendary tools. But it’s you! You are the one who can turn yourself into a better painter! All the materials are and just the extension of you. This doesn’t mean you go cheap on your painting materials. If you are serious about painting then you should definitely get good tools for that. But what I’m trying to say is that in order to really make the most out of the tool, we need to work on improving our artistic core. In my next post, I’m going to share some ways that can help you to become a better artist for FREE!! You don’t need expensive material or learn a special technique to do them. It is a very important topic that I don’t see a lot of artists talk about, and I don’t want you to miss out.

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Amsterdam, see the full length live demo HERE

My new car has a parking sensor. Whenever I am too close to a car when I park it will start beeping to alert me that I am about to bump into another car. It is a neat feature. It can help me avoid a parking lot accident. However, since I am an experienced driver who knows the size of my car. I am well aware of how close I can get to another car without bump into them. Whenever I heard the beep from my car while I turn into the parking spot in between two cars, I did start slowing down and be more cautious. However, I know I am usually still quite safe to complete my parking without backing up.

This week as I hear the beep from my car again, I realized that this is just like painting watercolor. When I just started to paint watercolor, I was afraid of making mistakes. That was because I am not familiar with how the watercolor works. I hesitate and did not know what to do. And that ruins a lot of paintings back then. Sometimes I'm afraid of using too much water, and sometimes I'm afraid of going too dark. Now that I am a lot more experience with watercolor, I know how to push its limit and be a little bit more risky with my approach. Sometimes, I might still ruin a painting. But the reward is often worth the risk. I wasn't able to gain this confidence without a lot of practice. Just like driving my car. I know its size, speed, and how to operate it. So much so it becomes a nature to me. I am sure you have a similar experience.

Good news, if you take the risk in watercolor and failed, you don't have to pay for any damage, your insurance rate won't raise, and you don't have to drive a damaged car around the town. All you lose is a ruined painting. So with that in mind, relax, and go for it. Take some risk and accept the outcome. You might fail, but you learn way more than if you are afraid all the time.

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 Welcome to 2019! Here we are, at the time to set our new year resolution again. I wonder how many new year resolution we make and how many we actually accomplish by the end of the year. For me... it is usually none of them. I wonder why it is so hard to keep the promise we make to ourselves. It’s obviously not the case when it comes to something easy though. I rarely see someone making a new year resolution of “I am going to watch a good movie this year” or “I am going to enjoy my favorite drink every week”. Can’t those be someone’s new year resolution? I think they can be. However, that takes little to no effort. And by doing those, we are not gaining much growth. 

 We can take the idea to our new year resolution though. Instead of tackling a huge commitment and trying to achieve a huge goal, think of just one simple thing that you enjoy doing and try to improve on that. And when I say one thing, I don’t mean one general thing. “I am going to improve my painting” is too general. Because there might be multiple aspect of your painting that you need to improve. If you just say that you are going to improve your painting, you are setting yourself up for multiple ambiguous goal. When you do that you are going to get frustrated with confusion very quickly. Instead, really think about what aspect of your painting and drawing you need to improve. Is it making clean wash? Is it mixing the right color and value? Is it to have better composition in your painting? Is it drawing more accurate in perspective? Or is it doing better line works, and so on... If you are able to pick out a specific thing you need to improve on, you can set a much more specific goal that can be easier to reach.

 To do that, however, you need to be honest with yourself and see where you need to improve. This might not be the easiest thing because people don’t want to admit their weakness. However this is the first step for you to find your new goal for your growth. Looking at the work of your favorite artist is a good starting point. Take a close look at their work and yours, what differences do you see? What is in their paintings that you wish you have in yours? After you figure that out, chances are there are several ideas, so pick just one of them to start working on it! Just pick one very specific thing to work on in 2019. Think about it every single time when you are doing your drawing or painting. If you can do so  consistently, I can almost guarantee you by the end of 2019, you will see a drastic improvement of your work. What may come as a pleasant surprise is that you might only focus on one thing, but you end up improving several of them. That is because many aspects of painting and drawing are related. So if you work on drawing more accurate perspective, you will likely learn to do better lighting, or make better looking composition.  As I run my current class with my students, I often find several issues in their paintings. However, I always try to pick out just one thing they can work on first. As the class progresses, I can see that single aspect of their painting starting to get better. I will constantly remind them the improvement they have made, and it encourages them to keep going. I believe if they continue to improve their work one aspect at a time, they will be able to build up their skills and become much better artists overtime.  

 So for 2019, If you want to improve your work, start by just tackling one specific skill to work on first. If you do find it, let me know what it is! =) 

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Kirkland Afternoon - class demo

 

Have you ever took that personality test that asks you “What’s the one thing you are going to grab if your house is on fire?”. While I never really thought of those personality test accurate and they don’t serve a meaningful purpose other than a quick laughter, it is always fun to compare result with others. When it comes to painting watercolor, you should often ask yourself a similar question: “What’s the one thing you are going to paint if you only have 5 minutes?” Of course, that’s a silly question because you shouldn’t try to finish a painting in 5 minutes. But this is a hypothetical question that we should try to ask our self when we paint. Because when we give our self a little bit of that urgency, we force our self to choose what’s the most important thing in a picture.

Since the online course launched this week, I’ve been getting some beautiful photo references from the students. However, when it comes to their interpretation of the photos, they are usually very literal about it. They try to paint every little window on the far distant buildings. the amount of the details they are trying to capture end up making the painting flat and underwhelming. This happens quite often especially if it is a photo of a beautiful European city scenery filled with complicated classic buildings.

The most important thing of your painting is the readability. And a good, readable painting is achieved by having big strong shapes. That’s the first thing you should be thinking about when composing your painting. During the painting. You should also constantly check if the overall big shapes still hold up. Any additional detail should not take the viewer out of the viewing experience.

The next time you paint a scenery, find out what’s the most important thing you need to paint. Pretend you only have 5 minutes, and see if you can figure out what’s the mores important shape of the image. This can really help you to plan out you painting.

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Kirkland Afternoon - class demo

 

Have you ever took that personality test that asks you “What’s the one thing you are going to grab if your house is on fire?”. While I never really thought of those personality test accurate and they don’t serve a meaningful purpose other than a quick laughter, it is always fun to compare result with others. When it comes to painting watercolor, you should often ask yourself a similar question: “What’s the one thing you are going to paint if you only have 5 minutes?” Of course, that’s a silly question because you shouldn’t try to finish a painting in 5 minutes. But this is a hypothetical question that we should try to ask our self when we paint. Because when we give our self a little bit of that urgency, we force our self to choose what’s the most important thing in a picture.

Since the online course launched this week, I’ve been getting some beautiful photo references from the students. However, when it comes to their interpretation of the photos, they are usually very literal about it. They try to paint every little window on the far distant buildings. the amount of the details they are trying to capture end up making the painting flat and underwhelming. This happens quite often especially if it is a photo of a beautiful European city scenery filled with complicated classic buildings.

The most important thing of your painting is the readability. And a good, readable painting is achieved by having big strong shapes. That’s the first thing you should be thinking about when composing your painting. During the painting. You should also constantly check if the overall big shapes still hold up. Any additional detail should not take the viewer out of the viewing experience.

The next time you paint a scenery, find out what’s the most important thing you need to paint. Pretend you only have 5 minutes, and see if you can figure out what’s the mores important shape of the image. This can really help you to plan out you painting.

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Café Watercolor by Eric Yi Lin - 11M ago
   

 My grandma was a great cook. Not only she knows how to cook some of the most amazing Chinese food, she never stopped learning new dishes and share them with us. One of my favorite dishes is Lasagna, which is something she learned well after she was 70. I admire my grandma's learning spirit very much. There is an old saying in Chinese "活到老,學到老". It means as long as we live, we keep learning. This saying perfectly describes my grandma. She loves cooking, therefore learning new dishes is not a chore for her and she enjoys it. But it still takes time and effort to learn new dishes.

 I ran some physical watercolor workshops before. I remembered clearly that many of the students are in their retired stage. Many students are revisiting their long lost passion for painting, while many others it's their new found love of watercolor. Whenever I saw these wonderful people, my heart filled with respect and joy. I take teaching very seriously. Especially when you come to me seeking to learn about watercolor. If I am the one that is showing you this wonderful medium, I have a huge responsibility to give you as much as I can. Perhaps you learn to paint for your own merit, or perhaps you want to be able to share your talent with the ones you love. Like my grandma is passionate about cooking, but love sharing those foods with us. Even though she passed away, her cooking is something I remembered her the most. I also learned Lasagna from her. Lasagna recipe is a very common that can be found anywhere. But I always prefer the one I learned from my grandma.

 As I am about to launch my course again in September. I am very excited to help more people get into watercolor. If you already enrolled the full course, I have many exciting new contents that will be available for you next month. It is such a wonderful and rewarding experience knowing that watercolor connects you and me across the world. I made many new friends, teacher, and students because of it. I am very excited to get to know you more and share with you more things that I have learned.

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This is the first time I paint a guinea pig. I treat it as anything else I paint.

 

 This past weekend I did a small painting of my friend's guinea pig. This is the very first time I paint this specific subject. Yet, I know exactly how to approach it and yield a satisfying result. Not only I enjoy this little painting, I made my friend really happy as well. This has always been the goal of my course.

Watercolor Essential is a course that empowers you - an aspiring watercolor artist, with the knowledge you need to start painting your favorite subject in watercolor!

  I will be going over more about the course in the next few weeks. However, I want you to know that I am going to open enrollment for the online workshop this coming September. I am thrilled to be able to open enrollment again and take on new students. Since I launch the course last year, I made some great progress in my own painting as well. Whenever I discover a new way of presenting an idea and knowledge, the first person I want to share it with is you! I want to provide more value for you and to make this course a turning point for your painting journey. Throughout all 42 lessons in this course, I lay out everything I know from the very basic fundamentals I learned back in the art school, to some of the advance knowledge I obtain in recent years. The more important thing is that I focus on your need. I created this course with your struggle in mind.

 If you have already purchased and enrolled the full course, I want to assure you that you not going to miss out anything. You are going to get everything that I plan for this September completely free! I am so excited to share more about it with you. Stay tuned for more announcement!

New Painting video

 I released a new painting demo on YouTube this Monday. If you haven't seen it, be sure to check it out!

Watercolor Stree Scenery Demo - Victoria Summer - YouTube
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