The Journal Gazette
Sunday, May 02, 2021 1:00 am

Diving into water painting

Local artist has tips for those getting started

Keiara Carr | For The Journal Gazette

One of the first steps to creating any piece of art is believing that you can do it. Watercolor artist Tom De Somer says the most intimidating part of painting is the blank canvas. “Fear is the great inhibitor,” De Somer says. “Fear keeps us from trying new things. Fear keeps us from feeling. Fear keeps us from really advancing.”

Watercolor painting doesn't require many supplies to get started and as far as painting goes, it can be more accessible than other styles.

“Sometimes the mistakes are the most beautiful parts of the work,” De Somer says. “It's the unexpected mixing or blending that causes the piece to really stand out.”

If you're looking to hang up some of your artwork, or possibly gift a friend, De Somer has provided a few tips to help create your first watercolor painting.

Designate space

Be intentional about where you paint. De Somer suggests picking a spot in your home that will not only encourage you to pull your paints out but will reduce the amount of time it takes to set up.

“If it's the kitchen table, then let it be the kitchen table,” he says. “Find a space where your supplies can be accessible, so when it's time, you can pull your supplies easily and begin.”

Paper is priority

If you plan to display your work (and isn't that the point?), investing in student-grade or professional watercolor paper is a necessity. Higher quality paper has the durability to withstand the absorption of liquids.

“If you don't want to be frustrated right out of the gate, if you don't want something working against you right out the gate, then buy some good paper,” De Somer says.

Brushes and paints are more negotiable. De Somer suggests starting with three brushes of different sizes and affordable student-grade watercolor paint tubes rather than paint pans, which are often chalky. Start with blue, yellow and red. From there, you can mix together most shades you will need as a beginner.

Start small, simple

De Somer usually directs his beginner students to start with basic shapes rather than portraits and landscapes, which require some advanced knowledge of perspective and lighting. That doesn't mean you're stuck painting circles and squares.

“For the novice coming out, usually the easiest thing to start with is shapes, but the shape can be a palm tree on a beach – it's basic shapes that you are piecing together to create a composition,” he says.

“Start off with a simple still life like three pears, for example. That's usually really easy. You don't have to have major drawing skills to draw a pear. And now you have the contour (of the pear), so you can paint with mixed paints within that fruit to make it look three-dimensional. And, voila – you have something that you can hang up, and feel good. It's easy.”

De Somer hosted beginner and intermediate water painting classes before the pandemic. Registration opens this month for summer sessions at Indiana Wesleyan University. Go to for more information.

Watercolor painting

Buy the basics: Inexpensive brushes and watercolor tubes of paint in primary colors for mixing (no pans!) and student- or professional-grade watercolor paper

What you need: A good spot for painting and storing supplies and confidence to get started.

About the series

At this point of the pandemic, if it can be done virtually, you've done it, you've seen it and you've probably have told someone to turn off "Mute" at least 20 times.

It is time to turn inward. This six-part series is about finding new outlets offline, whether it's indoors or outdoors. We have turned to the experts to provide beginner tips on a range of topics that will give us something to brag about at Zoomsgiving this year.

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