Tips on Painting: Getting Started

Every artist looking for tips on painting is interested in knowing what tools other artists use. Early on, most artists use whatever they have on hand, what’s been given to them, or what someone told them to purchase. In secondary school, where I formally began my education in art, most everything was furnished to us, certainly the paper and canvas on which we worked, but perhaps even the pigments and brushes.  We worked first with soft pencils, then pastels, watercolors, and finally graduated to oils. (When I was in school, and for many years thereafter, acrylics were not yet available.)

Click Painting to Purchase: Scene of Bayside Marina, Morro Bay, CA

Following graduation from high school, I attended a month-long watercolor workshop on the Chesapeake Bay that was conducted by Marion Junkin, Professor of Art at Washington & Lee University. He was a great artist and teacher who had a major influence on my work. His style reminded me of the French watercolorist, Marin. (We painted on 90# Strathmore cold-pressed paper which was wetted and then stretched over a wood frame to dry. The individual pigments we used were cobalt + prussian + ultramarine blue, Hooker’s dark + light green, lemon + cadmium yellow, rose madder, alizarin crimson, cadmium red, Payne’s gray, burnt sienna, and burnt umber. We painted with only 2 brushes: a 1/4″ round camel and a 3/4″ rounded/flat squirrel).

Much later in my life, another teacher, Hisako Asano, introduced me to the one and one-half inch Hake brush, cadmium orange, “Opera”, thallo light green, green gold and sap green pigments… but also the use of masking fluid.  She also got me into the habit of painting on heavier half sheets of 140# cold-pressed paper.

My advice to others is to take workshops and classes with various teachers from time to time so you’ll be exposed to different tips on painting, tools, and techniques.  Work with them all, then settle on those you are most comfortable, those which help you produce your best work.

Douglas Stenhouse also wrote a book about watercolor painting.

“I decided to write about how I paint, not only to share my observations with others, but also, frankly, to do some self- examination. I wish I had done this earlier in my life! But then, how was I to know I’d benefit from doing so, certainly at a time when I had no aspirations of becoming a professional artist.” 

To learn more about Doug’s Watercolor Painting Book, click here. To purchase a signed copy, use the link below.


Douglas Simms Stenhouse, watercolor artist, transparent water color art, watercolor painter, painting with water colors