Watercolor Instruction: Executing a Watercolor Painting

watercolor forest painting, painting of pass at Kearsage, watercolor art

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Watercolor instruction wouldn’t be complete without emphasizing that it is really about executing a watercolor painting. This requires some planning and, for me at least, I have to gather up tools, go somewhere, and paint! After I’ve done the painting, I need to record it, choose where I might exhibit it, get it framed, and take it to the exhibit venue. When the exhibit ends, I have to get it back home.

Each of these activities is important, but the most critical, of course, is the execution of the painting itself. Once completed, you need to pass judgment on it.  Though it’s important to get comments from others, it’s more important to be able to objectively evaluate your own work.

I expect to do good work every time I paint. I’m always trying my very best to produce something I can be proud of, something I can exhibit. Of course, this doesn’t always happen, but my approach remains the same.


Recently, I was going over a list of all the paintings I’ve done during my life.  This was the beginning of what has turned out to be quite a difficult and time-consuming task… producing an inventory of one’s artwork. I began doing this when I started exhibiting my work, since I had to know where everything was so I could plan for future exhibits. I usually do this exhibit-planning at the beginning of each year when there’s a lull in the exhibit schedule… and when I also have a break between semesters of teaching assignments.

Putting together such a list also provides some secondary benefits. It forces you to review all your work… to identify your accomplishments and your shortcomings.  Every artist should do this from time to time… take stock of things and set goals for the future. This helps you determine where you need to go and thus what you need to do the rest of the year.

Click Picture to Purchase: "Gypsy Jae"

For the purpose of identifying those paintings I should exhibit, the initial list, of course, will include my best work.  The other paintings which don’t make this list are set aside in a large stack that actually takes up very little space since they’re not matted or framed.  Once in a while, I’ll thumb through this batch of rejects to see if I can justify withdrawing one or two for a future exhibit. I may have resurrected a few paintings in this manner; but frankly, I’ve ended up removing far more other paintings that I had earlier planned to exhibit! I’ll take these matted paintings from their frames, shrink-wrap and place them in a “bin,” most likely never to be exhibited again.

I think every artist periodically needs to go through their work and decide which ones to keep and which ones to file away. This leads to the execution of better work and… better exhibits.

It also helps you improve your work and set goals for your career.

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