The Watercolor Course You’ve Always Wanted


I’ve dabbled a little in watercolors for a few years and really enjoy them, but I’ve never had guided lessons or a book to follow until recently (Jessica bought me some great books for my birthday last year). I’ve always thought I could make faster progress if I had some instruction or guidance, so I was naturally interested in this book.

The Watercolor Course You’ve Always Wanted is by Leslie Frontz, an experienced artist and teacher who says the book is to be like a workshop in book format that

… guides everyone – absolute beginners as well as seasoned artists – beyond the basics.

The title of the book along with that introduction gave me pretty high expectations and as a result, I was a little unimpressed with the content. The book is divided into several chapters that the author suggests you read in sequential order, but if you aren’t a total beginner, I’m not sure it’s necessary. The seven chapters cover topics such as materials, shapes, values, colors, ‘the fundamentals of line’, textures, and mood.

What I liked: Leslie gives numerous 3-step demonstrations in each chapter that highlight the topic of the chapter (ex. the use of shadows and light in the values chapter, use of bright and dull colors in the colors chapter). It was really wonderful to see how a skilled artist organizes her paintings, where it is useful to do wet washes first, to paint in dark colors or lighter colors first, and more. The demonstrations include some technical help, such as which type of brush to use plus the exact colors she mixed for the painting. For me, the most helpful part of these demonstrations was in knowing what type of washes she used and where she let the paint dry before adding the next layer. I’ll admit that I’m a pretty impatient painter and am not great at waiting for layers to dry, but seeing what you can create with a little more patience definitely inspires me to try.

Also, the book has a few smaller lessons and exercises to try that are meant to strengthen your foundations and basic understanding of the medium. I thought these sounded really practical and will try them (probably multiple times) the next time I want to paint.

What I didn’t like: Stylistically, Leslie’s paintings are not really for me. I wish there were more variety in the example paintings included in the book. She does include a small selection of other people’s work, but I wish the selection were expanded some.

The demonstrations go from 0 to 100. Step 1 is very simple and easy to follow. Step 2 gets visually busy and complicated and is hard for a beginner like me to follow. It seems to me that by trying to reach both beginners and more advanced painters, the book disappoints both. For anyone who’s not a total novice, much of the text doesn’t produce any new information. But as a non-professional, the results of the demonstrations seem unattainable. Many of the paintings are overstimulating and visually crowded, it is overwhelming for the beginner, or at least me, to really understand how I might recreate a similar painting.

Overall, I would not recommend this book to painters at my stage, but perhaps it will be a good book to grow with! 🙂

Thanks to Blogging for Books for a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.

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