Watercolor Fundamentals with Naomi VanDoren

Watercolor Fundamentals

On ArtStation Learning, Naomi VanDoren uses watercolors to create her vibrant and magical worlds. In this series, she shares the basics of watercolors, with a special focus on those who are comfortable with digital tools.

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Naomi VanDoren is an independent artist and author based in California. She is fluent in both digital and traditional mediums, working most frequently in watercolor and pen. Her adventure-inspired artwork is influenced by a childhood spent in Indonesia. Currently, she is working on a series of illustrated novels set in a tropical world filled with magic.

I believe that an artist should never stop learning no matter where they are in their career. ArtStation Learning provides a space for creatives to explore not only mediums or processes they’re already familiar with but offers the opportunity to easily try new things.

In this interview, Naomi shares more on her background in watercolors, what she’ll explore in her course and everything you need to get started.

Most memorable learning experience:

I would have to say my most memorable learning experience was attending Legendeer in 2015. The event was a multi-day excursion camping in Yosemite with a group of other artists and creatives. For me, this event came at the perfect time in my career which is why it was so memorable. That and the combination of education plus immersion into an environment I felt deeply connected with allowed a lot of things to click into place.

Prior to that, I’d never sought out and experienced an event where I could explore what my own story was, what I wanted to say through my art and how it was I wanted to say it. It was also an environment where I felt comfortable connecting with my fellow attendees. I left that event with a much clearer vision for what my next steps should be and with a new community of creatives I could keep in touch with and still do today.

Behind the course:

I love spending time outdoors and began painting in watercolor because I wanted a medium that I could take with me while my husband and I were traveling to New Zealand. I’d previously painted almost exclusively digitally up until that point and iPads were not an option like they are today. Since I wasn’t formally introduced to watercolor, I enjoyed experimenting with it extensively, finding resources for it online when I had questions and overall just experiencing it and gaining knowledge of how to use it through trial and error.

A few years ago I developed my sort of hybrid watercolor-digital through this same method of experimentation. I love both the digital mediums that I still use and traditional watercolor so marrying the two with digital linework and traditional watercolor paint I’ve found to be the perfect pair.

As a watercolor artist, I feel like there is a lot of freedom to experiment with the medium and combine it with other things. As a person that leans towards wanting to plan out a painting before I begin, I’ve enjoyed the elements of watercolor that cannot be perfectly controlled when I’m painting. It opens you up the unexpected in a way that other mediums don’t allow for.

1 sentence of advice:

Never stop experimenting, playing and trying new things.

What you need to start:

A few basic supplies that you will need to get started in watercolor and follow along with my course are paints, brushes, and paper. Many of the other things (jars for rinsing out your brushes, paper tape/artist tape for taping and holding down your paper, a white plate or palette with wells for mixing paint, paper towels for dabbing up excess paint and cleaning brushes) you might already have.

Watercolor paints that I’ve been recommending recently for beginning watercolorists are the pan watercolors by Paul Rubens. For a 24 color set, it’s quite an affordable set and I enjoy their vibrancy and feel on the page. It’s more than enough colors for my course and certainly, for any paintings you create after. Personally I use Daniel Smith and Holbein paints from the tube but often I wouldn’t recommend that investment to a beginner that is just trying this medium out for the first time.

Brushes come in all shapes and sizes for watercolor. The easiest and most versatile for what I’m demonstrating are a basic round brush and flat. I recommend and love this starter set from Princeton, the Naptrune line, but you can also pick up the starter Mimik Synthethic set from Creative Mark if you’re on a budget.

For paper, I recommend using Arches 140lb or 300lb watercolor paper, hot press or cold press is more of a personal preference and I use them interchangeably. I’ve often found that one of the most frustrations that come with working with watercolor is often caused by using cheap paper.

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See more of Naomi’s work on her ArtStation portfolio.

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About the author

Sierra is the Editor of ArtStation Magazine.