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Watercolor Painting in a Sketchbook

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This is a post from Belinda Del Pesco’s Art Blog Belinda Del Pesco.

figurative painting in watercolor of a girl in a chair reaching up to pet a cat

Watercolor Sketchbook Practice

Watercolor artists I’ve admired over the years write often about the importance of a sketchbook practice. Even so, I could never seem to reach for mine, let alone fill one.

The slap-dash quality of the art in the last half of my college sketchbooks relays that I was rushing to “fill pages”, not because I was excited to paint, but because I had to meet an an assignment deadline. It never became a practice for me, in the true sense of that word. Until recently.

Laying in the drawing in this watercolor sketchbook with washable pencil, using the grid method to place the figure, and adding the first watercolor glazes to the sketch. The steps in this watercolor sketch were done in the evenings, on the couch, from a lap desk. Have you tried painting and sketching like that?

Why Make Sketches and Paintings in a Sketchbook?

During a long ago watercolor workshop, painter Tim Clark directed us to “leave your mistakes in your sketchbooks” before tackling a new painting. In other words, sketchbooks are your test kitchen before the dinner party.

Sketchbooks are only for YOU.

Watercolor sketchbooks are your secret weapon… a safe place to test and re-test ideas, play with new art supplies, or experiment with value studies, compositions and subjects.

Letting the watercolor wander, and layering additional pigments to mark shadow areas in the sketchbook page

Use Watercolor Sketchbooks to Brainstorm

Encourage your own deep thinking about where you want to take your art inside the pages of your sketchbooks. Doodle, write words, dream dreams…

Use your watercolor sketchbook to invent. Make thoughts real. Scribble. Remind yourself that there is no pressure to perform in a sketchbook, because it’s sole purpose is for your private experimentation.

This is my watercolor sketchbook by Hahnemühle. You can get one on Amazon over here.

Painting Watercolors in Sketchbooks

I’ve demonstrated different media, and talked a lot about watercolor sketchbooks in these posts (below):

Starting to build layers of darker values, and adding texture by lifting pigment off the page with a clean, wet brush (in her hair)

Throw Caution to the Wind, and Make Art

Sketchbooks provide a place where you can mess up, make mistakes and trip on the curbs of art-making – behind closed doors. That’s how we learn….

Sketchbooks are closed, and kept on shelves.

The good news in that little tidbit is that there’s no need to worry about professional-level, lightfast pigments. In a closed book, they won’t be hung on walls, exposed to sunlight, or sold as originals to collectors.

You can use crayons, felt tip markers, tempera paint, student grade pigments, or house paint. It’s completely up to you. Watercolor sketchbooks are #PERMISSION

Watercolor painting practice in my Hahnemühle Watercolor Sketchbook

Watercolor Sketchbooks are for You to Keep

The painting studies I work on in these sketchbooks in the evenings are just for me. Each sketch, watercolor study and painting is a test of an idea, or experiments with watercolor painting methods.

My goal is to learn on these pages, so messing up is guaranteed. And when I mess up, I push the paper and paints to the point of pilling, making mud and scoring through the page in my efforts to fix things.

There is no pressure to make anything perfect for anyone else, so the focus is on pushing myself to get better than the last time I tried to paint. That’s incredible permission, don’t you think? That single mindshift has lead to filled sketchbooks all over my house. :)

I hope you’ll consider looking at your sketchbooks as an invitation to play.

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you in the next post!


Day Planning 8.5×11.5 watercolor on paper

Art Quote

You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.

Maya Angelou

The post Watercolor Painting in a Sketchbook appeared first on Belinda Del Pesco’s Art Blog Belinda Del Pesco.


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