If you’ve been following this blog a while, you would know that one of the best things that came out of months of lockdown due to pandemic was the start of my journey with watercolors. All the artists I met in my journey say the same thing about their craft – it takes tremendous amount of patience, discipline, and dedication to learn and improve. I believe it is is true for every skill. Before you read on, I apologize for the poor quality of photos below. The sky has been overcast at my area lately. I use just the natural light from my window to take photos using my old camera phone. 🙂
When I was starting to love watercolors as a medium for painting (I’m now batshit crazy about it), I try to squeeze in at least 15 minutes each day to learn how to paint – from holding the brushes, practicing strokes, understanding color theory, to sketching with it. Before the pandemic, I couldn’t event draw a perfect circle to save my life. Now I can make decent one with just one stroke.
Left photo is my painting of a lighthouse in Batanes two years ago. Right photo is a painting I sold last week.
Putting both works side by side, I can say that I have improved a lot since day 1of my journey as a watercolorist. This did not happen overnight. I was patient. I burned through books by artists, went to virtual master classes, and still learning now. I enjoy painting so much and there is just plenty of things to learn about watercolors and other media. I don’t I’ll ever stop wondering, practicing, and learning.
If you are a fellow homeschooling parent who is probably clueless on how to teach art to your kids, this article might be for you. See when I was starting out I asked book recommendations from people who are successful artists and architects. While YouTube tutorials and virtual classes work for me also, with books I get to read about color theory, works by masters, techniques, and stories. There are theories that I like to read about at a deeper level. I’m such a nerd.
This article is going to be about books that helped me get started and some that I currently read to keep on improving or learning. If the list below seems like a lot to you, you actually don’t need to get them all. I’ve arranged these books from beginner to advanced, based on my personal experience. I will do my best to describe each book so any one who wants to get started with watercolors can decide which book/s to get first.
- The Watercolor Artist’s Bible
This is my first watercolor book ever. I got this off the shelf at a local bookstore and finished reading through it in a week. I love this book so much that if you ask me which one book to get for beginners or for those who need refreshers, this would be it. I even bookmarked the pages that I can go back to every now and then for when I need to review color theory or if I need to incorporate certain techniques on my pieces. Everything you would need to know about watercolor and painting techniques are explained well in this book. It even has a good bit on color theory and how to mix primary and secondary colors and when to use warm and cool colors. The page (right photo above) shows how to mix colors for skin tones. Really this book has everything!
- Paul Clark’s Watercolor Techniques and Tutorials for the Complete Beginner
For beginners, Paul Clark’s book is also highly recommended!
I love Paul Clark’s tutorials on YouTube, I’m such a fan that I bought his book and have been following all his tutorials from two years ago. I have good reasons why you should too. First of all, he’s very generous with his lessons from providing free drawing templates to step-by-step painting tutorial. He also shares so many tips for absolute beginners. His book features a series of photos with step-by-step method on how to paint a subject. He has basic discussion on color theory as well as best art materials to invest in. There’s also one page on perspective drawing. The best part is that his book is affordable, you can get it from Amazon for less than 15 USD. Now, please know that the link below will land you directly to the Amazon website featuring Paul’s book so that you can check it out directly. Do know that by buying the book through Amazon, I get a bit of commission to help me keep this blog, at no extra cost to you. Having said that, I do recommend this book based on my experience.
Below is a series of recent photos of me and my son painting loose poppies from a lesson in Paul Clark’s book. The reason I use books now over video tutorials when painting with my son as part of his lesson in MAPEH is because I want to test his reading comprehension also. So by following instructions from books, I get to check my son’s progress in other subjects too such as English and Math. Yes, Math. Paul Clark talks about water-to-paint and primary color ratios as well. (Pardon the messy table, been so busy lately. Haha)
- Drawing Made Easy by Barrington Barber
A fellow watercolorist who is also an architect recommended this one.
A mentor in watercolor once said a good artwork starts with a good sketch. This is so true. Most artists I know start with a good sketch using pencil before painting. They don’t always paint over their pencil sketch (some do including me) but they always start with a good sketch on a piece of paper or notebook before going ahead and painting on a watercolor paper. By sketching the idea in their heads, they are able to compose their piece accordingly, sometimes changing some elements along the way. This book teaches a novice on how to sketch ordinary objects using pencils – from strokes, to pencil hold, to shading. This book has everything a beginner would need to know! Being a drawing beginner myself, I find this book to be so helpful. The author, Barrington Barber, has written so many books on drawing basics and this is just one of those recommended by my friend. Links below are his books in Amazon. As mentioned previously, by buying these books, I get a bit of commission, to fund my blog, at no extra cost to you. I know I sound like a broken record but the Associate Program of Amazon requires me to mention this every time I recommend products from their website.
- How to Draw Inky Wonderland by Johanna Basford
If you were one of us who got hooked in coloring books in the recent past, then you know Johanna Basford.
Johanna Basford is a famous Scottish illustrator who is best known for her colouring books such as Secret Garden, Enchanted Forest, and Worlds of Wonder, just to name a few. Her fame started even years before the pandemic hit when adults from all over the world bought her books to de-stress from their lives through coloring. Her illustrations are so intricate that her books sold like pancakes all over the world. People loved her even more when at the height of pandemic, she gave away free downloadable illustrations for people to print and color. I have been following her page and website for a while and she does seemed like a nice person. I bought this book (photo above) during the pandemic because I wanted to see her style. I never got the chance to finish this book but I enjoyed my time completing some of the activities such as drawing fish, reef, other ocean creatures, and flower wreaths. If you want to learn how to make your own coloring illustrations, this is one I can recommend. I even went as far as color the illustrations I made with this book using watercolors instead of color pencils. I loved the outcome! Of course, if you just want to color her illustrations, the links below are of books by Johanna Basford that you might want to try:
Please note that these are associate links. When you buy through the links, I get a bit of commission to keep funding this blog. If you find this blog helpful, please do purchase through my associate links in Amazon. 🙂
- 100 Birds by Ze Ze Lai
If you like painting birds or simply enjoy bird watching, you will like this book.
I have friends who travel around the country and abroad to bird watch. They bring their cameras with them and they take photos of the birds they spot in their natural habitat. I love watching birds so much that I even buy bird food for the ones who live in a tree outside my windows. Just imagine my happiness when Ze Ze Lai published this book on how to paint 100 birds. Painting birds is outside my comfort zone hence, I have added this book under Intermediate level. If you have been painting birds with morphological detail, then this book is probably not for you, unless you want to explore the loose way of painting them.
This book is minimalistic in design. On each page is a photo of a bird art by Ze Ze Lai with the bird art and name, color palette to use, and a QR code to scan. When you scan the QR code and follow the link, it will land you to a tutorial on how to paint the bird. Do note that her style of painting the birds is akin to doing calligraphy. Here’s an Instagram reel I made recently about the five birds I painted using Ze Ze Lai’s book:
Below is the link to where you can get the book. Please take note that I don’t get a commission from putting the link on here. 🙂
- You Can Paint Dazzling Watercolors in 12 Easy Lessons by Yuko Nagayama
Learn how to paint atmospheric watercolor art with this book!
If you haven’t heard of Yuko Nagayama (she’s famous among watercolorists) and want to be a watercolorist, she is one of the artists to follow on social media platforms. She is famous for painting atmospheric artwork – loose style with only few sections painted in detail to bring them out (like bokeh background and a subject in crisp detail). I quote this one from her book because I learned one valuable lesson about painting the background when she said this:
The background color is the color of air, as it were. Since it is the air, the painted surface is full of it. Isn’t it fascinating to think that it’s the color of air? You can color the air any way you please. That is the art of painting.Yugo Nagayama in You Can Paint Dazzling Watercolors in Twelve Easy Lessons
I used to paint on very light background and sometimes I even mask out my main subject so that background color doesn’t mix on them. After reading this book, I realized that a subject is surrounded with, and thus, colored by the atmosphere. So why isolate it? In the painting of lighthouse I sold last week, I painted the sky colors all over the piece to make sure that the light house, the cabin, and foreground, are all bathed in the warm light of the sunset. The painting sold in less than one hour after I posted it on Facebook, modesty aside. Yuko’s lesson about background worked. Below is my Amazon associate link to Nagayama san’s book. At risk again of sounding like a broken record, when you click the link below, it will land you to Amazon where you can directly check out the book. When you buy the book, I get a bit of commission that will help me fund this blog site at no extra cost to you. 🙂
The list below is going to be a series of art books in my stash that I bought for study and inspiration.
- A Sky Longing for Memories by Makoto Shinkai
If you like ideas on how to paint the sky during summer, spring, and winter time, his book has so many inspiring sky art.
- Paint Like Van Gogh by Susan Lea and Joanne Shurvell
If Van Gosh is your favorite artist like me, then this book is one thing to explore. Although he painted impasto style using oil medium, I still want to explore the possibility of painting his works using gouache and watercolors as part of my artist study.
I love that the book features some of this works and it comes with pencil sketches to copy.
I bought this book while I was going through a phase of depression. I wrote about it here:
- Mateusz Urbanowicz’s Watercolor Art Books
One of my favorite watercolor artists for cityscapes is Mateusz Urbanowicz, a Polish digital artist and watercolorist who is famous for his collaborative work with Makoto Shinkai for the movie, Your Name (Kimi No Nawa); as well as his Tokyo Storefronts and Tokyo At Night art books, just to name a few. I have the two books mentioned and I will use them as inspiration for when I paint cityscapes at night and day time in the future. He now resides in Japan with his artist wife, Kana. Rather than describing the books in text, how about I give a book review I made about them about two years ago?
If you want to purchase the books, you may get them through my associate links below:
Do note that by purchasing through my Associate links, I get a bit of commission that I will use to fund this website at no extra cost to you (this is the last, I promise). 🙂 Thank you so much for reading this far!
2 thoughts on “Book recommendations for homeschoolers who want to learn how to sketch and paint using watercolors”
Reading this blog post filled me with inspiration and motivation to continue on my own journey with watercolors. The author’s dedication and improvement over time is a reminder that with patience, discipline, and dedication, we can all improve in our chosen skills. I appreciate the specific book recommendations and look forward to diving deeper into the world of watercolors.
Hello, Sebastian. Thank you for dropping by. Nice to know that you are also into watercolors although I did wonder about your website’s amazing digital artworks. They’re awesome!
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