The Evolution of Watercolor - A Closer Look

Jill Poyerd
A free video tutorial from Jill Poyerd
Professional Artist and Fine Arts Educator
4.7 instructor rating • 7 courses • 18,469 students

Lecture description

Brought over from my YouTube Channel, we begin this course with a thorough look at the history of watercolor painting. The information is set to engaging music and broken down by historical era.

Learn more from the full course

Foundations for Mastering Watercolor Painting

An in-depth, approachable look at painting materials that will make mastering the medium truly possible.

03:19:26 of on-demand video • Updated May 2020

  • Learn watercolor techniques quicker and easier
  • Understand what watercolor paint is and how it is unique
  • Discern how a paint will perform based on its pigment property
  • Gain insight into water's important role in the water media painting process
  • Appreciate the importance of surface texture and structure when you paint
  • Understand the differences between brush materials
  • Problem-solve with success when something goes wrong in the painting process
  • Feel freer in developing your own artistic voice
English [Auto] Before there was writing there was art. And the earliest forms of painting were variations on watercolor Migdal and dictionary defines watercolor as a type of paint. It is mixed with water for painting purposes and this would include mediums such as Grosh tempera and even the fresco wall paintings that we've seen throughout history the ancient Egyptians used water to produce many of the paintings used for funerary and ritual art according to the experts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Egyptian paintings were made out of natural pigments mixed with water. Finder was added to help the paint adhere to the surface which usually consisted of ground plaster like a mud Laster or gypsum or just so that some of these paintings are referred to as fresco paintings. The ancient Greeks used fresco paintings as well on the walls of their temples public buildings homes and tombs the ancient Romans continued. The Egyptians and the Greeks had done as far as using frescoes in their homes and tombs. But they took a giant leap forward. Their work is much more realistic and there is perspective. And they expand on colors it seems. As an artist it's just much more delicate more beautiful and more detailed. At the turn of the century we see a lot of watercolor being used in China and the Orient watercolor lends itself perfectly to the artistic work they do on silks and on paper. As for the Middle East we do find fresco paintings during this time although they aren't as prevalent. The majority of water media artwork seems to be in the form of manuscript illustrations. The Middle Ages are defined as the time period between the decline of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Renaissance. And because Jesus had just recently lived and impacted society the art reflects this and in easily identify paintings from this time because the figures usually have a halo or as the Renaissance approaches you notice that the Halos begin to disappear and the figures become more natural looking. The Renaissance literally means rebirth. And it really is the rebirth of the art world in a sense it's when everything takes on a new beauty and new ideas and new forms. It's a return to realism and perspective and new subject matter. And it's the first time we see oil painting as an artist. It's one of my favorite periods. I love to see the evolution. The Renaissance also introduced us to Michelangelo who many people don't realize but he painted the Sistine Chapel in Fresco which is basically a watercolor medium on plaster Alper dürer is considered the greatest artist of the Northern European Renaissance and by some means considered just the greatest German artist period here he's produced an amazing animal painting in watercolor which painting animals at that time was considered beneath some. But he made a masterpiece during the Renaissance painting became the dominant art form and watercolor began to take on a more familiar appearance. I chose these paintings because they're attractive but it also shows the variation in work that was done using watercolor during the baroque time period after the revolution and the Renaissance art became more playful and decorative less complex Albert cow is regarded as one of the finest landscape painters of the 17th century. He was a Dutch artist and primarily an oil painter but in this case we see one of his occasional watercolors. He happens to also be one of my very favorite artists during this time you seem more and more watercolors on paper. You see them in India like this example and also in China and Terenure. And what's interesting is that you see less and less tempera paintings and a lot of oil paintings However watercolors were finding their place especially in landscape painting the 8900 square an exciting time for watercolor. The medium was used to paint beautiful little miniature portraits on ivory and landscape paintings took on atmospheric qualities and avantgarde syas began to appear cutting impressionism. Speaking of atmospheric watercolors just look at this amazing modern color by John Glover. He has atmosphere and depth and feeling it's just gorgeous this painting by Giuseppe Sr.. He is amazingly detailed and if he didn't know it you would think it was tempera or oil meaning there's something really natural about John William Hill's painting that plums that caused me to want to include it. It's very soft and just sitting broken in nature seem like he was kind of thinking outside the box Winslow Homer is another one of my all time favorite artists and he in my opinion brings water color into the 20th century. It has a more modern look. William Troost Richards is an American artist from Philadelphia and one of the finest landscapes and marine painters of the 19th century. To me his work is magical and helps the medium take a giant leap forward. As we approach the 20th century some names will become familiar like Barry COSAT and James McNeill Whistler Whistler painting of the lady in grey is one of my favorite paintings. I just love the expression and the stats look at her face. It's just fabulous. The 20th century was a period of broad change and open mind. Yet there was still an appreciation for traditional art. It would be hard to discuss watercolor in the 20th century without discussing John Singer Sargent. He had such a massive impact on the medium to really explain his impact. You simply have to refer to a quote by Evan Charteris sergeant's friend and biographer. He said to live with Sargent's watercolors is to live with sunshine capture and hell. I just had to include this painting by I'd name. You can if you didn't know better it's another one that you would think is an oil painting but it is water color and he captures that warm sunlight in the winter. He does it so beautifully. I like this piece by Charles Jimmy. He manages to combine traditional art with a touch of modernism grows in some Cubism and futurism. It's really effective. Paul Kelly is one of the masters of Modern Art and even though his work can't be really categorized into one movement I included is because his work tells a story and I love his use of color. Edward Hopper is primarily an oil painter who was known for his lonely city scenes. However he did a series of watercolors in Cape Cod and this is one of them martial arts which has a very sunny feel to it. We now come to another one of my absolute favorite artists Andrew Wyatt and I love it. Love his work. He uses minimal colors but he communicates such feeling through it and he's not afraid to scrape and poor thing and do all kinds of creative spontaneous things Jews paintings and the finished products. Incredible that this watercolor by Charles Birchfield has such an immediacy to it has the might. You can almost feel the breath the 1960s and 70s watercolor started to get more loose Dre went on wet. You can almost see an element of abstraction in. One of the early pioneers of this was Edgar Witney. I included Paul Jenkins in the timeline partly because I wanted to show you how loose things could get and also to show you that acrylic was considered a water media paint. I end the video with Gearheart Richter who worked in a variety of mediums as well as a variety of different styles from photorealism all the way to Amsterdam. I love the transparent wearing he does with his watercolors. It's really beautiful.