Watercolor is a difficult medium to master, and that’s true in both the traditional and digital worlds. To get watercolor to behave, an artist needs perseverance and patience, plus a burning desire to succeed. Joan Hamilton, from Toronto, Canada, is one such artist, and she has quite successfully unlocked the secret to creating gorgeous watercolors using Corel Painter. Joan was kind enough to share her experiences with us.
Q: Tell us about your artistic background, and how you came to digital art.
Art, watercolour in particular, has always really appealed to me. All my life I yearned to learn how to do it, but was hampered in one way or another. In the summer of 2004 I purchased some watercolour paints, brushes and paper. I didn’t get too far into it, before I realized that it was going to take a lot of paint and paper to learn how to do this! Digitally, I had played around (a very little) with Corel Draw and PhotoPaint 5 a long time ago and upon looking for an updated version I found the software program Corel Painter 9. The bundled deal with the Wacom tablet and pen was too tempting to resist. My husband is the one that really pushed me into purchasing it. I probably couldn’t have spent that much money on what was then only a hobby. (I secretly think it’s because he felt guilty for buying Electronic V Drums myself! lol!) I received it in February 2005 and have been hooked on digital painting since! I’ve also had to get a new Wacom tablet and Intuos 4 Pen (I wore hole in my old one I painted so much!) and have upgraded to Corel Painter 11. I don’t use Photoshop or any other programs because I have enough on my hands with what I’ve got, as well as budgetary restraints.
Q: How did you learn to use Painter?
For the most part I learned to use Corel Painter on my own, through a great deal of experimentation. The thing that helped me learn the most was by looking at tons of other art, reading about it and doing studies of other artist’s works. It taught me some of the basics of painting, while helping me (forcing me) to learn techniques to make the kind of marks I wanted to make painting digitally. I focused on painting in a watercolour style from the beginning, but in the past few years especially I have concentrated on learning to use the digital watercolour and watercolour variants. Digital painting is an evolving process for me. Articulating what I have learned adds another dimension to my art. Being determined to paint a certain kind of wash with the forethought that you will have to explain how to do it to someone else really helps you define and polish your painting technique and your own style.
Q: Can you tell us about your experience building a website with FolioTwist?
FolioTwist is a fantastic art site to build your artist website on. They are designed for artists and are full of features that artists really need to create a successful website. I chose a FolioTwist website about a year and half ago because they were one of the few I had researched that integrated the online art gallery with a solid working blogging platform. Before that I had a more static website/online gallery on ArtSites.ca and a WordPress blog at the same time. The trouble was, I could generate lots of visitors to my blog, but not nearly as many to my website which was where I wanted them to go in the first place … to buy my art!
A FolioTwist site is very easy to use because it is well designed and built to help artists with the process of marketing their work. I am currently receiving the Traffic Booster course they offer as a new part of their site services. The first four lessons have been very to the point and useful. Dan and Zac know how to explain their information in a comfortable, makes sense kind of manner. I would highly recommend them to any artist looking for a professional looking, artist friendly, affordable website. They frequently add new features based partly on user requests and are very accommodating about being available for great technological and blogging support.
Q: You offer prints of your work, and do the printing yourself. Tell us about that.
All my art is printed by myself using professional quality inks and papers. I use Red River’s Aurora Fine Art Paper, and an Epson Stylus Pro R1800 printer. The paper is a heavier weight 100% Cotton rag content, acid free, lignin free, bright white paper that complements my digital watercolour paintings. I use Epson Ultrachrome inks which are archival quality inks. They are waterproof, smudge proof and fade resistant up to 200 years. The printouts are true to the colours of the original digital image and the details are clear. Printing my own work allows me the opportunity for total control over the final output. I spend time, and money on inks and paper, to make sure the final printouts match my vision of the finished painting. There are always adjustments that need to be made. No two paintings are the same, so my adjustments to the dye concentration and the tonal values are tailored to the painting, taking into consideration different kinds of paper and the printer itself.
Q: What do you offer on your website?
Aside from various size printouts of my art I make many of my paintings into Note Cards. I use the same paper as my printouts, as well as a Soft Gloss paper option. I often make them into sets and they can be fully customized with text inside or outside or both for no extra charge. My Christmas cards are very popular and have sold well to businesses as well as individuals wanting something a little different than those same old cards sold by card companies.
Q: You’re currently writing an eBook about digital watercolor. How’s it going?
Plans such as exactly how and where it will be sold, and for how much are not yet finalized. I will be blogging about my progress and will continue to offer tidbits and free demonstrations/tutorials on my blog.
I am passionate about discovering ways to paint digital watercolours with visually authentic language and sharing them with others who love the challenge and appearance of watercolour.
The very first brush I tried in Corel Painter 9 was a watercolour variant, Soft Runny Wash. It dripped alarmingly down the page at a fairly slow rate. The ways to control it seemed very esoteric and unknown, the possible variations infinite… In other words, it scared me silly and I didn’t fiddle around with them much again for a long time. I have learned a few tricks since then and am in the process of writing my first eBook entitled How to Paint Watercolours Digitally. I realized that while I do explain a lot of things on my blog, the intent has gradually changed from showing people what I was doing to teaching people step by step how to use these amazing tools and techniques. It is an enormous amount of work to organize the information in a cohesive manner so people can learn this stuff easier and faster than I did! I have the outline of the book done and already can see I will probably have to write two books at least. The first will concentrate on learning to use the tools needed and the second will focus more on painting more specific elements such as, petals, leaves snow, trees, clouds, rocks and whatever else comes to mind! I am not worried that I can only teach people to paint the way I paint using the brushes I use. That would be rather limiting, not to mention stifling to the other artist. Instead I want to give people an idea of what they can do with this incredible software, and feel that I’ve helped turn somebody on to painting as a means of creative expression all their own!
Q. Any advice for our readers?
Create the best art you can and constantly and consciously put effort into it that will improve it. Challenge yourself to learn the hard stuff. The skills you struggle with today will pay off in the future. This includes learning the technical and marketing side of being an artist. The competition to sell art is fierce and you need to use all the advantages you can.
Make peace with the idea that you have to sell yourself as part of selling your art, then act accordingly with regards to social media and blogging. Joining and participating meaningfully in Art Forums where you can post your art and be part of a community is helpful. Selling art in those large forums such as Red Bubble, ImageKind, Art Wanted, and Fine Art America, to name a few I’ve personally had portfolios on, is very difficult especially if you don’t sell your work any other way.
Don’t get discouraged by how long it takes to get your name out there. The one piece of advice I’ve read consistently over the last few years is that you can’t sit there waiting for people to find you on the web. You have to be proactive about it and it may take you out of your comfort zone. Do it anyway, you must if you really want results.
Do your best to have a balance between time spent creating and time spent networking, schmoozing, marketing yourself, creating your brand …whatever you want to call it. Make some realistic plans when you have defined your goals. Do your research, but don’t waste time surfing! Be true to yourself and believe in what you are doing (at least most of the time) and your talent and passion will come shining through. Don’t be afraid to share…what’s the worst thing that can happen to you? You’ll be ignored? Everybody is ignored, unless they draw some good attention to themselves. You’ll be laughed at and mocked? Even if you are, it’s doubtful that you are going to know about it. The best thing that will happen is that you’ll meet some great new people and be totally amazed at how many wonderful people there still are in the world!
You can visit Joan on her website, Joan A. Hamilton’s Digital Painting Site, and on her blog, Joan A. Hamilton’s Art Blog. Thanks, Joan, for taking time to share with us! I’ll close with my current favorite painting by Joan Hamilton. Thanks for reading!