Another of my favorite watercolor artists to date is Steven Cronin. He's an English painter that runs a YouTube channel full of painting demos, perfect for anyone learning to paint for the first time. I've watched almost every single one of his videos by this point.
What first drew me to his style were two things. The big, dramatic skies he paints, and his limited palette of colors that he uses. You can see what I mean by dramatic in the painting above. Here's another example of how he makes even a sunny day seem dramatic. He uses large strokes, variations of grey, red, yellow, and blue all at the same time, and he paints them into a page that's already wet. The result are some complex hues of primaries, blended together beautifully. And he does this by using a limited palette of only seven colors.
- Ultramarine Blue
- Lemon Yellow
- Payne's Gray
- Alizarin Crimson
- Raw Sienna
- Burnt Umber
- Burnt Sienna
With this combination, he mixes all his greens, blacks, browns, purples, or anything in between. I learned this method from Steven, and I much prefer it because the in-between colors that you paint look much more natural than if you would have used a stock color. If you look at the first painting at the top of this post, you'll see how the sky modulates between blue and purple and yellow. There's even a bit of orange in there, and the beautiful thing is that you can't tell where one color ends and another begins. It's all so fluid, and it's the direct result of his limited palette.
Here's an example of one of my paintings created from a limited palette. I don't own a green paint - all the green you see here is mixed from my two blues and two yellows. That way when I wanted to paint a brown tree growing from a the green field, it looked natural in its environment. For comparison, here's what it looks like when you don't mix your in-between colors.
Another thing that I think is just the coolest about Steven's painting style is that he uses just one main brush - the large hake brush. Although it looks like a brush you'd paint a wall with, it's actually a Japanese-style brush with super-fine and soft hairs. It doesn't hold very much water compared to a sable flat brush that everyone else uses, so the brush strokes come out a bit rougher and more defined. There are certain textures that you can only get with a large hake brush. The large hake also encourages you to paint minimalistically. Take for example the next painting of his. Learning to paint in Steven Cronin's style has made me a much more thoughtful painter as to where I choose to place brush strokes.
Take this painting as an example, "Scottish Landscape #28"
Notice how he paints an entire treeline with just three scratchy lines! The mountain looks very complicated, but it's really quite simple if you're using a large hake brush. He loaded a bunch of different colors, unmixed into the bristles (which you can do since it's such a wide brush), and he turned the brush sideways to push in some triangles. Then the mountain's shadows and contours mixed together naturally on the page. I also want to point out how I love the sky here. He doesn't try too hard to make realistic clouds, just drags that big old brush across the paper to make straight lines, lets the colors move around and blend like they want to, and next thing you know it looks like God is pointing towards that mountain.