The Challenge of Watercolors

Categories: 2023 May-June Issue, Figurative, Johnson, Joel R., Landscape, and Watercolor.

Joel R. Johnson candidly admits that painting with watercolors is a constant challenge. “Transparent watercolor is so different from all the other mediums,” he says. “At first, I was trying to paint in watercolors the way I did in oils, and that just didn’t work. It took me years to understand the technique of painting in watercolor and, especially, the properties of the paint itself.”

Understanding the nuances of watercolors is critical to Johnson as he works. “The quality I am after in my paintings is that they glow, so I had to learn the differences between transparent, staining, or opaque pigments,” he says. “I always work from the lighter parts of the image to the darker values, which go on last. When I work, I apply multiple glazes, sometimes as many as eight or 10. The transparency of the watercolor really lets it shine, and the beauty of the colors and values absolutely radiate.”

They certainly do, which accounts in part for the success Johnson has achieved as a watercolor artist. Today he is a signature member of the National Watercolor Society, the Transparent Watercolor Society of America, and the Florida Watercolor Society. The 72-year-old artist, who lives in Vero Beach, Florida, has also earned many awards, including the Donald Teague Memorial Award for Best Works on Paper at the 2021 Prix de West Invitational Exhibition in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Read the full article in the May/June 2023 issue.

Sunset Reflections

25″ by 38″

“The road and the puddle reflection lead into the composition towards the distant evening sky with its warm clouds at sunset. The melting snow and the old fence add a touch of cool contrast against the distant shapes in the painting.”

Wind River Girl

16″ by 18″

“This Shoshone girl came with her tribe from the Wind River area of Wyoming to Ft. Steele along the Platte River to perform dances and set up their tipis. As she turned toward the west of the setting sun, it illuminated her hair and earring. It seemed to capture her in a quiet moment.”