Behind Every Good Painting

... is a good drawing. Tim Oliver shows you how he uses sketches to give him a more intimate understanding of a scene.

In this exclusive interview, watercolor artist Tim Oliver shares the practice that keeps him passionate about painting: drawing.

“I love everything about watercolor, but my first true love was the pencil,” he says. In this demonstration, Tim explains how to develop a pencil sketch in advance of painting with watercolor.

His Method: Tim uses the pencil sketch (softer lead of pencil, such as 2B or HB) in his sketchbook to work out the composition and value structure to give himself a more intimate understanding of the scene, and then creates a new sketch on his watercolor paper.

Tim also explains the rule of thirds for artists, and shares a variety of examples of his sketches and resulting watercolor paintings.

Watch the entire interview with Eric Rhoads and watercolor artist Tim Oliver here:Meet Tim Oliver

“I was first introduced to watercolor in 1981 as a landscape architecture student at Texas Tech University,” he says. “I had a friend in the architecture program who mesmerized me with his skill at rendering his illustrations. At the time, landscape architecture students were not taught watercolor as a rendering medium. Instead, all of our rendering was done with design markers on blueprint paper. I fell totally in love with the effects that he was achieving with watercolor. The transparency, the way the colors moved and blended, the dry-brush technique and the detail that he was able to achieve all came together to entrance me with the medium. My first attempt with a cheap scholastic watercolor set, a bad brush and thin typing paper left me frustrated and disillusioned. While that initial attraction to watercolor remained with me, it was not until 2009 that I found myself in a life situation that allowed me a new beginning with the medium.

“As with all artists, my style is constantly evolving but presently I describe my style as ‘sloppy representationalism.’ I paint in a representational style with a ‘sketchy’ quality to it. It seems to fit me. I’m passionate about interpreting and communicating the character and the emotion of places in my work. Watercolor, in a practiced hand, is the perfect medium for capturing the powerful emotion of a place. While I paint a variety of subjects, I’m most attracted to landscapes that stir passion within me in the moment. I’m always drawn to things western, rural, gritty and seemingly mundane or ordinary. Anything evocative of a ‘time long passed by’ will always capture my attention.

“I love the authenticity, immediacy and raw honesty of painting finished watercolor works en plein air. This can be a challenge at times, but the rewards of plein air painting are numerous and immense.”

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Kelly Kane
PleinAir Magazine and American Watercolor Weekly Editor-in-Chief With more than 20 years experience in art publishing, Kelly Kane has served previously as Editor-in-Chief of Watercolor Artist magazine and Content Director for The Artist’s Magazine, Drawing, Acrylic Artist, and Pastel Journal. She has interviewed many of the preeminent artists of our time and written numerous articles about painting, drawing, art education and art history. She is now the Editor-in-Chief of PleinAir Magazine and the American Watercolor Weekly newsletter. Click here to send her an email.


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