Hint Without Giving It All Away

Rail Station in the Rain (watercolor, 16 x 12 in.)

Michael Holter has painted most of his life and earned degrees in art education and visual communication, which led to jobs in commercial and fine art, working as an art teacher, creative director, and gallery owner. Today, he paints full time and maintains a rigorous workshop schedule. Besides landscapes in watercolor and oil, figures in watercolor are another of his specialties.

Rock, Paper (watercolor, 16 x 12 in.)

Having once considered a career in architecture, Holter is also fascinated with manmade structures, a passion that is evident in his cityscape work. “Architectural elements — shadows on a fire escape or building facade, the way sunlight filters through a red awning or umbrella to cast warm hues on the surrounding area — have the kind of compositional strength that draws my attention,” he says.

Lincoln’s Recycle (watercolor, 11 x 14 in.)

Holter presents just enough structure to make his subject recognizable, while allowing room for his interpretation to evolve according to the viewer. “You have to let go of the need to paint every detail,” he says. “It’s not necessary to paint every brick on a wall, for example. Look for and paint shapes, starting with the largest. Learn to paint with large brushes and develop a watercolor shorthand to suggest rather than overstate. Let viewers fill in the areas you choose to leave to their imagination.”

Big Sur Farm (watercolor, 12 x 16 in.)

Michael Holter shares his process in the DVD, 7 Steps to Watercolor Landscapes!


Previous articleAmbassador of the Week: Lana Cease
Next articleKeeping It Real in San Francisco
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.


  1. I appreciate receiving these articles very much,so inspiring,so
    helpful to get me started painting, which has been the one passion
    all my life!
    Marty Cognata


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here