Watercolor: Nature’s Own Medium

“Watercolor has a very long tradition, much older than oil. In traditional Chinese art, watercolors were developed around 4,000 BC and would eventually dominate all Chinese brush painting,” says Italian watercolor artist Francesco Fontana. “Masters such as Anders Zorn, John Singer Sargent, Giovanni Boldini, and J.M.W. Turner all painted beautifully in both oil and watercolor.

“The Mountain Hut” (watercolor 10 1/2 x 14 1/4 in.)

“Today, doubt about the durability of paper as a support is risible. Artist-grade watercolor paper is acid-free and durable — and can be more costly than canvas. Modern paints are also lightfast, made with superior quality materials.

“Dry boats in Sicily”

“For me, the medium’s natural relation to water encourages a deep connection to the landscape. I especially love to use watercolor for seascapes and marina paintings because of its ability to mimic the transparency of water. I also feel that watercolor is strongly related to drawing, so I prefer it for scenes that suggest a graphic approach, such as urban scenes.

“Castello Sforzesco, Milano”

“Working with watercolor, it can be difficult to manage a consistent value scale. Due to the transparency of the paint and the addition of water, watercolor paintings tend to lose intensity as they dry. Starting with a good design and tonal map can make sure you stay on track.

“The Well, Elba” (watercolor, 11 1/2 x 15 1/2 in.)

“Watercolor also offers very few opportunities when it comes to correcting mistakes, so it’s unforgiving in that way. I paint a lot so that I continue to develop the skills needed to respond to — or better yet, avoid — problems. I also do a lot of planning before I pick up my watercolor brush. I like to know how a piece will turn out before I even start on it. Improvisation if OK if you’re playing or exploring, but maybe not if you’re racing to finish in a competition.”

About the Artist


Francesco Fontana is a professional artist with many years experience in oil, watercolor, acrylic and dry media. After art school, he followed his dream and started his artist journey in bohemian Paris, as a portrait artist. In the years to follow, he exhibited his art in Italy and France and his paintings are now in many private collections in Europe, USA and Asia.

Since 2008 Francesco is the co-founder and director of Fare Pittura Atelier, based in Milan Italy, where he teaches regular classes, of watercolor, oil and life drawing. He travels intensivly as a workshop instructor and presenter. Frequent painting destinations include Provence, Paris, Giverny, Normandy, Sicily, Umbria, Puglia – Invitations include Bali, Indonesia, and USA.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here