"Transparent Watercolor Wheel"
Written by Jim Kosvanec, NWS
Published by Watson-Guptill
ISBN: 0-8230-5436-5
"A Logical and Easy-to-use System for Taking the Guesswork out of Mixing Colors"
Few dispute that the more determined you are about mastering transparent watercolor, the more cantankerous it seems to become. But, there are ways to understand and truly control it if you're willing to study. You can discover all this valuable information if you delve into my video series, book or, better yet, attend a workshop.
The following are excerpts from the introduction of my book, "Transparent Watercolor Wheel," published by Watson-Guptill. This book contains a logical compilation of all the information I needed to know but couldn't find answers to when I was studying transparent watercolor. I'm certain you'll find it an invaluable resource coupled with encouragement and tempered with candidness.
The heart of this book is its truly unique watercolor wheel, which is specifically designed for watercolorists. There's no other wheel available for transparent watercolorists. It will guide you toward eliminating mud by understanding how to select clean color combinations!

Excerpt from the introduction of "Transparent Watercolor Wheel,"
a Watson-Guptill publication.

A wise writer once said something to the effect, "the most intimidating factor in writing is staring at a blank sheet of paper." How true for the painter as well.

The question for the amateur and professional alike is "How and where do I start?" Usually, a thorough and thoughtful conceptualization process provides good preparation before you approach a sheet of paper. One might think of it as a chess game. You may not know the result, but you can often visualize the possible moves and at least orchestrate the direction. However, without complete knowledge of the mechanics of the medium involved, the result will seldom match the mind's perception.

It seems ironic to me that the medium of transparent watercolor is so often the choice of beginning artists. True, it is a portable medium; you can pack everything into a small carrier and take it with you; yes, it dries quickly and the support doesn't take much space. Despite these positives, transparent watercolor has one overriding disadvantage for an untutored novice . . . the degree of difficulty controlling the medium.

Generally the beginner, who is understandably eager to begin painting, doesn't study the mechanics and stumbles along with poor results. Even masters may teeter! The difference between these casualties is that the novice is continually confounded by the mechanics, while the veteran, who has a 'second nature' grasp of the craft, is only occasionally challenged by the medium itself.

Transparent watercolor is not an easy medium to master. Even experienced watercolorists humbly admit they can do little more than understand and control a respectable percentage of transparent watercolor's characteristics.

So, you may be asking yourself, "Why bother? I'll try another medium." Let me encourage you to continue. I know of no other medium which offers the challenge of transparent watercolor, or is as visually rewarding. This book provides information that will remove many, if not all, of the frustrating roadblocks in your path to creativity.

You can only master transparent watercolor by disciplined study. Knowledge frees the soul to express its creativity. Ultimately, however, the medium cannot be mastered...only handled masterfully.

Fortunately, there's a solution.

What Distinguishes Transparent Watercolor?

When asked, "What makes a painting utilizing transparent watercolor different from one using an opaque medium?", the first word that comes to my mind is LUMINOSITY. This is the single most distinguishing attribute of a well executed transparent watercolor painting. Unfortunately, as most of us already know, we can't just pick up some "luminous" tubes of paint and start painting.

Think of transparent watercolors as similar to stained glass windows. Stained glass is most resplendent when light comes from behind. The same is true with transparent watercolors. Light passes and refracts through the pigments and then bounces back from the paper through the crystalline pigment particles, simulating a stained glass effect. This effect is something to keep in mind as you study this medium. You should always be cognizant of what it will take to achieve the "glow." Simultaneously, you'll need to know what will destroy the effect.

Transparent watercolor probably requires more forethought and conviction than most, if not all, other mediums. There are methods to lift color and "start over" but, frankly, these are very detectable even when done well. Yet, when handled competently, transparent watercolor offers the reward of luminosity. Enough motivation for mastering the medium! We don't necessarily need to become purists of transparent watercolor technique; rather, we should strive to present the most comprehensive work we can produce, by competently utilizing the advantages of the medium.
At some point, we need to understand our motivations for choosing to paint; but for now, we need to understand why we choose a medium that's full of both serendipitous and disappointing surprises. Our challenge is to tip the balance in favor of the former.

How are you going to do this? By taking the time to read and utilize the information in the book and explore what is most important to learn first about transparent watercolors ... the "nuts and bolts" ... the knowledge that supports the craft of painting. It is as basic as learning the tools of any trade, but is often neglected. Would you consider learning the skills of woodworking by beginning with a china cabinet of a costly hardwood? Not very likely ... you'd read, absorb, visualize what you read, and then practice handling the tools proficiently before venturing on.

In studying the mechanics you'll learn what you can and cannot do with transparent watercolors. You'll learn the differences and relationships of paint, the differences in papers, and how to prepare it for painting. You'll also learn how to select brushes, make lighting choices for a studio and generally better understand the watercolor painter's hardware. All you really lack is useful information. Read and practice ... until you feel more in "harmony" with your equipment. You'll then paint spontaneously with crisp results. If you first learn the craft of transparent watercolors, you'll not only become a better painter, you'll also be better able to adroitly express your concepts.

Despite stressing the importance of first learning the mechanical processes of transparent watercolors, I assure you, it isn't the most important aspect of art. Your creative expression is far more important, but without the means to state it effectively, you could become disappointed with your results and prematurely reject this provocative medium.

The following two reviews are posted with the famous on-line bookseller, Amazon.com.

Customer Comments
Average Customer Review:

mudmunk@usa.net from Texas, October 27, 1998
Sparkling Watercolor
This is a great book if you really want to understand why some color combinations work and others don't. Mr. Kosvanec has developed a color wheel that goes beyond the standard color wheel. The book's color wheel is a fold out and is perforated so it may be torn out and used easily. This new wheel deals with the actual pigments and their characteristics used in the majority of watercolor paints.

He divides the paint into nonstaining:transparant & semitransparant - staining:transparant - opaque & semiopaque and finally whitened & blackened colors. The book then shows in detail the results of mixing these different types of pigments to achieve luminous paintings or why some mixed together usually result in "mud".

There is a chapter that analyzes both some of his own and guest artists' paintings for their color mixing & pigment choices and why they worked. There is a chapter on water-to-pigment ratio and keeping colors clean. There is a chapter on achieving luminous grays and another discussing various types of paper from different manufacturers and how this too can change the results of a watercolor. He shows in one chapter the difference student-grade paints make compared to artist quality.

Throughout the book there is a wealth of detail and illustrations for the book to be a joy to read simply for generating ideas. This book is not really geared to be a beginning watercolor book. But if you are ready to go beyond the many beginning watercolor books available then this book will not disappoint.


A reader from USA , June 5, 1998
No more mud when painting James Kosvanec is a wizard. His understanding of transparent color is wondrous. Before this book I struggled with inconsistent results. My first painting after reading this book was clean and every color sparkled. If you want consistent results get this book.