Watercolor paints are among the most popular and most ancient of art mediums, versions of which were used by the Egyptians, in European cave paintings like those at Lascaux, as well as in beautiful works on silk and paper in Asia. However, watercolors truly blossomed and became an art form in their own right in the 18th century, and have remained a valued art medium to this very day. Artists everywhere now use watercolor paints to depict subjects ranging from botanical illustrations to abstract art and everything in between, as watercolors are such an elegant and convenient medium and can be used both in the studio and in the field with relative ease.
Watercolors are comprised of a very simple recipe: pigment suspended in a water-soluble organic binder like gum arabic, with additives like honey, glycerine, or ox gall to improve fluidity and solubility. Generally, the term "watercolor" applies to the transparent version of this recipe (gouache is an opaque watercolor, and is usually considered a separate medium). Beautiful watercolor paintings are created by harnessing this signature transparency, creating washes and layers of luminous colors that allow light to refract from the paper substrate for brilliant and subtle effects. Many different techniques can be used in watercolors, from wet-in-wet techniques to drybrushing and scumbling, using masking fluid to block off white spaces, or salt or sand to create interesting textures. The possibilities are limitless, and watercolor paint lends itself beautifully to virtually any painting subject and any artist!