Collective Wisdom

Collective Wisdom in script

WSO’s Collective Wisdom is a list of watercolor resources, techniques, and materials recommended by WSO members.  This information is updated quarterly.


Favorite Painting Tools

For the February 2023 issue of the Watermark, please share with your WSO friends and fellow artists up to three of your favorite painting tools. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty of how you turn that swirl of creative images in your mind into something dazzling on the painting surface. Choose from brushes, palette knives, sponges, texture makers, mark makers, paint or masking applicators, or other implements some of us may never have imagined. 

Please provide the pertinent descriptive information. Example: for a paint brush list brush type, size, composition, brand, and what supplier you use if the item is not widely available. And if you’d like, tell us something special this tool contributes to your artmaking experience.

Email your recommendations by January 10, 2023 to Ilana Hoffman with the subject line, “WSO Collective Wisdom.” Find Ilana’s contact information in the Membership Roster & Handbook. Also, feel free to include suggestions for future Collective Wisdom themes.

Novels or Non-fiction Books About Art or Artists

Books by James Gurney:
Dinotopia series (6 books)
Imaginative Realism:  How to Paint What Doesn’t Exist

Color and Light for the Realist Painte

I’ve loved the illustrations in James Gurney’s Dinotopia books for children ever since I first discovered them back in the early 1990s and read them to my kids. The paintings are beautiful and accompany an entertaining and thoughtful storyline that posits a reality where most dinosaurs are not only sentient, but some of them team up and live with people.
While Gurney was writing the books, he kept a blog of his progress (Gurney Journey: The interest generated among artists and aspiring artists around the blog inspired him to write a book about what he discovered doing all the amazing paintings for the stories, Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn’t Exist.
That book generated so many further responses and questions that he wrote another, Color and Light for the Realist Painter, which is more of a manual on the relationships between color and light through history and how various styles and techniques accomplish various effects. 
Also, the WSO Video Library has a wonderful DVD titled Watercolor in the Wild, also by James Gurney, which addresses the same sort of content in the context of painting outside the studio. He uses watercolors, water brushes, water-soluble colored pencils, and ink, and presents important information about light and shadow, color and contrast. He also shares tips on putting together lightweight traveling kits. Here’s a link to the WSO Video Rental Library.
Kathryn Oliver-Garnett, November 2022

To Be a Painter by Hal Baker

I just received a very special book—hot off the press! The title is To Be a Painter by Hal Baker, as told by the landscape painter and teacher Milford Zornes (1908-2008). Zornes started writing To Be a Painter in 1975; now forty-seven years later it is finally in print. This book is written by Hal Baker (Zornes’ son-in-law), who waded through and organized the artist’s writings, mostly found on scraps of paper often handwritten with soft pencil or charcoal. The book is also filled with dozens of Zornes’ paintings and sketches. My good friend, Valerie Cohen, a former close friend and student of Zornes, and a very accomplished artist herself, sent me a copy.
Sarah Bills Bailey, November 2022

Making Color Sing by Jeanne Dobie

A book I turn to again and again is Making Color Sing by Jeanne Dobie. Her use of grays with pure color in her paintings is stunning. She has a section on mixing beautiful neutrals.
Leslie Dugas, November 2022

Watercolor Painting Outside the Lines by Linda Kemp

“Linda Kemp shares her techniques for using the strength of negative space—the areas not occupied by subject matter—to create alluring works of art.” (Quote from review in Amazon Books.)
Marjorie Kinch, November 2022

Painting Spectacular Light Effects in Watercolor by Paul Jackson

From soft, atmospheric effects to powerful images, this guide provides artists with the insight and instruction they need to illuminate their paintings with the magic of light.” (Quote from review in Amazon Books.)
Marjorie Kinch, November 2022

Steal Like an Artist—10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

This lively book embraces the notion that we all learn by imitation (even the Beatles started out as a cover band). Some of my favorite quotes from this book are: “Don’t steal the style, steal the thinking behind the style;” and, “The secret is doing good work and sharing it with people.”
Liz Walker, November 2022


The Art Spirit by Robert Henri

First published in 1923, Henri writes to his Art League students in a series of essays that resonate for the contemporary artist of today.
Liz Walker, November 2022


Clear Seeing Place by Brian Rutenberg

This South Carolina abstract painter packs his book with ideas, observations, techniques, and career advice arranged into six sections designed to inspire artists of all levels. Rutenberg is a gifted painter and writer who succinctly describes the life of a working artist.
Liz Walker, November 2022


A Piece of the World  by Christina Baker Kline

After viewing Andrew Wyeth’s painting Christina’s World in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and touring the Portland Art Museum’s exhibition The Wyeths: Three Generations, I was fascinated by this fictionalized story of the creation of Christina’s World. (The author is not the Christina in the painting.)
Ilana Hoffman, August 2022


The Last Painting of Sara de Vos  by Dominic Smith

This novel travels in time and place from Amsterdam in 1631, to Manhattan in 1957, to Sydney in 2000. The artist of the painting, the forger of that painting, and the descendent of the original owner of the painting are all embroiled in a suspenseful tale that examines the roles of chauvinism, fraud, and moral ambiguity in the art world.
Ilana Hoffman, August 2022

Online Watercolor Resources

In addition to the recommendations of online resources listed below, please keep in mind that many of our WSO members have their own websites. Check your Membership Roster & Handbook for their website links and explore the art and information they offer.

Oliver Pyle – Our Landscape, YouTube Channel:

I recently subscribed to this YouTube channel. It’s quite good! Oliver Pyle is an established and successful landscape artist working exclusively in watercolor in the UK. His website is at, and his blog is at
Richard French


Blick Creative Community,

Access to this Facebook group is granted upon request. Group members share their artwork and exchange advice on techniques and art products. While the group spans many media, there are a good number of watercolor paintings and discussions. I find many of the shared paintings to be sources of inspiration, and the discussions to be informative and useful.
Dan Perich, August 2022


Royal Watercolour Society,

Several years ago, I purchased the book The Watercolour Expert put out by the Royal Watercolour Society in the UK. This book led me to search for their website, which I love to visit now and then. There is something about seeing how artists in other countries handle water media that can often refresh my view on what is possible.
Leslie Dugas, August 2022


Learn to Paint Podcast,

I recently learned about a wonderful podcast by Kelly Powers, the daughter of Lynn Powers, a past member of WSO. Kelly skillfully interviews accomplished artists and teachers who give tips on how artists can improve their works. Guests include such well-known water media artists as Dean Mitchell, John Salminen, Stan Kurth, and Peggi Habets.
Leslie Dugas, August 2022


My Modern Met,,,,,

This website and the weekly newsletter I receive by email supply me with joyful bursts of inspiration. I love reading about and viewing the works of extraordinary artists exploring the dazzling edges of the brave new art world.
Ilana Hoffman, August 2022


The Painter’s Keys,

I enjoy the Twice-Weekly Letters that I receive by email from this website, which contain insights, information, and encouragement about being an artist. The letters originally were written by artist Robert Genn, who “came to understand the idea of a Brotherhood and Sisterhood of Artists — a worldwide community of creative people with a lot of the same concerns.”
Leslie Dugas, May 2022


Society of Visual Storytelling, and

This website offers over 100 high quality recorded online courses covering many different topics including the business of art, as well as a very active online forum, regular live critiques, and monthly contests. You can pay for individual classes, or you can get an annual membership that gives you unlimited access to all their classes, the forum, and special events.
Terri Rottman, May 2022


John Muir Laws, and

If you are into nature journaling (or any kind of nature related art), this is a fun resource where you can learn some science and observation skills along with the art skills. Laws presents a wide range of videos and a blog that is mostly instructional content.
Terri Rottman, May 2022,

This website makes it easy to create your own website for your artwork.
Susan Escobar, May 2022


American Watercolor,

The free email newsletter, American Watercolor, features articles about a variety of well-known watercolor artists and instructors, who share their tips and techniques about painting.
Karen Kreamer, May 2022