Frequently Asked Questions
I'm starting out and I'd like to purchase my 1st watercolor set. What brands do you recommend?
Tight budget (P500/$9.5): Prang, Sakura Koi
Mid-range (P1,000-3,000/$18-60 per set): Shin-Han, Winsor & Newton Cotman, Holbein, Mijello Mission, and Sennelier
No budget cap (P300+/$6+ per tube): Shin-Han PWC, Winsor & Newton Artist, Daniel Smith, Old Holland, M. Graham, and Schmincke.
There are certain brands that I normally don't suggest due to too much extender and gum such as Pentel, Pebeo, Reeves, Daler Rowney Aquafine. If you feel that the paint on your brush feels like paste then there might be too much additives in your paint. Test paint and purchase according to your needs and style. Brand A's Yellow Ochre might be different from Brand B's, so it's OK to combine brands. Some cheaper brands might even work better than high-end ones, so keep exploring.
What paint do your students use in class whenever they're borrowing from you?
It depends on the partnership I have. In 2018, I’m partnered with Winsor and Newton, so my students only use Winsor and Netwon paints (which is a great brand, by the way!) In some cases, I let my students use Holbein and Shin-han PWC, which are both really great for watercolor as well. They're affordable and delivers well.
What brushes do you recommend for beginners? Should I buy expensive (animal hair) brushes at this point?
If you're starting out I suggest buying Round Polyamide or synthetic brushes like Pebeo, Winsor & Newton Cotman, Berkeley, Van Gogh, Raphael Kaerell. These cost Php150 ($2) a brush, or less. Avoid spending too much on brushes at the start. 2 round brushes (1 small and 1 big) and 1 flat brush (3/4"-1" width) is all you need. As long as your brush springs back when you wet it, then that's good. In all honesty, the level of brush you use at the start won't matter as much. You will start to feel the difference only after several months of constant use. If you have money to spend, by all means, buy the best you can. Although animal-hair brushes don't spring back as much as synthetics, which makes it very challenging for beginners.
When should I replace my brushes? How should I take care of my brushes? Should a buy a brush cleaner?
When you first buy your brush, the tip is usually sharp. After frequent use, the tip becomes dull. When your brushes are starting to have a dull tip, and they don't perform like they used to, then it's time to replace them. I usually replace mine every year. For animal hair brushes, try to avoid scrubbing them on rough paper to avoid hair breakage. Just wash your brush with clean running water. For stubborn paints, rinse with mild soap. No detergent. Most of the paint should be able to come off with clean running water. Never leave your brushes inside a cup of water. Apart from hair deterioration, the ferrule (metal part) can losen, the wood handle can bloat, crack and break.
How should I dry and store my brushes?
Drying flat on a table is still the best for me. You can also dry brushes pointing down using a brush holder (suspended in air). You can put them in a cup or case once it's dry. Do not store brushes in an airtight container. This would cause molding. When not using for a long time (ie. a year), store your brushes in a container or case with silica gel.
What type of paper is good for beginners? Does paper matter a lot?
For beginners who don't want to spend yet don't want to be disappointed, I always suggest Canson Montval (100% pulp) 300gsm. It's affordable (around P680 per A3 pad, or $8.4 in the US). The quality is decent and its density is great for beginners. I also recommend Strathmore Studio paper (100% pulp) for more realistic work.
If you'd like to level up to artist, I suggest buying 100% cotton paper like Arches, Fabriano, Strathmore Imperial, Hahnemuhle Cezanne, Saunders, etc. If you're scared to use expensive brands, Holbein Clester and Watson are very forgiving papers that aren't as absorbent as Arches. When I was starting out, I painted on acrylic paper because it's very dense and I got to understand how paint interacts more before absorption. Cotton absorbs paint fast so if you're new to watercolor, you might have a hard time with mistakes. Paper matters when you paint but I encourage beginners to use denser paper at the start (like pulp) so you can clearly see how paint interacts. It's also easier to lift or erase mistakes.
What other tips can you give on materials?
Less is more. My paint set has less than 20 colors and I only used 2 sets since I've started. I only add a color whenever I need it for a certain project. Buying too many colors at the start will only confuse you. I've had students who freeze when they mix colors because they don't know which red to use. Don't overstock on paper. Paper expires - especially here in the Philippines (and Southeast Asia) because of the humid weather. So be sure to store your paper in a cool, dry, dust-free place (or use dehumidifiers or desiccants). Use immediately and avoid storing for more than a year or two if you're in a humid location. Exercise your critical thinking by setting limitations and add materials intelligently according to your needs.
Watercolor Brushes: Escoda Optimo 10, 12, 14, Versatil flat 8, unbranded or China-produced nylon flat brushes.
Watercolor Paints: Holbein, Schmincke, Winsor and Newton Artist
Paper: Arches, Fabriano, Strathmore Mixed Media Journal, Moleskine
Oil Paint Brushes: Holbein Silver, Raphael
Oil Paints: Winsor and Newton Artist, Gamblin, Schmincke, M. Graham, Holbein (for novelty colors only)
My essential colors: Vermilion, Cadmium Red Light, Aurelin Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Viridian, Prussian Blue, Ultramarine, Dioxazine Violet, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Chinese White (PW6 or PW18)
WORKSHOPS / CLASSES
Do you offer workshops?
Only for special collaborations.
How do I reserve a slot for your workshop? Can I reserve in advance?
You can join an open class by filling up an application form either from this website or from a workshop partner. There is no option to reserve in advance. Once you have successfully signed up, you will be given 3 business days to complete your payment. If we haven't heard from you after your deadline, your slot will be automatically released to the next applicant in line.
Do you teach drawing in classes?
Yes, I always teach drawing. It’s easier to paint if you know how to draw.
All your classes are closed and/or full. Can I still apply?
Yes you can still apply but you will be waitlisted. You will be prioritized whenever there is an upcoming class or if another student forgoes his/her slot.
How do I pay?
Advanced payment through bank deposit or Paypal.
I'm already 60 years old. Is it too late to join your class and start watercolor?
No, of course not. I've taught students who are 65 and they've wonderfully progressed in just a few days. There is no age limit to learning. As long as you can hold a brush then there's no stopping you.
What is the medium of instruction in class?
For most classes I speak in English. For more intimate and relaxed classes, I speak Tagalog and English. Whenever I have foreign students, I strictly speak English.
Do you give certificates of attendance?
I am not an educational institution; therefore, not authorized to issue certificates. I can write and sign letters of attendance or recommendation if you need one for your work or application.
We're a brand and we'd like to collaborate with you. Can you teach at our venue?
It depends on the type of event. Please contact me with the details of your event.
Is your studio available for rent?
How long have you (Valerie Chua) been practicing art?
I've been painting with watercolors for a little over 8 years. I've been drawing for 10 years.
What was your 1st job? How long have you been working professionally?
Inventory manager in an electronics store and a gallery manager for a closed gallery back in 2012. I've been working as a full-time commercial illustrator since 2012 and painter since 2015.
Is it confusing to do commercial work and gallery work at the same time?
Yes, very much. I don’t suggest going this route. I can’t sit still doing 1 thing which is why I do this.
How did you get started with watercolor?
I started watercoloring mid-college. I am a BA Humanities graduate. Before that, I was working towards a marketing major, then to Humanities. I love drawing and I’m a huge graphic novel fan so one of my earlier goals was to create illustrations for graphic novel covers. I brought paint to school and painted on my handouts.
What books do you recommend for drawing?
Andrew Loomis' books on structural figure drawing are great. Kimon Nicolaides is great for more gestural work and regimen. If you're a total beginner, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards is very helpful especially on learning how to see. I saw this at our university library (which, ironically, is in a business school). This helped me a lot at the start.
What do you recommend for practice to improve?
My foundation is mostly concept art and comic book art so most of my knowledge came from figure drawing. Devote an hour of your day drawing something you're not fond of. This will expand your visual vocabulary in length and would prime your brain for conceptual work. And of course, clock in the hours. Consenscious hard work beats talent.
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