10 Minute Watercolor Painting

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If you’re busy with family, job, social obligations and all the other stuff life seems to throw at you,there’s probably little time to devote to painting.

There always seems to be a valid and rational reason why you just don’t get a chance to paint. If you’re busy with all those other commitments, and you like to sleep more than just a few hours a night, you might think there isn’t time to fling paint.

Think again – you may have time and just don’t realize it!

Spend Time Painting, Not Cleaning

Sure, it’s a pleasure to leisurely work on a lovely or exciting oil painting, but there’s a lot of prep work and cleanup to contend with each time you pick up the brush.

There are turps and oils to carefully set out, the judicious draping of drop cloths to prevent painting mishaps, and of course, the tedious and time-consuming clean-up routine. Add to that drying time between sessions, and you’re probably working yourself up to a headache just thinking about it.

Speedy Painting With Watercolor

With watercolor, you don’t need a lot of prep time or clean-up time. You also don’t need much space, and there are no lingering fumes with which to contend. The very best part is you can spend as little time as you have available and still produce lively and colorful pieces.

Give Yourself Just 10 Minutes

A common problem with watercolor is overworking. When you only allow yourself 10 minutes, there’s very little danger of blending it to death. When you repeatedly go over a section, the colors become muddy, and you quickly lose that sparkle that is so elemental in watercolor. This time limit exercise keeps you from lingering and getting bogged down with unnecessary details.

To paint quickly, you need to break everything down to the bare essentials, and this includes your equipment and supplies. Confine yourself to a limited palette. You can do a great deal with just two or three primary colors. Monochromatic painting also allows you to focus on composition, value and texture without worrying about getting the local color ‘just right.’

Choose a couple of brushes that you can use for the entire painting. Using the largest brushes you can make short work of completing a passage. You don’t need to mess about with a tiny brush and zillions of meticulous strokes.

Work Small And Smart

Think small. You’re certainly not going to create a massively sized painting in just 10 minutes. You can purchase a small watercolor sketchbook, or cut up a couple of larger sheets into uniform dimensions and work with just one size format. I seem to get comfortable with a size and shape with continued use, and I feel more at ease composing within that specific, known area.

By using small pieces of paper, you’re not wasting a lot of material. You can even use the backs of the paper when you’re not happy with the results on the first side.

Composition – K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple, Silly!)

When designing your painting, it pays to remember your ABC’s:

Accuracy or Ambiguity

With only a few minutes to create a work of art, you don’t have much time for detailing. While you may not be able to paint the details of a subject, you can strive to capture the essence of it. If the subject requires details to portray the spirit, you need to distill the details to the least amount possible.

If the painting has several subjects, not all need to be in full focus. Use ambiguity to describe those objects that are not the focal point, but direct some detail to the main focus of the composition.


Depending on your subject matter, you may choose to eliminate the background entirely, or simply flick in a quick wash to indicate a shadow beside or beneath the item.

It’s also common to use a large brush and whisk in a watery smudge of colors that gives some interest to the background without imposing any definite shape or purpose other than directing the viewer to the focal point.

Spattering and sponging paint is also another quick means of adding colorful interest to the background.


Your composition should be simple and not challenging. Painting intricate shapes to appear three-dimensional and realistic can take a lot of time and consideration that you just don’t have. A complex composition requires a good bit of adjustment to render the individual components, and shadowing and details take time and refinement.

There are also a couple of other considerations to include:


While you’re pondering your next piece, make sure you’ve determined your painting’s focal point. Know what’s most important in the composition and structure the components to accentuate it.


You’re not going to make a detailed drawing of your composition, but you need to determine the subject’s proportion to your paper and the other elements that may be in the composition.

Knowing When To Stop

You already know that you’re going to stop after 10 minutes, so what’s up with this admonition? Students tend just to keep working and working and working, expecting that somehow, by continuing to fling water and paint at a composition, it will magically emerge as a masterpiece.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. As you continue to paint, and especially if you continue this 10-minute exercise over a period of time, you’ll develop a sense of when to put on the brakes.

It’s not something that comes easily – believe me; I just love to paint a subject to death. However, the more often you put down your brush, step back and critically examine your work, the sooner you’ll come to see that more is not necessarily better.

So, get out those watercolors that have been languishing in the back of your closet. Spend a few minutes sketching a rough composition, and then set your timer. You only need 10 minutes of free time and a little bit of inspiration to get started back on the road to painting. You may be surprised at just what fun it is and how much you can accomplish!

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