Plein air watercolor artist Barbara Tapp loves the transparency of this medium, as it gives her endless possibilities for achieving depth and form. 

Plein Air Watercolor Inspo: Barbara Tapp

Painting style: I consider myself primarily a realist plein air watercolor painter. I paint in a loose, transparent color wash style complemented by accurate perspective rendering and brushwork.

I focus on capturing stories in mainly urban and industrial environments, choosing and editing my subjects carefully to support my vision.

How watercolor contributes to my personal aesthetic: I have a strong foundation in drawing skills as an architectural renderer. The transparency and application of watercolor through washes enables me to see the linework beneath and allows me to continue drawing throughout the process as the painting dries.

Barbara Tapp, "Hay Bale Hauler," watercolor, 12 x 16 in.
Barbara Tapp, “Hay Bale Hauler,” watercolor, 12 x 16 in.

How watercolor enhances my preferred way of working: My plein air process starts with a rough sketch followed by a complex drawing that sometimes takes over an hour to complete. I then use flat brushes to layer abstract wet-into-wet washes across the entire paper, providing me a color-coded background on which to work.

Once this is dry, I continue to draw or paint my design. Working to achieve complex color and layered texture with watercolor, I respond to its spontaneous, reactive, and explosive nature.

How watercolor is particularly well-suited to painting en plein air: When I traveled for 18 months around Europe at the age of 24, I painted in sketchbooks using my pan box of Winsor & Newton watercolors and got hooked on painting from life. Watercolor dries fast and is clean, easily transportable, and compact, making it perfect for this pursuit.

Plein air watercolor - Barbara Tapp, "Borrego Springs Treasures," 2021, 9 x 14 in., private collection
Barbara Tapp, “Borrego Springs Treasures,” 2021, watercolor, 9 x 14 in., private collection, plein air

“The Barbara Tapp Watercolor Method” is Barbara’s signature approach to watercolor painting … and it’s going to turn your watercolor world around. Click here to discover a non-traditional process that goes against everything you’ve learned, and is guaranteed to make your watercolor painting experience a journey of discovery.

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