The key to basic art techniques

Vinz Lamorena

Attending a single workshop—especially for a neophyte—makes one think you can be instantly manufactured into a skilled beginner right after the session’s hours.

But no matter how many workshops one will go to, no skill will be earned without the proverbial formula of time, patience, practice and dedication.

We met and learned from artists Patrick Cabral, Alessandra Lanot and Abbey Sy who taught the basics of flourishing, watercolor painting and hand-lettering in a workshop, respectively, and we took some notes to kickstart your creative venture:


What you need: markers of different points, fine liners, pencil, paper

Sy’s creative process can be simplified into three steps: Compiling font options, selecting font styles and creating a quote layout.

The trick is to create a library of letters in numerous, different font styles and designs (like Serif, Sans Serif, Script and Decorative). It’s okay if the difference of each is very minimal, as long as you get to create more options to use! This will make it easier to choose which ones you will put together later on.

To start a hand-lettered quote, one can come up with at least four font styles and four layout designs. The challenge is deciding which types and layouts are visually more appealing together.

Sy’s tips:
1. Start practicing with short phrases or quotes that only contain two to four words.
2. Print the whole alphabet of a computer font you wish to copy and use it as your guide.
3. Don’t be intimidated by the brush pen! It’s easier to attain the right boldness of strokes when you use it.
4. For blank spaces in your layout, you may fill it in with small waves, leaves or shapes that are related to your quote.

Watercolor painting

What you need: watercolor, watercolor paper, water brush

Lanot started her session by explaining the various specialized watercoloring materials which has specific characteristics that let you play around interesting techniques.

It’s better to use watercolor on thick paper, preferably 260 to 300 gsm, since it can hold water more and you won’t be worried about ripping your work. There are three kinds of watercolor paper—mainly rough, hot-pressed and cold-pressed—and thankfully all these are available in professional quality in the country.

Rough paper has a very textured surface and it doesn’t take a long time for the paint to dry on it. Because of its peaked surface, paint pigments stay mostly on the surface. “A lot of people like using it for paintings of nature, landscape paintings, because it retains much of the light of the colors,” Lanot said.

Hot-pressed paper dries up paint the fastest and is best used for travel sketching and works intended to have a lot of details. It’s also perfect for mixed media work because any material works on its smooth surface.

Cold-pressed paper “is slightly textured and is the most preferred of watercolor artists,” Lanot shared. The paint doesn’t get absorbed instantly and allows you to experiment with the mixing of colors.

“It’s the most flexible—you can adjust the thickness of the paint or the wateriness of the pigment as you wait for the paint to dry,” she said.

When Lanot started talking about paint, one would think that the watercolor sets you had when you were a child were a complete lie. Most bookstore-bought watercolor palettes are made to be digitized, so it fades after time. It also tends to be chalky.

Professional paint maintains its vibrant and luminous pigments years after it has been painted—really made to be displayed in galleries. Its colors also flow easier with water, giving it a more fluid finish.

Lanot also taught workshop participants how certain grips control parts of a paintbrush. Holding it in a 90-degree angle controls the tail (tip) of the brush more so it’s perfect for detailing and making small or thin strokes. While holding the brush higher or in a slanted angle makes you control the belly (wide middle) part of the brush, it is perfect for color washes.


Materials needed: Brush pen, pencil and paper; optional: an obsession with curls

Turns out the creative curls and waves that accompany letters have a term for it—Flourishes. And Cabral’s workshop on it was the shortest.

He taught the inverted triangle method where the shape is drawn under the whole word that is to be flourished. Two circles are placed inside the side tips of the triangle and this will determine where the flourish loops will be.

He then approached each participant to show how to correctly flourish their chosen words.

A few hours with these artists were definitely not enough to create brilliant crafters in an instant, but as the saying goes, “Allow yourself to be a beginner, no one starts excellent.”

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