What makes watercolor art so unique is its unforgiving nature, lines, marks, colors and forms must be applied to perfection the first time itself, as any attempt to paint over simply makes the whole effect muddied. Made of pigments suspended in a water-based solution, the distinctive medium of watercolor can be applied to almost anything — a canvas to paper, fabrics to even woods. The tiny pigments interact in an exciting fashion creating magical effects that are often impossible to reproduce. No, wonder the watercolor portrait painting and landscapes are simply breath-taking. Furthermore, watercolor is perhaps the most common, next to the drawing, and the simplest method of creation in terms of what supplies you need —  a supporting base, usually paper, a pair of brushes, some paints, and, of course, aqua!

One of the earliest known painting mediums and artworks in the world, watercolor is said to originate about 1.4 million years ago as the cave paintings of paleolithic Europe. However, it began its journey as a recognized art form with the Renaissance, finding its existence throughout the centuries to follow, with a major bump in its status in the 19th century. Today, we are familiar with the famous watercolor portrait paintings and other artworks by great painters like Albrecht Dürer, John James Audubon, William Blake, J.M.W. Turner, Elizabeth Murray, James Whistler, John Singer Sargent, Paul Klee, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Edward Hopper. This style of painting found its way among the avant-garde movements as well, such as late modernist Neo-Expressionism, with talented artists Francesco Clemente, Julian Schnabel, Gerhard Richter, Eric Fischl and Anselm Kiefer at the helm. With time, there has been significant development of the medium’s characteristics, watercolors are now as durable and colorful as the versatile mediums of oil or acrylic paints which enables the contemporary watercolor artists to play around and get more involved. Many artists of this 21st century continue to practice watercolor art as the primary or one of their artistic interests. Ubiquitous in every studio and gallery that sells paintings online, watercolor is taking not just the art but also the fashion, and home décor worlds by storm.

We have compiled a list of today’s top watercolor artists from every corner of the world.

  • Larry Bell

Best known for his glass boxes and large-scale minimalist illusionistic sculptures, Larry Bell also does intricate works of art on paper canvas, employing mixed media and watercolors. Primarily inspired by his inclination toward the post-World War II art movement of Abstract Expressionism, his works depict geometric compositions and stand right its cube combined three-dimensional glass form, known as Cube sculptures. Bell is also known to be the pioneer of ‘vapor drawings’ and ‘mirage works’, which involve the use of the technique of thin-film deposition and the coloring sheets of different paper materials, strips of polyester resin- PET and even laminate film. Very often, he produced a collage of these materials wherein the drawing occupied a small portion of their surface.

  • Nadine Faraj

Sex images is most probably the most explored subject in the history of art, but in the case of Canadian artist Nadine Faraj, it is transformed into trivializing watercolor paintings with a more humane element to it. This technique is Faraj’s main focus where the spilled watercolors float over paper surface, forming nude bodies engaged in erotic intimacy. Their provocative note ends up in the backdrop, while the vibrant patches of watercolors represent the whole narrative with some sensitivity, sensuality. These artworks by Faraj can now be seen all over the world and available in galleries that sell paintings online, recognized for their distinctive visual ambivalence of portraying sex and sexuality. Some of her recent works have addressed the issues of human rights, LGBTQI discrimination, feminism, and even body positivity.

  • Sukran Moral

Sukran Moral is the most interesting figure of contemporary Turkish art today. With her areas of interest spanning from everything out of order, or norms of the acceptable such as the mentally ill, the alienation and exclusion of displaced immigrants, transsexuals, and prostitutes, Moral is a woman who is fearless while speaking her mind among the conservatives. Although her watercolor paintings perhaps do not have a significant part in her practice, it is extremely powerful and provocative, often breaking the boundaries just like her uncompromising performances, installations, videos and poetry. Her artistic ideas are deeply rooted in the concept of feminism, where she strongly challenges the patriarchal traditions, many of her artworks also explores the way religion affects women in her country, and herself in particular.

  • Cecily Brown

Distinctly abstract and representational simultaneously, the artworks of Cecily Brown incorporates watercolor portrait paintings — nudes, fragmented bodies and figures (often in erotic postures) immersed in rich colors and highly expressive brushstrokes. Imbued with a constant flow of colors, forms, marks, and lines, it usually takes a viewer a while to understand the aesthetics of what they are experiencing. Though her artworks display the influence of a variety of painters, her watercolor art seems to be more focused on natural issues, flowers, animals, hares. Perhaps inspired by the works of Albert Dürer, Brown's watercolor paintings tend to be more subtle and simpler in color but less figurative in depiction, displaying a sense of ambiguity — chaos that found its existence in the harmony of colors. Primarily a painter who works on canvas and paper, Brown also produces prints, which can easily be accessed by those who want to buy art online.

  • Don Jess Bachardy

The name of Don Bachardy is synonymous with the biggest movie industry in the world, it is due to his most famous collection of watercolor portrait painting, which features the most familiar faces of Hollywood. Starting his artistic career in the midst of the 20th-century art movement of Abstract Expressionism, his portraiture had strong elements of figurative art. Ever since Bachardy has been managing to express the powerful emotions through the faces of many who were willing to be his sitter, those often being a pain, suffering, even anguish which includes musicians, artists, and ordinary people as well. All these feelings are represented by a bold use of watercolors, in such a way that he is considered in depicting the inner state of his subjects and is counted as one of the best in the field.

  • Dima Rebus

A young artist born in Russia, Dima Rebus creates watercolor paintings that float somewhere between reality and the surreal. Often unsettling, his paintings depict humans and their eerie situations, accompanied by cheeky titles that question the contemporary times and societies we live in. Rebus also creates illustrations for few magazines and publishing houses, one of his works became the image of the film Saints & Strangers which was aired on the National Geographic Channel and premiered in 2015. Inspired at times by his Russian roots, with an impeccable technique he creates an extremely detailed and thought-provoking art portraying his unique vision of the contemporary world.

  • Lourdes Sanchez

Lourdes Sanchez is another brilliant, poetic artist. Currently residing in Brooklyn, the works of this Cuban-born artist are best described as — swarm of flowers, some evoking retro designs of wallpapers, some resembling the ink stains, with others looking like patterns of color, saturated stripes, drops, and circles. According to her profile on her website, she is focusing on fine art painting, although her watercolor creations are the ones that are blowing everyone’s mind, desperately wanting to hang on their walls. Undoubtedly, Sanches is beautifully poetic, serene, and incredibly capable to represent all that often through a quite narrow palette.

  • Amy Park

Known for her carefully rendered and executed to perfection, large-scale watercolor paintings depicting iconic architecture, Amy works exclusively from photographs. Her subjects include Donald Judd’s structures in Marfa, experimentally designed houses across California, popular icons of Modernist architecture, architectural photos by Julius Schulman, urban landscape of New York City, and much more. Her watercolor paintings are based on her own photographs of these major landmarks, structures, and skyscrapers, and it is simply captivating how she manages to paint them with such precision incorporating intensely saturated hues.

  • Antonio Calderara

A self-taught Modernist painter, Antonio Calderara has also worked as a draftsman and a graphic designer. This Italian artist is famous for his non-figurative imagery, inspired by the works of Russian avant-garde artist Kazimir Malevich, Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. Hence, most of his works are based on geometric abstract art and also employ the power of color field painting. After his participation at the art exhibition of Venice Biennale in 1959, he limited his art practice to the use of two-dimensional squares and silkscreening serigraph works. As a watercolor artist, Calderara uses the same visual ideas and techniques producing imagery on paper and cardboard.

  • Ekaterina Smirnova

A large-scale watercolor artist, works of Ekaterina Smirnova are inspired by space and the position of humans within such an expansive void. She is famous for painting with large hardware brushes on rough textured paper, employing the techniques of splashing, spraying, wiping and washing. Most of her works are huge, often 2,5 meters tall rolls of paper, which lets her go beyond the medium’s physical boundaries. According to Smirnova’s website, she has recently started implementing electronics into her watercolor paintings, owing to her collaborations with reputed scientists, musicians, and engineers. Undoubtedly, her work is the perfect example of how this art form can get as contemporary as ever.

Creating transcendent compositions, each of these artists is redefining the contemporary art scene in his/her own distinctive style!