I've played with a lot of different media including pencil crayon, acrylics, water-oils and the like, but I always seem to come back to watercolours. Here are my top six reasons why!
A little can go a long way. I'm currently using a tiny little travel box of Cotman watercolours that I purchased a few years ago. They are still going strong! You do need watercolour paper if you want to get the most out of the paints, but any heavy weight papers will do the trick. They cost significantly less than stretched canvas and oil paints.
Con: They need to be framed, which is a whole new beast to tackle.
Acrylic paint was fun, but my biggest regret was having to store all of those huge canvases in my tiny apartment! Switching to small watercolours meant I could paint to my heart's content and store them flat inside a binder. If something doesn't work out, they can be easily recycled or used in my art journal. Mailing them is a cinch!
Well, ok. There was a time where I was carrying around a little cup and looking for a place to fill it with water (oceans & rivers, heh). It was certainly awkward. But then a good friend bought me a waterbrush which is such a wonderful invention! Watercolour on the go! No awkward cups filled with sea water anymore. The travel boxes often cost less than their full sized versions and click safely shut before storing in a purse or bag. Water soluble crayons are an even better option for travel.
While you should not underestimate their ability to stain clothing, watercolours are a pretty safe medium. Unlike oils, there are no unpleasant odors. Unlike acrylics, they don't entice the artist to paint with his/her fingers, which means there is much less chance of cadmium, lead or other bad things soaking into your skin. Just don't place your cup of water next to your cup of tea or you might drink the wrong one!
When my mom bought me tubes of watercolour during high school, I wasn't sure how to use them. In fact, I still prefer to use dry cakes because of how familiar they are to the paintboxes from elementary school. I played with them in the same sketchbooks I'd use my pencil crayons, and that sketchbook got so wet over time that the spine fell off. My first official lesson was in a high school art class. We taped with the awful brown tape, we soaked the papers in the sink, we practiced all the different "methods" of painting and colour overlays and what not. I hated it. It was so controlled and boring that it's no wonder so many people feel intimidated by watercolour!
I never got consistent results from the brown tape so I switched to masking tape. I never soak my papers. I don't paint wet-on-wet or use plastic palettes to make little diluted puddles. It's as if all of those rules were just begging to be broken!
People have asked me: "Watercolour is impossible to control... what is the secret?"
Here's the secret: don't control it. Play first! When using good quality materials, even an accidental splash of colour will yield the nicest textures. I don't know what it is about watercolour, but I love all of the doodles I make with them. If I dab them with a paper towel, the pattern in the towel will be left behind. If I flick water onto the wet paint, it will create pretty little waterspots (less messy than using salt, anyway). Simply spray with a bottle or drip down a page - you'll love it, I promise.