Most paintings, whether watercolors or other media, fail even before the first brushstroke is applied. How come? Beginners, but often even advanced painters as well, tend to want to imitate reality. I think this is not the purpose of painting. A painting demands something else: transformation through selection and reduction. Ask yourself: “what do I leave out, what do I add, what do I change in order to make a good painting”. The result will always be more “beautiful” than reality, and show a decorative and monumental quality. Generally this simplifying of reality comes down to LARGER SHAPES AND LIMITED TONAL VALUE AND COLOR. So the first lesson is: Limit yourself to the main shapes and leave out many details. Don’t use too many nuances of value: a light, a middle, and a dark value are enough. Limit yourself to a harmonious color palette of three to at most five colors. As you can see, you have to tweak reality a little for better results. To this end, I always make small preliminary sketches using a soft pencil. I often use a carpenter’s pencil to avoid getting fussy with too many details. In my experience, painting based on such a preliminary sketch gives a better result than painting directly from reality, which gives way too much visual information. You will have guessed that I prefer a suggestive rendering to a detailed one. By the way, fewer brushstrokes means fewer chances of making mistakes. In short, elimination of all unnecessary elements results in an “economical beauty”, which makes the subject more beautiful than it is in reality.