Watercolour is often viewed as if it occupies its own little vacuum.
I remember a well-known artist friend collecting his paintings after a show:
“I’m here to collect my paintings”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m here to collect my paintings”
“Oh you mean your watercolours”
As if watercolours are not paintings and are separate, not even a category – not art, nor paintings – urk!
However, oddly enough, painted with a brush (in most cases!).
It’s a common weird nonsensical bit of claptrap. Mamma mia!!
Sometimes it feels like watercolour painters are set up for this. A popular art show I used to enter had a “professional” category for Oils/Acrylics. Does this make me not a professional artist? For a while I entered the professional category just to state my case and annoy them, really it’s just ignorance (mine or theirs??). I was particularly miffed to discover that my well-known watercolour artist Uncle started that show in 1954 (or thereabouts)!! Instead of being hailed the Queen (lol), my bags packed and cast into the snow!!
My point is, no matter your medium (pastel, music, poetry, blogging, sculpture, watercolour or oils) art is art and all need the same kind of thought and emotive language – darkness brings the light, grey accentuates chromatic colour, dominance emphasises an accent, indications are mysterious.
All art forms follow a set of guidelines (rules to be broken). Visual art is no different, we follow design principles created to help novice (and not-so novice) artists use pictorial or visual language to tell a story via visual impact.
In particular, today, I’m talking about colour charging. My 2 ideas for you today are:
The watercolour painter has to be patient (I’ll just leave now!) and focussed and wait for the water-to-paint-to-brush-to-paper ratio to be just right. Mostly novice watercolour painters are taught to “let it dry” which is the biggest mistake ever. I say this because this damp time is the fun-zone of watercolour and you are missing out my friend! Boo!!
Partly the issue lies in our process and planning and partly our lack of brush miles and then sometimes our courage flies out the window. But this FUN-ZONE is where the magic happens, what you and I have to do is be present and pay attention to what we’re doing and what’s happening on the paper. This level of focus is where you’ll learn the poetry of watercolour – choose your focal point and play with it.
How fun would it be to paint a lemon with a dab of orange, a bigger dab of a cooler yellow and a master stoke of cool pink for a shadow?
ciao belli pitturi!!
edited from my original post 070115
It’s really hard to create a painting about a subject I have no interest in, having said that, I can make myself want to paint a particular subject simply by working through a research process and getting to know and appreciate the subject.
Imagine what it would be like for me to be told Country & Western theme ... ?**$#@!!**^??
Guess what? You can get fired up about any subject too!!
While I was still working in the corporate world but dabbling in watercolour painting, I was thrilled that my tutor would supply the subject matter. It meant one less thing for me to worry about, all I had to do was turn up every week and she'd have an amazing array of cool stuff she had pulled together for us. Barbara was a tremendous creative facilitator.
Another upside to this was that I learned to accept what was in front me, whether I liked it or not, this was no time to be fussing and complaining, I had 3 hours of painting time in front me, better get to it quick!
In writing this post I realise too, part of my inspiration for a subject came from our group discussion about the subject and everyone's ideas. Some of my best painting experiences have been painting in a group.
The more research I do about a particular subject the more passionate and determined I become to paint it. I fall in love with the subject ... it could be something as simple (?) as a brick wall or the way the light falls on a glass and the shapes and colours it creates. The intricacies of a subject become fascinating, although I don’t paint a lot of detail (this must have been written a while back!), I go through a process of studying the detail and deciding what I will leave out, what to include and which details describe my message best for that piece of art.
Typically my research might include a small sketch or two on site as well as a bigger more formed sketch I call a plein air painting. When I’m in my studio, if I’m painting from my imagination, I create lots of doodles and lots of composition thumbnails. I’m reluctant to paint scenes from a photo preferring to paint en plein air, not always possible and although I’m wary, I’m very happy with a lot of them.
For me, there is a driving force to create and always has been. Among other creative endeavours, I’ve always drawn and painted. It seems stronger now than ever and I think this may be, in part, because I work as a professional artist creating and painting most days - total immersion is good!
My brain is more switched on to looking for subject matter and planning my next work – everywhere I see a painting waiting to be painted. The more I look for subjects the sooner they appear - the more I paint the more ideas I get.
One of the reasons I love watercolour painting is the speed at which I can achieve a painting. If and when I'm clever, I can have a painting today! It took me a long time to get to this point - I've been painting watercolour close to 30 years - it's not an overnight process!!
A huge obstacle for watercolour newbies is allowing the watercolour to have it's way. There's a saying "before I paint, I'm in control, once I put that brush down the watercolour takes over". The secret is, until you get a really good feel for water balance in your brushes, paint and paper, you need to let go and stop trying to control the uncontrollable. Watercolour, as it should be painted, will be difficult for you.
Embrace "mistakes" and "accidents", runs and bleeds and allow the painting to speak to you and tell you what it wants.
Have another read of my webpage "About Me" and note the last sentence - "I love watching paint dry!"
Stop fiddling and controlling and start watching what the paint does and note that where the water goes the paint will follow. You'll start to notice the really cool effects and passages - watercolours will paint themselves if we let them and they'll certainly do it much better than we can!
When we're painting watercolour it's time to stop and smell the roses!
The scary secret is, you might not get the results you wanted or expected and you certainly might not know what to do next - that's the shock of it!! Use your artist's sense of composition, value structure and design to decide next steps - does it need more darks or lights? are the shapes correct? is it balanced and unified, etc etc.
Make a cuppa and watch the paint dry!!
ciao i miei belli amici!!
PaintBox Tips, secrets, random thoughts,
Poetry in watercolour is made in the freedom of the here and now. Amanda Brett
Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working - Pablo Picasso
There are no mistakes in watercolour, just some extra surprises!!
What my readers and viewers have to say
Your emails are so informative! I must confess I've watched a couple of your demos from beginning to end, and it makes me want to watercolor!!! I've only ever painted with oil or acrylics and haven't know how to begin with WC. Your content is excellent!
Thank you for your tips. They inspired me to practise and I realised I haven’t been loading the brush properly. I learnt about adding more paint, and not water, to washes. In today’s tips I like the idea of painting with purpose. Your tips are very helpful. I very much appreciate receiving them. Elizabeth
Hi Amanda I enjoyed your post and generous tips. Looked up Dan Burt I begin to see that you can colour any subject to give it pizazz so long as the tone and form is correct Certainly adding value now to my attempts Thanks heaps Annie
Yes very wise words. Agree with not fussing and agree with comments about good quality paint. Well written and inspirational as always. Cheers Janet xxxx
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