Watercolour wanderings-before I set off

I have been an urban sketcher for several years now and as such I use watercolour to tint my sketches.  I’ve talked about it on my blog here.  Sometimes I put colour down first and sometimes after line work but I definitely wouldn’t say I am a watercolour painter.  That is a whole different ball game!  I am interested in developing my watercolour painting skills but I don’t yet know where this will take me.  For the moment I’m just going with it.    Earlier in the year I made a start but now I am taking  a somewhat broader approach to my learning.

My interest in watercolour goes back a few years ( starting with an unfortunate one week watercolour painting holiday which taught me little about the medium- enough said!!).  I’ve never grappled much with the technicalities of watercolour( until now); knowing the very basics of techniques and colour but nothing more – preferring to rely on happy accidents ( which only takes you so far!).  To be brutally honest it’s been a pretty random approach, perhaps driven by my fear of the traditional!  From what I can gleen, it takes a long time to get anywhere close to competent at watercolour painting!  So why would I?…what would make me start on any journey with such tenuous chances of success and that takes so long to master (is the later even possible?)-hopefully I’ll just keep striving for a better painting!

Watercolour-What’s the big attraction?

My interest in watercolour stems from several things:

  • Its ‘fit’ as a medium for me-as a spontaneous versatile and relatively simple painting approach (I think I’m going to regret saying that!)-you can do a painting in a day!
  • The transparency of the paint enabling layers of colour to be created
  • Its ability to convey convincing light and reflection making it magical in many situations
  • The wonderful rich colours that can be created/used to stunning effect
  • The opportunity to let the paint to do its own thing without controlling its movement entirely, a kind of tightrope balancing act!
  • That wonderful impressionistic effects you can get where you can see the textured brush strokes and the layers and splodges and the viewer fills in more details.

This blog is about my preparation for ‘that ‘journey.  The ‘tool kit’ I’m starting with if you like!  – I packed my bag and in it I put……it’s the step before the nuts and bolts of paper, paint and brushes. -Who and what will be my teachers?

Watercolour painting-Some helpful experts (texts)

I guess I am the sort of person that often likes to surround myself with information on a subject (within reason!). So I like the idea of finding those artists that speak to me and trying to learn from them.  To that end I have texts of several well known watercolour painters.  Whilst there is some overlap in the approaches they take, I have specific learning I would like to get from each of them:

Watercolour Painting_lizAckerley

Jeanne Dobie Making Colour Sing

 This is the most wonderful text that covers both colour and composition in depth.  There are 31 chapters, each covering a specific aspect of painting with colour or composition.  The early chapters are all about the practicalities of colour and colour mixing: from creating greens to the darkest darks.  Jeanne has what she calls a pure pigment palette of colours and I have decided to revert to this to learn how to mix colours and the technicalities of them (transparency, opacity, staining power etc).  This one is going to take me a long time to work through!

Watercolourpainting_lizAckerley

Tom Hoffmann  Watercolour Painting

I love this book for its strategic approach to the medium and the endless wise snippets dotted throughout stunning images (not all his, a great range is presented and discussed).  It isn’t a how too, technical book but teaches awareness of the different aspects of the medium.  The focus is on discussion about 4 basic variables: value, wetness, colour and composition.  Its the sort of book you can actually read from cover to cover (and I am making my way through it.  I’d be faster if I didn’t keep going back and forth!).

 

Shirley Trevena Taking Risks with watercolour

Who doesn’t like Shirley’s work?! I love her encouragement of an experimental approach and her mixed media work.  She isn’t a purist but encourages a creative approach to developing a painting.  Spattering, lifting colour, smearing and speckling are all used to create texture.  Her use of other media including pencils and pastels appeals to my interest in creating texture and collage (probably stemming back to my days as a landscape designer).  I have only just started to dip into this one but it seems like a wonderful treasure trove of a book!

watercolour painting _shirleyTrevena

Jeanne Haines Atmospheric Watercolours

 I have had this book for a while and love the looseness, life and vibrancy of Jeanne’s work and her use of water! I talked about it and about a short course I attended locally by Judith Farnworth here on my blog back in April.  To me, this artist/text offers something slightly different but complementary to the other works.  I am using this text as a way of learning more.

Watercolourpainting_JudithHaines

John Lovett blog: Splashing Paint  

Oh my goodness, talk about eye candy for the soul!!  stunning paintings are created with an impressive use of light. The blog covers specific aspects of painting, from brushes to mixing greys!  I’ve only just started to dip into it but I love it so far!

Of course this is just a start but it provides an initial focus and rationale for learning.  The problem with having too many is that it becomes somewhat confusing and a reason to read instead of paint!  I’m trying to balance that one by painting every time I do some reading about it!  I’ve also just ordered Michael Rearden’s Watercolour techniques book for its practical focus on the medium.  I am hoping it will complement my other texts.  Of course all of this won’t make me a great painter, but I am keen to get to understand the medium and how to use it to better effect.  I am hoping that maybe one day, my own style will come out of it.

What those that know about watercolour say (Quotes)

I love art quotes don’t you?!  My thinking here is that when I see quotes that speak to me and have a useful lesson to share, I will write them down to help me remember those lessons.  Here are a few that I’ve recorded so far:

‘Using The Brain more than the Brush makes the difference’ Jeanne Dobie

‘Most good paintings are based on sound draftsmanship’  Shirley Travena

‘Some information is essential, but most of it is optional.  Discovering which is which is largely a matter of getting out of your own way’  Tom Hoffmann

‘I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them’ Pablo Picasso

‘Colours are like jewels: each should be placed as carefully as a precious gem in a setting’  Jean Dobie

Watercolour Eye Candy (Pinterest collections)

Of course everyone interested in painting, studies endless paintings and tries to learn from them (don’t they?!).  I have started a pinterest board of some of my favourite artists work as a further source of inspiration and a way to clarify my preferences. It’s here.  I will be adding many others as I study them.

Some other stuff

There are so many resources out there.  I am planning to dip into Magazines (e.g. The Art of Watercolour), exhibitions, specialist websites, catalogues (Jackson’s do a great one) and YouTube etc as and when I need them.  No doubt I will be sharing some of the gems as I find them!

This is the first of a series about my watercolour painting approaches.  I hope you will follow along as I start my exciting journey!

6 thoughts on “Watercolour wanderings-before I set off

    1. Hi Tony, thanks for your comment. Yes I am familiar with Ann’s work. I guess I have tried to be a little bit focused because, as I mention in my blog, you can end up going round in circles with too much material to look at and understand! I may well add her to my list in the future as I do like her textural work.

  1. I’m really looking forward to seeing where this journey takes you! And I’m impressed by the somewhat systematic approach to self-study that you are taking. I sketched with watercolor for quite a while before I realized that all I was really doing was using paint the way I might color in a coloring book with crayons — draw an outline, then color within the lines. With that approach, I realized, other media are much easier to use — such as colored pencils or markers. For the past year, I took the paints out of my kit, and I’ve been focused on using only colored pencils and watercolor pencils, and I’m so much happier and getting better results. I guess it just took a while to understand what kind of medium best suits my sketching style. Good luck on your painting adventure!

    – Tina

    1. Hi Tina, thanks for your comments. How interesting that you have decided to focus upon coloured pencils (love the images you post) and I can see the appeal. Although I didn’t mention it in my blog, I think I may come away somewhat from watercolour for sketching (unless colour first) and use more coloured pencils/crayons etc. I see that I will see my watercolour more of a painting rather than a sketching medium. I’m also interested in collage for sketching but that’s another story. I will keep you posted.

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