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Now, about watercolor:
Many believe it to be an impermanent, fading medium, best suited for “little old ladies” and kids to dabble around with. The truth is it’s a permanent, demanding medium whose lovely and unique flowing property makes it more than a vehicle for quick sketches in the field.
That particular liquid quality seems to make it somewhat more difficult to master. In the beginning, frustration is common, and only with practice and experience can one become confident and at ease with its “eccentricities,” though risk is always there (as with all good art).
Watercolor’s transparent nature makes corrections and improvements difficult, though there are many ways—erasing, scrubbing, opaques and pastels. Pre-planning is therefore very important, at least for the technical sequence of application.
It’s somewhat like a bratty little kid who means no harm, but sometimes gets out of control. Maybe that’s why I like it!
The partial “surprise” quality of watercolor perhaps reflects a direct line to one’s own subconscious creative self that can bloom with the paint itself if not held down by too much thought and logic. These watercolor “accidents” or natural blending and mingling of the colors should be recognized and considered useful to the end concept of the painting.
The simple tools for watercolor make it ideal for plein-air work, or for times when a quick, dashed in sketch is the intent. That first intuitive “blurt” is so important. Often the sketch for a painting turns out better than the finished piece; overworking can be the demise of an otherwise great painting.
It’s the very “wateriness” inherent to the medium that makes it unique. I try to utilize this flowing quality with a broad, “strokey” style that is in partnership with the paint and its response to the paper. The secret of a good watercolor, I think, is to realize a “controlled spontaneity” of the pigment—to “go with the flow,” and to see that what is happening is an echo of your own emotional reaction to a time and place. We learn to watch for these gifts from the emerging painting and leave them unmolested. Sometimes the paper seems to take control; if it feels right, follow it, and allow the painting to speak for your inner self.
Watercolor is a demanding, a commanding, and an important medium. It is beautifully versatile, and can be played softly in a high key with a delicate touch, or dramatically, with heavy contrasts and loud colors equal to any heavy-handed oil or acrylic. Its unique qualities should have the appreciation and respect it deserves. Winslow Homer might agree.