Thursday, August 20, 2009

Painting with Water

I recently searched an artist who was a huge influence on me when I started painting, the Australian watercolourist Joseph Zbukvic, and discovered that he's posted a beautiful website. It's well worth a look.

Like so many new painters, I started out in watercolour. It seemed more accessible than oils which have the intimidating mystique of the Old Masters clinging to them. I wish I'd known then that I was choosing the most challenging medium there is. Watercolour painting is an edge-of-your-seat art: you lay down a stroke of wet paint, making it much darker than you want because it lightens by 30% or more when drying. While it's wet, you drop in other colours, soften edges in key places and tilt and move your paper to achieve runs and bleeds. You blot, splatter, spray the mark with water and generally do everything that you can to make that mark final and interesting but not overworked. And you do it all in the minute or two before it dries. If all goes well, you end up with a something that glows in a way that no other medium can. Often, it doesn't go well.

Zbukvic's book "Mastering Atmosphere and Mood in Watercolor" is filled with glow and a logical system for achieving it. More than any other resource, this book taught me how to paint in watercolour. Unfortunately it's skyrocketed in price and is now listed at $185 US on Amazon. Check your local library!

I've since switched to the leisurely medium of oils but I still admire those who practise the exhilarating art of painting with water.

I've posted one of my watercolours from back in the day.

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