Why I Love Watercolours

If I had to choose to only ever paint in one medium again, I’d find myself torn between my two loves, oils and watercolours. It’s a pretty 50/50 split in the works that I do, and both mediums have their advantages and disadvantages. Both are notoriously tricky to master, as well.

I think for me, oil paints will always be my first love. No other medium quite gives me the same vibrance and language of colour that I’ve learned from oils. Oils tend to be fairly forgiving of mistakes, too. But what’s wonderful about watercolours is their diversity. A few household items have enabled me, like many watercolourists, to create a far wider array of textures, styles and moods than what could be done with brushes. I’d like to share some of my favourites, along with a few thoughts, in this blog post.

  1. Salt

Creating an interesting texture over a large area can be tricky using watercolours. Building layer upon layer might result in a bit of a muddy, uniform colour that could be a bit boring. Salt is a super easy way to instantly jazz up a background, and can create an interesting texture that can resemble anything from stormy sky to coral or water. When you take your pinch of salt to the paint makes a difference: very wet paint will give you more dramatic, feathery shapes. Let your paint dry a little, and the salt has less moisture to pick up, resulting in more defined, smaller marks.

Watercolour painting with salt
In this example the paint is slightly wetter than damp, and the salt crystals are still absorbing the paint. Wait till perfectly dry then gently rub the salt free with a soft tissue.

 

Watercolour painting salt
The effect when dry and the salt removed. There are areas of paper that had more water, so the marks vary from very fluffy to quite sharp.

 

2. Running Washes

It’s all about gravity. Wet your paper thoroughly, create some paint strokes, and then tip your paper in whichever direction you want to create a soft and dynamic wash. Here I tipped my paper up and down so that the paint ran in both directions, and strengthened some colour areas before repeating. The addition of the sketchy lines enhances the feel of this piece.

Watercolour washes painting

3. Soft Blends

The key to this technique is good quality paper that’s not too smooth (it will show up all and any imperfections) and not too rough, and wetting your paper thoroughly without leaving pools. I love creating soft backgrounds and seeing what different colour combinations will do.

Paradise Bird Watercolour
Works equally well for details, such as feathers.

Paradise Birds Watercolour

 

4. Pooling Paint & A Spray Bottle

A technique I’ve so far used only once or twice for my Cosmic Nature paintings. This technique involves wetting specific shapes, and then grabbing a fair dollop of rich watercolour, dropping it onto the water and letting them blend. I love using this method for creating cosmic backgrounds, and allows a certain element of control, whilst generally it seems to provide much brighter, bolder colour.

I enhanced the painting below with using a spray bottle, gently spraying in certain directions to ‘push’ the paint beyond its original wet outline. The only issue I see here is that there was a bit too much water so I got more of a pool than a spreading spray that I wanted. But for next time!

Cat Abstract Watercolour

 

So there you have it, some of my favourite watercolour moments. There are several new techniques I’m keen to try involving some new household mediums and hopefully some new themes too, so stay tuned

What are your favourite mediums and techniques?
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The Expanding Universe of Art

How is one supposed to feel, knowing that we, on our pinprick of our blue planet, in our speck of dust under the cosmic carpet of our milky way, are hurtling through space and towards infinity, with absolutely no consolation except the knowledge that it’s actually happening.

I guess in a way, the art world is like an expanding universe. As soon as you get sucked in to it, it seems like there’s a never-ending, spinning web of ideas, styles, names, name-dropping, brush-bashing and social media platforms that making your impact in it seems infinitely impossible. The more time goes on, the more new -isms crawl out of the woodwork, and all of a sudden your left wondering where your place in the art universe is. The further away the galaxy from us, the faster it appears to be moving. Just as distant ideas and desires appear to be slipping away before we can ever hope to grasp them. As distance grows, speed increases.

Universe Milky Way Watercolour Painting

But I think that, in the same way that there’s no true centre of the universe, only your perspective within it, there’s no universal law for art. There is nothing to stop us being the artist we want to be, or choosing any one of the multitude of paths we conceived for ourselves. The more we know about art and our universe, the more power we have within it, however slight. We have to admit though, that certain things are well beyond our control. By the non-randomness of particles slamming together at just the right distance from the sun, a lot of it is really down to luck.

And just as the universe, by some incomprehensible miracle, started from a single, infinitely small point (a singularity), art started in the same way. Long, long before we first painted in the caves, or scratched angular marks into a mammoth bone or reindeer antler, long before we even contemplated our sense of being, the spark was there. The one, fleeting, chance coming together of nothing, created everything.

Expanding Universe Watercolour Painting
Expanding Universe, Watercolours – Even the world’s largest land animal is tiny and insignificant against the cosmic background!

It was nothing but non-random luck, that Stephen Hawking happened to be the surprising inspiration behind this blog post, and this painting of elephants against the milky way, though I am sure I didn’t do the expanding universe justice.