Thursday, December 3, 2009

PROCESS 3 - Mediums - Watercolour

My very favourite art medium is Watercolour. I love the flow, the brightness of the colours, and the challenge. Watercolour has a way of doing what it wants, just at the wrong moment, and part of the challenge with this exciting, exacting medium is knowing how to coax it back to doing what you had intended. Sometimes, you have to insist, and sometimes, you just start over. Watercolour can be etherial, moody, or bold, and I have chosen an older painting of mine to show that a rich depth of colour can be achieved.
With this medium, perhaps more than any other, the quality of your tools is of paramount importance. For the best results, you must use the best. That best will differ, depending on what you want to achieve. For example, for loose watercolours, a Cold Press (textured) or a Rough paper is often found to give the best results, and for detailed work, although a Cold Press will work, Hot Press (very smooth) is what I like best. The paper (heavy enough to be called a board) comes in several weights or thicknesses, and that can affect the outcome of your painting too. Paper or Board is actually a misnomer, as the best "papers" are made of 100% acid-free cotton or linen rag . Various companies produce papers that have slightly different textures and behave in different ways, and it is up to the artist to discover what works best for them. My favourite is Arches 140 or 300 pound Hot Press, but I usually have some Lanaquarelle and some Fabriano Artistico (both Hot Press) on hand too.
My brushes of choice range from the king of brushes, the Winsor & Newton Series 7 Number 7 kolinsky sable brush, to some 000 fine point acrylic brushes for the smallest details. If I could only have one brush, it would be the Series 7 Number 7, it is so versatile and reliable. I've had mine for 30 years and it is still great.
The paints I use are mostly Winsor & Newton Artist's professional quality tube paints, because they are of the very best quality, with a wide range of reliable, brilliant colours. I also use some Daniel Smith and some Holbien, all top quality and reliable.
I start a watercolour painting the same way I begin any other painting - with a pencil drawing that has been thoroughly worked out on newsprint before my pencil touches the watercolour board. The image is intially hand drawn, then transferred to the board using a very light touch, as the pencil lines should not show through the finished painting. Once the graphite gets wet, it is on the paper forever, so it is important that the drawing be barely visible at the time I start to paint. Then I lay in washes, wait for them to dry, and lay in more. With watercolour, I have to work from light to dark, because many of the colours are translucent. The details come last. A watercolour takes a long time to acomplish - there really are no shortcuts, and while it is forgiving of mistakes, they had better be small ones.
I hope this little series on my Process has given you a glimpse of how I do my paintings. If anyone has any questions, please email me and I will try to answer them for you.