Watercolour: A Master's Medium
Watercolour is a popular medium. There is however an idea that watercolour is easier for the beginner. It sounds cleaner compared to oils. Certainly there is less chemicals to worry about. Perhaps it stems also from our childhood experiences with watercolours. If they trusted us at school with watercolours then why should we adults not be comfortable with them?
Sadly many beginners find out that watercolours are not easy to work with. The very nature of the watery medium is a challenge to handle. Watercolours run and bloom and mistakes cannot be easily corrected. When to stop and concepts of wet-into-wet take on a whole new significance when we try this medium. It also tends to get us thinking ahead and this is difficult for the inexperienced painter. As a result many artists abandon watercolours all too early. The joys of this medium, waiting to be unlocked, remain hidden for good.
One of my favourite master artists, Paul Cezanne, used watercolour extensively for preparatory painting. This medium is ideal for a quick study to try and get a good layout for composition. When I looked at Cezanne's watercolours I was amazed by the simplicity of shape and delicacy of hue that he employed. Even Cezanne's preparatory watercolours are substantial enough to stand on their own. Light and joyful with a masterful economy! They are a delight.
Painting in watercolour is also an excellent foil for oil painting. The approach to oils and watercolour differs enough to provide the artist with a new challenge. However all the requirements of hue, value and composition still apply. There is no reason why both mediums cannot be enjoyed with equal pleasure.
Watercolours did unfortunately get bad press for producing rather weak paintings. I blame those terrible wishy-washy calendars we used to get in the 80's. This was not the fault of the medium, but simply the artist painting for a certain market. Watercolours can be powerful and bright or light filled wonders. Anything is possible when the pigments are used to their potential.
Have a look at this brief video showing Cezanne's watercolour method. Then give watercolours a try for yourself!
Malcolm Dewey: Artist. Country: South Africa