Strictly Water Colour
- BFnaitsabeS Strictly Water ColourHaving lived in China for three years now,I'm constantly jumping back and forth between German and English in my everyday life, and as most of the instructional websites about water colours on the internet are in English I'll just write something in English too now.
I've been doing water colours continuously for several months now. I have been painting before, but starting from last November, I really got serious about it. I had a great time training my "skills" and probing into this rather complicated matter, The Water Colour. In the following, I'll just list some of the more important things I learned about the medium. My suggestions are not aimed at the water colour pro, but at beginners - as I would think of myself as being a beginner as well.
I'll sort out my most important experiences and give them short titles, so you can remember them more vividly.
WATER - This is the most crucial aspect about painting water colours. Most beginners use too much water, much too much. The paper gets soaked and is not ready to receive any more paint. The result is a pale picture. I overcame this obstacle by deliberately producing very dry water colours. I'll lean to the dry side first, I thought, afterwards I can get more loose and let my colours run and swing and sing. This was quite a good approach, but it took about 100 (one hundred!) water colours until I had absolute control of the water business and could allow myself to be more free with my colour usage. I did some abstract monochromes and suddenly I realised that they really looked like what I would call "water coloury", juicy and free and full of contrasts. Most books pretending to teach you how to paint water colours don't mention this long ordeal in finding a way arround the water and then into it again.
PAPER & PIGMENT: I have the feeling that with water colours it is much more important to choose the right "surface" to put your paint on than with oils or acrylics. With water colours, it's fundamental which paper you choose. It's the paper which paints your water colours, not you. Here in China, I was having a hard time finding paper which was not soapy and immune to water based colours, or which was like felt and practically soaked up all the paint, one liter after the other. But it's my philosophy, that bad working materials only force you to improve your technique, so that was okay. Anyway, I will be enormously releaved when I can buy first class water colour paper in Germany again.
THE VALUE SCHEME: This is another thing I found extremely important. Many amateurish water colours are too pale, not only because people didn't toil away at getting a grip on the water business, but also because there is a strange notion especially in German speaking countries, or so it seems, that only an insipid and bleached looking water colour is a good water colour. Have a look at masters of the medium and you will see how DARK a water colour can get. This is the value scheme of a picture. If you imagine a painting being tranfered into a black and white photograph than the value scheme of the picture decides if you can still see anything or not. The Swiss water colour artist Paul Klee painted a whole series of black and white water colours to explore this optical property of a picture. Interestingly, I found out about his pictures just when I had started to do water colours exclusively painted in gray myself. It is a great way to learn about a painting's values. Unfortunately, pictures like Paul Klee's black-and-white series are virtually unknown in German speaking countries. Try to get a hold of any reproduction of these works of art.
BEING PRECISE: When you paint or draw, it is a good thing to change your approach every now and then. Especially, try to get loose and then focus again, as too much precision will freeze your intuition, too much wishy washy will get you bogged in a permanent repetition of the technical skills you already have. It's like breathing in and breathing out, both are necessary parts of respiration. I discovered, that German speaking hobby artists tend to overdo the loose side of the business, while Anglo-Saxon hobby water colour artists are often too precise. Perhaps my observation is wrong, but anyway: It's a myth that in order to be "modernist" or "cool" or "artsy" or "artistically eminent", you only have to be sloppy and careless about details. I always alternate in my approach to my water colours, one time painting away at some super meticulous tiny detailed miniature, then again splashing the colour all over the paper. And I think it pays off.
DON'T DRAW, PAINT! - Historically, water colours derive from coloured pencil drawings. So it's only "natural", that many water colour artists base their painting on a pencil sketch. But you can always tell apart whether an artist uses the pencil as a kind of crutch trying to get around genuinely structuring her water colour in a painterly manner - or if her water colour is really and foremost about the colour. It's a good thing to just skip the pencil and produce some sturdy water colours in saturated colours and with a healthy value scheme. I found that after doing that for quite along time, maybe painting about fifty water colours, I could re-introduce the pencil and it was not the same thing any more. My water colours interpreted the pencil lines, rather than just keeping inside the confines of the pencil contours. Perhaps this is a problem which is typical for people like me who have started out as draughtsmen and havbe to find their way into the colour field. Anyway, here like in other instances, a varied approach solves the problem.
I hope this has been helpful to some of you. Putting things down on paper helped clarifying my water colour experiences for myself. That's why many art instructors suggest you keep an artist's diary. So this here is part of my artist's diary, and perhaps there will be a discussion about it, too.
- BFnaitsabeSHi Heinrich!
So what about water colours is it you are interested in? I appreciate your plead for German here, but let's give English speaking guys a chance. I don't know if my English is that bad but I prefer to have it corrected by native speakers - and they seem to say there is not much wrong with it. Sorry, no German on this trip. When I think about water colours I think in English, so there will be either an English speaking discussion about it or none at all. Well, or do you know how to translate technical terms like "washes" or "value scheme" into German? I don't.
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