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Just a poet creating with words, images and objects.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Reflections on watercolour painting

Planned spontaneity

Watercolour is the art of planned spontaneity. 

Preparation (assuming the compositional elements have been worked out): analyse the scene or motif  for
  • overall mood and therefore colour
  • reserved whites
  • elements which can be sites for effects (lifting, charging, back runs, blooms, salt, wrap, sponging etc)
  • colour and tonal order (plan of attack...from wash (wet-in-wet or dry?), to dry brush...to glaze).
(Consciously doing this preparation anew may help avoid formulaic approach.)


The execution then can be spontaneous within the framework set up by the preparatory analysis (though not necessarily constrained by it). Then follow the painting as it develops, responding to what it needs. Going into the zone of no-thought and no-force.

As always knowing when to stop--before enough is enough, is crucial.
The greatest disaster comes from not being aware of what is enough. 
Great is the misfortune that comes from the desire for more.
To be aware of sufficiency is sufficient, always sufficient in the end.
Leave room for the viewer to engage with the work. Leave some mystery.

What to paint when there is nothing to paint

Subjects for painting are all around you. 

Let yourself be drawn to subjects. 

Note the play of light, colours in shadows, lost and found edges, the startling play of colour. What is that is attracting you to the subject? Isolate that…that becomes the primary painting theme. What subordinate elements support that? What contrasts and therefore intensifies? What can be the secondary theme…reflection, echo, subdued opposite? Harmony or conflict? 

There is always something to paint.

Respect the medium

Respect has two aspects—esteem and regard. 

Regard is to treat the medium according to its essence. In simple terms, that means working with the essential qualities of paper, pigment and tools. Understanding the medium, and beyond understanding, developing an intimacy with the medium.

Esteem is to value and glory in its unique wateriness—a watercolour painting, whatever else, celebrates the wonders of the medium. It does not imitate acrylic or oil paintings (which have their own wonders).