Media of the Month

May 2022- Watercolour

Most of this year I have wanted to get back to my watercolours as for me it’s become the media I’ve found the easiest to use. However it’s a media I feel is  perhaps the most difficult too. Although last year I managed to create some pleasing results I would not label myself as a watercolour artist. To me they are highly skilled beyond my abilities at present.

All artists can be snobs about their discipline and from watching on TV ‘Watercolour Challenge’ it is evident to me that the contestants often display a lack of confidence in their abilities. A few don’t mind that their way of working veers away from the mainstream of purest techniques or style which I find encouraging. Historically it seems expressive marks were not the aim, but accuracy with regard to rendering their subject matter, hence why the first stage of watercolourist tend to be detailed pencil marks which in this TV show often takes up half their time.

The next stage was to master the rules of the media. Purest never use white paint, they paint with layers of washes, use specific brushes etc. In line with all other media up until the nineteenth century, until you mastered the discipline, you were taught you couldn’t consider yourself to really be an artist. I don’t feel watercolour art has ever had an explosion of art movements in the same way that oil painting has. Most paintings have been concerned realism. Name me a prominent watercolour cubist and I think you’d struggle.

Not only that but traditional watercolour paintings have been largely dominated by landscapes, architectural and botanical studies by men as means of recording their environment when exploring the world, but by wealthy ladies as a recreational pursuit to while away their days. Name me a famous portrait or still life watercolour artist from the nineteenth century and again I find it impossible to do. 

So, for me watercolour paintings even in this twenty first century lags behind all other mediums when it comes to being radical, challenging, and most of all expressive or abstract. So this month is very much about some efforts to change that not least because I’m really enjoying the freedom that it is  providing me with while also stretching and extending my repertoire of abilities.

P.S. Lots of great and famous artists have used watercolour but here’s a challenge for you, which movements and artists using only watercolour can you name?