As someone who hardly lifted a paint brush during my time at uni, and even prior to that, wasn’t exactly known for painting, I have recently been spending my time attempting to get to grips with the medium. Even though it has a reputation for being difficult, I have chosen to work in watercolours – glutton and punishment spring to mind! I haven’t had any formal lessons in watercolour – I’m very much ‘going with the flow’! I’m sure watercolour purists would be horrified, and I’m probably breaking every rule in the book – but you know what they say about rules….
Using this medium, along with lots of water, has also provided me with an opportunity to ‘loosen up’ Sometimes I have a tendency to work ‘very tightly’, as in an earlier piece I did called ‘Bowed But Not Broken’ –
I want my paintings to be more expressive, more about the paint and the marks – abstracted in a way, although still with a nod to the landscapes I love.
Initially I experimented in my sketchbook – the good old Seawhite!
I used Winsor & Newton Professional watercolours along with some Daniel Smith colours – both very good, worth paying that bit extra for! Eventually I could put it off no longer – I had to experiment on ‘proper’ paper! Although the saying is that a good workman should never blame his tools, I think this is definitely a case of ‘the better the paper, the better the result’! I therefore treated myself to a selection of watercolour papers from Jackson’s Art Supplies – highly recommended for their easy to use website and prompt service!
It’s been really interesting learning what the various papers can take! First off I tried Fabriano Artistico Extra White HOT press 140lb. Lovely smooth paper, the paint, along with a fair bit of water moved beautifully over the surface. Here, I should admit to not stretching the paper beforehand…I know, I know – rules… As well as using paint brushes, and here I’m admitting to a bit of hero-worshipping – I use Jean Haines Watercolour brushes (again, worth every penny!) I also use sticks, wooden coffee stirrers & old/unwanted plastic store cards. On this paper I was able to swirl and push the paint around very easily without damaging the surface.
Although the paper withstood quite a lot of water, it did buckle a little – perhaps a reminder to stretch it prior to use. However, I see they do the same paper in 300lb so I might order some of that next!
Next I tried the Bockingford NOT 250lb paper – an altogether different surface! This paper withstood a LOT of water but I found I couldn’t use the plastic card to move the paint around so much as I damaged the slightly rougher texture of the surface. Instead I used my brush along with a wooden stirrer (used very lightly) as well as tilting and turning the paper to create runs.
I was impressed with both papers and would be hard pressed to choose a favourite! Not so my choice of colours, I seem to have a thing for Payne’s Grey, Indigo, Raw Umber and Yellow Ochre – reminding me as they do of the North Norfolk coast in winter, and the autumnal fenland fields of my childhood.
I have yet to try the Arches Aquarelle 400lb sheet or the Two Rivers 300lb – mainly due to my lack of confidence in my ability and the cost… When I do pluck up the courage I will let you know how I get on!