Needing to ‘see’ in order to paint

I’ve spent some time over the last week or so struggling with watercolour and I have been tempted to give it up and go back to what I know – acrylics, ink drawings and (to a lesser extent) oil painting.  But there are some good things about watercolour which I do like.

The Positives of watercolour for me are:

(1) Somehow I make less mess when using watercolours compared to acrylics and oils.

This might seem like a minor point but because I have a chronic pain condition, working in a medium which is harder to clear up means I can work less, or hurt a lot more, so this ‘easy management’ of watercolour has a really good effect on me.

(2) The paintings are quicker to complete.

Again, because of the pain this is really a good thing.

(3) Most of all I like them because with the ‘Line and Wash’ technique I can make use of my love of ink drawing and add to those drawings the one thing I feel they lack – colour.

This is the biggest plus of all for me with watercolour because, with ink drawing, it feels like I can draw anything I want, it’s almost like being able to fly (figuratively speaking) and to be able to use this and have colour is a tremendous opportunity to make the kind of pictures I really want to make.

The negatives of watercolour for me are:

(1) I’m very inexperienced and struggle with the medium.

(2) The kinds of watercolour paintings I’ve seen the most are little cottages and coutryside scenes and sort of ‘still’ ‘quiet’ ‘cute’ pictures which are pretty but don’t seem to touch my heart.   (Please understand I am not intending to be critical of that type of subject – I’m sure such pictures give joy to many people – they’re just not for me.)

(3) The colour in these paintings often looks weak and I kind of need strong vibrant colour.

So, thinking through all of this I think I’ve decided that I want to have another go at working in this medium despite how difficult I’m finding it. 

I think my inexperience and difficulty with watercolour can be overcome by learning and practice.  Just because a lot of watercolour paintings are of a sort which don’t touch me doesn’t mean that I have to do those sorts of paintings.  Also, the colour in watercolour is often weak because, apparently, the paint looks darker and richer when you’re painting it and then weaker when it dries, but there’s no reason I can’t compensate for that with stronger deeper colour.  Obviously my work won’t be very traditional in terms of watercolour if I head in this direction but I want to be free to paint what’s in my heart so why not give it a go?

With this in mind I’m going to spend some time looking at watercolour work of all types and finding the kind I like and how it’s done.  I found gesture drawing impossible at first, I didn’t even understand what exactly it was but the more I looked the better I got.

Eye Study – Jo Fox 2011

I need to really truly see it before I can paint it.      🙂

(All Images unless otherwise explicitly stated are © Jo Fox, 2015)

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