Since I began this journey of art exploration back in 2015, I’ve dabbled a bit with watercolor here and there. First, in 2016, again a few year later, and most recently since moving here to our new home and getting my art studio set up. Watercolor, I discovered, was a good way for me to ease back into art after the moving process. Having my own studio was a bit intimidating and overwhelming at first. Doing playful “fun” projects — like making colorful bookmarks — helped me jump back into the creative processes of visual art.
Watercolor is fun, and over the last 6 months I’ve spent a lot of time playing with my paints. I’ve turned out a few watercolor paintings that I like, made huge strides toward discovering my own watercolor style, and indeed, I’ve enjoyed it — most of the time, at least.
I’m going to be setting my watercolors aside now for a while. I have other art forms I want to explore more, such as acrylic pouring and alcohol inks. Both are fluid art techniques, and in some ways they’re similar to the abstract watercolor art I love doing.
This morning in the studio, I created this abstract piece. It reminds me of an underwater scene with kelp and algae. I suppose that’s fitting since I did some of the painting with a sea sponge. I’m calling it “Watercolor Reflections”.
This will probably be the last watercolor piece I do for a few months, so as I painted, I thought back on what I’ve learned about watercolor. There’s a lot. Some good. Some — personally — not so good.
I’m Not a Watercolor Artist
I’ve learned first and foremost that I’m not a watercolor artist and never will be. Oh, yes, I’m sure if I practiced diligently day after day, I could improve my technique. I’m choosing not to do that, however. I don’t find the same satisfaction in watercolor art that I do in oils. As artists, we have to make choices as to what media we’ll pursue and which ones we’ll set aside. From time to time I will get out my watercolors again, but not with any thoughts of ever becoming a serious watercolorist.
Watercolor is Always Fun
I can’t be serious about watercolor art, but I can definitely have fun with it. I love splattering and dripping and doing lots of silly-sounding things with watercolor. It’s fun to create watercolor washes, fun to do crazy abstractions — like the one I did this morning — and fun to play with different colors.
Watercolor Can be Experimental
I’m one of those crazy-creative people. You know, the kind who is always thinking, “What would happen if…?” I tend to approach watercolor much like a mad scientist. I rub my hands with glee and wonder what sort of new potions I can concoct. I mix colors. I play with alcohol and oil. And, of course, I love adding salt crystals when a page is still wet.
I Enjoy Playing with Texture
In addition to sprinkling salt on watercolors, I’m up for anything that adds texture. Like the sea sponge I used today. Sometimes I grab old tissues or a rag. Sometimes I press things against my watercolor paper to create odd-looking blots of color. I put paint on; I take paint off. I scratch with toothpicks or scrape with pieces of cardboard. I love seeing what different effects I can create.
Inexpensive Watercolors are Fine for Me
I might get a bit of argument here, or at least a little disagreement. Some of you might be inclined to point out that maybe I’d get better results and maybe I’d appreciate watercolor more if I used better paints, brushes, and papers. There’s some truth to that, of course, but again, I’m not a watercolorist. That’s not where I want to spend my time — or my money. I do love my gansai paints, but I also love my cheap Crayola watercolor set. Because my watercolor time is playtime, and because I so often share my watercolors with our young grandsons, I’m content to buy good quality watercolor paper and not worry about getting the best. I don’t need the best. Neither do the grandsons. Same with brushes. I buy cheap brushes. When needed, I buy new ones.
Watercolor Brushes are Different from Oil-Painting Brushes
I was quite happy when I learned the differences between the two. I can now pick up a brush and say, “Yep, this is a watercolor brush”. I shared the information in a previous post — Back with the Brushes Again. I do keep my watercolor brushes separate from others. It makes it much easier that way.
For me, watercolors will always be a fun part of art, a part that’s reminiscent of elementary school art projects. a part I can enjoy sharing with our grandkids. It’s not ever going to be a medium that I’ll be good at, and that’s fine. I can still appreciate the works of other artists, and maybe I can appreciate them all the more for having spent time playing with and learning about watercolors myself. I understand the skill and knowledge that goes into watercolor art.
So now I’ll be putting the watercolor paints away and moving on to new explorations. They’ll still be close at hand, though, and sure, I’ll pull them out now and then. But it’s time to move on. I have many more things to learn, to explore, and to do in this wide, wide world of art.