Three Leaves - 7"x10" watercolor on paper
Have you every felt overwhelmed by the many types of paintings you see at an art show or gallery? And maybe asked yourself "how are they different, which ones would be best for me?". Those are good questions!
In the next four blogposts, I'll try to answer them for those of you who are looking for artwork for their walls and for those who would like to start painting, but don't know which medium would suit them best.
What do we mean by medium? When talking about painting, mediums refer to the different types of paint used. The most common are watercolor, oil, acrylic, and pastel. The substrate is the surface that the paint is applied to, for example, paper, canvas, and wood, and most painting mediums can be used on several different substrates. I have painted in all of these mediums, and our art collection includes works in all four as well. I'll talk about water color first and leave the others for future blog posts.
Cloud Study IV - watercolor on paper (wet on wet technique)
What's the appeal of watercolor? Watercolor is inherently transparent, which lets the white paper shine through. A light area of paint is made by adding more water as the paint is applied, so that more of the white paper shines through. It's a beautiful ethereal look, and for me means that some scenes just cry out to be painted with watercolor. I'm thinking particularly of Winslow Homer's Caribbean boat paintings, and example which you can see here.
Watercolor also lends itself to texture, using different application approaches, like wet on wet, and dry brush, or leaving some marks in the pencil sketch showing through. And there is nothing whiter in a painting, than unpainted paper, and so the watercolor painter leaves the lightest values in a painting unpainted to take advantage of that. And watercolor is often combined with pen and ink to create to beautiful line and wash paintings, the line provided with the pen, and the wash with the watercolor. They can be magic, for example those in this blogpost by British painter Rob Adams.
When looking to buy a watercolor painting, you need to think about framing. Watercolors are more complicated and expensive to frame than oils or acrylics, both because they require glass and because of the need to seal the back of the frame. Neither of those is required for oil or acrylic paintings, which makes them easier to frame yourself. Glass comes in many levels of glare and UV protection, from hardware store window glass (lots of glare and low UV protection) to museum quality glass (minimal glare and high UV protection). Glass towards the museum end of the spectrum will let you see your paintings better and preserve them from UV damage for many more years. For the same reason, it's best not to hang watercolors in direct sunlight.
Green and Orange Leaves - 6"x9" watercolor with pen
Many artists began their painting journeys with watercolor, me included, because to the uninitiated it's thought to be easier to learn than other mediums and is definitely easier to clean up. However, as most of us learned the hard way, it's in fact one of the more difficult mediums to master, because you mostly can't fix mistakes without damaging the paper, so you usually have to start over, which can be quite frustrating.
Some of my favorite watercolor painters working today are Poppy Balser, Robert Joyner, and Michele Clamp. The later two teach online, if learning watercolor is on your bucket list. Poppy teaches wonderful in person workshops in Canada, one of which which I had the pleasure of attending. I recommend all three.
Bobbi - Painter. Sketcher. Teacher. Boat and Dog Lover.