Read an Excerpt
WATERCOLORS—IN OR OUT?
When we think of watercolor, many of us immediately picture sentimental landscapes and paintings of ruins and picturesque scenes. Although eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English artists established watercolor as a sophisticated painting medium, it often yields strangely negative reactions from contemporary artists. An entire generation quickly relegates it to a hobbyist’s medium.
Yet watercolor is far more than an amateur’s medium, as it requires intense concentration and practice. Once it’s put on paper, mistakes are difficult to remedy, and only when it is applied with confidence does it have a truly successful effect. Watercolor involves a certain degree of uncertainty, but it also teaches us to see.
Watercolor was the first technique to free the artist from the studio because it could easily be taken outdoors. It required no tubes, easels, canvases, or similar implements, only a box of paints and paper. Even today, watercolor is a tool that frees us from the studio, our laptops, and countless charging cables.
Watercolor is, however, not just a technique; it is almost an attitude. Watercolor always does what it wants. In a way, it is willful and anarchical. Therefore, for me, the secret to using watercolor to create pic-tures lies in striking a balance between control and letting go. Pictures are often only “really good” when they surprise us—when they reveal what we sensed and felt, but could not have consciously expressed. If we sacrifice the right amount of control in the artistic process, watercolor’s inherent qualities begin to work to our advantage.
This book has two goals: to teach you watercolor techniques and to tell you something about color.
However, it does not aim to explain, for example, how you can paint a certain sky in four steps. I seriously doubt whether readers learn more from such instruction books than they do by actually painting that sky. What if the sky should suddenly cloud over? Instead, this book wishes to show you the basic principles of watercolor paints, so you can flexibly apply them to whatever you want to achieve.
I imagine it’s a little like learning chords on a guitar. For me, it seems important that you learn the finger-ings, but what song you play is up to you.
And don’t worry, everything that we need to know about color can be learned with a simple box of paints.
Whether watercolor painting is sophisticated and legit-imate or not isn’t the point. Watercolor can go anywhere. It is an autonomous, free, and creative medium. It makes the world our studio.