What better medium to paint water with than watercolours? The artist’s society that I belong to, The Artists of Oxford, are presenting an exhibition at the Cambridge Centre for the Arts, April 20 to May 19 entitled “Water, Purely Interpreted”. Water is already a favourite feature in many of my paintings, but most of them have not been “about” the water. For this show, I wanted to really explore some of the fascinating features of water: its many forms, its movement, and its stillness. With my new year’s goal of finishing one or more paintings each week being steadily maintained, I should have several to choose from for the show!
Why is water such a great subject to paint in watercolour? Aside from the fact that water is the medium and therefore all placement of the pigment depends entirely on the flow of water and its interaction with the surface of the paper, watercolour also features that luminous quality of transparency water has. In case you aren’t familiar with watercolour paper, one of its features is that it does not allow the flow of water unless you wet the paper. Dry portions of the paper stay dry. By keeping the paper wet, I can keep edges soft, direct the flow with a tilt of the paper or the stroke of a brush, and make colours mingle together to reflect the colours of the landscape. Using dry paper, I can suggest the edge of a wave or water droplet, the spray of a splash, the sparkle in sunlight. Everything you see in a watercolour painting is the result of the movement of water or something stopping that movement, so if you allow the pigment to show the movement, you’re halfway to representing water. Which gives me an idea… .