Back to Watercolor and the Basics

August 09, 2021

Back to Watercolor and the Basics

After a long heatwave (or two), there is nothing quite like stepping outside on a crisp morning.  The air feels lighter, cleaner, and possibly even happier. Recently, I have felt rejuvenated bringing my watercolors along with me wherever I go. Best of all, it’s given me a good reason to get outside as we head into my favorite time of the year, late summer.

However, I’m here to talk about art, not the weather. Art feeds the soul, nurtures the mind and grabs the heart. Well, maybe in the best of times. In the worst of times, it can drive you crazy trying to become something it’s just not. When in doubt, I like to get back to the basics, learn to “see” again.  Retraining my “artist eye” is an important part of my process that allows me to let go of the idea that I “need to make pretty art”.  It allows for mistakes, greyed out works, and even terrible compositions that I just had to try. This last year as I’ve aimed to see beyond what I think I should be doing (cue the oil paints) I’ve picked up the lighter, faster, travel-friendly and water-soluble version. 

If only for a little while, my advice is to switch to a new medium, find a new surface to work on, or just change it up.  There will always be a little bit of an awkward learning curve as you adjust your hand to your eye, but that is also where progress happens. For me, something quicker and easier to take on the road makes watercolors the perfect summer accessory. All my supplies are in a nifty little carrying box making the choice to bring them even easier. I’m using a Van Gogh watercolor pocket box with 12 colors.  I like the “Shades of Nature” which will run you about $27 but will also last a long time and you can switch out the color pans individually as you run out. From there all you need is a good piece of watercolor paper, some brushes, a little water, and you’re all set for a fulfilling afternoon. 

There is always an oil painting in the corner of my studio room, waiting for a longer session and great when I have lots of time, but it also means there might be many missed smaller opportunities in-between sessions where I could be practicing, experimenting, or indulging in my craft. Sketchbooks provide a similar outlet, but it’s hard to beat the satisfaction that comes with a big bold swipe of watercolor on a crisp white page. 

Find what works for you! Since I know many out there are already working in watercolor, find something else to challenge your routine. Maybe it’s a giant marker, a hunk of charcoal, or fresh pastels, but ultimately a new material will force you to learn a new trick or two. Look closer and re-learn how to see shadow and light. The most assuring fact about artists is their ability to have flexible thinking and adjust to most situations.  So after many changes to our lives this past year(+), it’s time to wake up from the slumber and see again.  It doesn’t need to be a masterpiece, it just needs to be fun and in my opinion colorful too! Chances are, if you had fun making it, your viewers will see that emotion in the work as well. So get out there, make a mess and have some fun.  

 

By: Julie Weaver




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