Friday, June 17, 2011

The Richness of Watercolor--It's Interaction

11 x 14 watercolor, Monarch on White Crownbeard.
Watercolor is rich in it's versatility, in the many different ways you can approach a subject while attempting to capture the interplay of color and light. I suppose that is true with any medium, but watercolor moves as you paint and that quality gives it a richness and a freshness that is always full of surprises. I think it is this interaction, between the pigment and water, that always stirs in me the desire to explore it more. Each time I paint and see the results, I want to try again, see what other ways I can find to express what I'm seeing and feeling.
I painted this monarch primarily from a sketch in my sketchbook. While painting, I relied chiefly on the sketch rather than reference photos or having the subject in front of me. It is a different experience, a freeing experience. Sketches always feel lighter to me, free from the tension that painting a "real" painting sometimes causes.  It is wonderful practice and a wonderful way to keep your painting fresh.  There is a looseness in sketching that comes from the fact that you know it's practice, there's no pressure.  You're uptight left brain goes to sleep, after all, you can easily start over again.  And there is a practical limit to the amount of detail you can capture or even want in a sketch.  In fact, the lack of detail is the magic of a sketch.
Having said that, I love detail.  It is part of my fascination with nature and is one of the reasons I enjoy studying my subjects with my camera.  The camera brings the subject closer, allowing me to slow down the activity so I can learn more about what's happening.  And what I discover never fails to delight me.  But a painting is more than just a rendition of the subject in its environment.  A painting is also an interaction.  
This interaction is one of the most intriguing and challenging aspects of watercolor. There are the primary interactions that we are all familiar with, between pigment and water, paint and brush, and of course, between the visual reality and what the artist sees and feels. But there is also the important interaction the viewer has while viewing the art. When the viewer sees the final work, we, as artists, hope they will be inspired.
For me, the delight and inspiration of watercolor is stirred by that mysterious quality in its movement.  Using a photograph for reference, as I often do, can sometimes suck me into detail, which can result in a tight rendition rather than an image that is fluid. This is what I noticed as I worked on this painting.  The sketch freed me to just paint, to focus on what I found to be beautiful about the subject, to stay with the light and airy quality of both the butterfly and the flowers, leaving the details more to the imagination.
It is this stimulation of imagination that is the root of inspiration.  As creative beings, we love feeling this.  And when my painting is finished, it is this inspiration that I want others to feel right along with me.

Links and Resources:

Paper: Winsor Newton (WN) 140# cold pressed.  Pigments:  WN Ultramarine Blue; WN Aureolin Yellow, WN New Gamboge, WN Burnt Sienna, and a touch of WN Sepia added to ultramarine blue and burnt sienna to create black.

To see images and read about my observation of this butterfly and the amazing story of its life and migration, visit:  Of Monarchs and Milkweed at Vickie Henderson Art.

"Monarch and Crownbeard" art cards and prints are available for purchase in my website shop:  Vickie Henderson Art

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Welcome! I am glad to hear your comments, questions and feedback! Vickie

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