Please someone, take the flaming watercolours away....!

Please someone, take the flaming watercolours away....!

I wanted a rest from watercolour, but it's an addiction.

I wanted to take a break from watercolour. I am not a natural watercolourist. It never was my primary medium, and I didn't start by painting in watercolour (I started with oil). I've got some boards, new acrylics, oil paint, and canvases to come .... but I made a dreadful mistake. Knowing that I'd run out of Pthalo Blue (in fact, a very old tube of Daler Rowney's Monestial Blue; it hasn't been called that for years), I ordered a tube from Jackson's so that I'd have it available when I wanted to go back to watercolour. It was Jackson's own watercolour, in a big, fat tube. And when it arrived, I looked upon it, lustfully. I'm not sure it didn't wink. It had to be tried. So out came the drawing board, watercolour paper, and gummed tape again. The hake - scarcely dry from previous exertions - was taken from its pot. The mop and the rigger were made ready. I squeezed the pthalo blue (none of your "red shade", or "green shade" here, and all the better for it) onto a white plate, and it's sumptuous. Mixed with a touch of Cadmium Red, it produces a fantastic grey/blue. Helpless, I was - had to paint a full picture, when I'd only intended to try out the paint.... I need to break free from this addiction - if someone could perhaps come along and lock my watercolour brushes and paints away, or otherwise restrain me from going anywhere near them for a month or two, I'd be so grateful...... I wouldn't mind if I were a better watercolourist ....
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To be sure, 'tis a terrible addiction we have. A new/old colour, new paper, a new brush,...worst of all a new medium and off we go. There's no stopping us. But isn't it wonderful to have something which "gets us going"? I know I am very grateful. Painting (art) has definitely made my life a whole lot more interesting.

Hallo Philip! Well well - a blast from the past.... Now, as to your question "am I going mad?" I've given this thought, and I must say I think it quite likely. On the other hand, you have to remember that insanity is common round these parts, and I - though of course it pains me to say it - am just about the only sane one here. But then, I am the Archangel Gabriel, sent to earth incognito to bring enlightenment and serenity - and let me tell you, it's a hell of a job: it's just fortunate that, as you would expect, I have the patience of a saint: and of course, one is immortal - so important in a career like mine! Anyway - are you coming back to play? Your paintings would show up well on the new look Gallery, he said enticingly, which is probably the best part of the new site. C'mon - yield to temptation!

Am I going mad is this the 'new forum'? My terminal condition will be smelling the paint...

I agree with you, Robert, about "my students",, and I like how in his books and DVDs James Fletcher Watson calls his students "my painting friends".

Your book on starting in oils was very helpful, Robert, and I'm back posting my first few oil paintings, bar a few apple studies and so on. I'm glad I started out in watercolour before oils.

It can be hard indeed to remember that last point - you fear "spoiling the paper", "wasting paint": and perhaps you will, but you'll learn from the experience. Producing a perfect watercolour every time - if such a thing existed - would very quickly become inexpressibly tedious. Drawing - I do a lot of it; sometimes reasonably well, and sometimes .... not. I think that any watercolour without a good base in drawing is likely to fail; and they can fail for many other reasons as well. I suppose pastel, as an additive medium, could conceal elementary mistakes; but not an inability to draw. Some of the pictures I most enjoy (in others' hands, at least) are done in the traditional range of conté crayon - sanguine, bistre, black, and white. Watercolour for beginners - yes..... I think some may cavil at some of your remarks (sensitivities being acute on these subjects) but the very last medium I would suggest to a beginner is watercolour: it cruelly exposes any weakness in drawing and composition - and you make an important though contentious point: there are numerous dvd's, books, articles purporting to show how easy watercolour is; "anyone can paint", says a well-known demonstrator - and perhaps anyone can, given the wish to. "It's not inspiration," he says, "it's perspiration." Yes,but how much? Over how many years? And are you teaching how to paint in watercolour, or how to learn a few tricks to make it look as if you can.... and then we get into the whole oil painting field, where much the same thing happens: craft tricks and shortcuts are taught, and students (is it just me, I wonder, who gets fantastically annoyed by tutors who self-flatteringly talk about "my students" at the drop of a hat, just to emphasize their own expertise? Probably is....) pick these up, and replicate them, and another generation of paint-by-numbers without the numbers is born. This is a big market, and it's not all essentially corrupt, or misleading..... and whenever I have a crack at the Bob Ross school, there's nearly always someone who reminds me "how much pleasure be brought to so many people" (there are one or two other professions of which you could say the same: I'm not sure it's much of a validation). But I suspect we both detest the short-cut school, and the ready assumption that there are easy answers, that "anyone can do it". Well, anyone CAN'T do it - I freely admit I can't ride a unicycle, or do quantum mechanics (or even know for sure what it is), or write poetry. I might like to, but I can't. Why have we to believe that painting is just a craft which anyone can pick up - and that there are tricks and gimmicks, and the ideal tools if we just knew what they were, that will do it all for us? And now we're both going to get into trouble, because you've led me on. In pre-emptive self-defence, I should stress that there are useful books and demonstrations, courses and tutors: it's the approach they adopt which is all-important.

The truth about watercolour. Watercolour is marketed by so, so many artists, manufacturers and tutors as being the number one, 'go to' medium for beginners to learn to paint with. Next comes the 'learn watercolour in 5 minutes' books followed by the 'buy this special brush and all your dreams with watercolour will come true'. The DVD's are bought next and after all of this the poor student is left confused why their watercolours look NOTHING like all the successful watercolour artists they are trying to emulate. Why? Realistically it has taken these successful artists YEARS to create their style and be successful with it. The 'control' you see the more successful artists showing in all their paintings, books and DVD's has been developed from results of trial and error over a long period of time and an understanding of the media through lots of experience. Next is how to mix colours, how to use the different brushes and above all how to express yourself with confidence. Confidence with watercolour is gained through all of these things being put into practice regularly and above all building on a true ability to draw! You can be brilliant and very adept at using watercolour mixing clean beautiful colours but if the drawing is poor so will the painting be. So you are perhaps right to lock the watercolours away and instead reach for the charcoal and the graphite instead. I learnt to draw FIRST OF ALL before even thought ever so slightly about becoming a professional artist. There are no short cuts. If you want to work with colour try pastels. Pastels allow you to draw AND paint at the same time. You learn lots about colour mixing using them and also many are split into shades and tones ready for you to pick up immediately and paint with. The advantage of pastels is their ability for the artist to work over the top of your 'mistakes' correcting as you develop your composition. Layers of sumptuous colour are created - not mud! Paper and pastels and fixative is all you need as well. No water pots, masses of brushes nor paint that dries up if not used. This said the media is FANTASTIC to use in a lovely free and expressive way. Allowing the media to do its own thing on the paper (especially when applied WITHOUT a brush) is exhilarating! Letting go and plunging directly into uncharted territory like this is an ADVENTURE not a FEARSOME journey. Let me tell you, not every painting works even now for me. I would hate it if it did - my work would become predictable and I'd not be discovering anything new. Love your mistakes with the media, love your drawing and above all remember - IT IS ONLY A PIECE OF PAPER AND NOT AN EXAM EVERY TIME YOU PAINT!

I'm the same but with oils. I used to be known as a watercolourist and taught it at Adult Ed for many years. I'm afraid I haven't touched them for years and have a lovely supply of Two Rivers Handmade paper making me feel guilty each time I open my cupboard in the studio. Oils - I'm totally hooked. Trust me, it's adictive too.

I do have moments of frenzied energy - oh how few, how far between! - when I have a watercolour going on the table, and an oil or acrylic on the easel.... In fact, I have two easels, so I could have a watercolour, an oil, and an acrylic going on at the same time... But is one MENTAL? Just imagine the confusion....

I like your watercolours Robert but do both oil watercolour and acrylic which can be used like water colour , but end of the day just paint with anything its the creating that's the fun .

What's better (and easier), that to stop for a moment as one passes by the table with the watercolor palette, the dry brushes, and a fresh pot of water? Watercolor is so easy, so spontaneous, and so unexpected. It satisfied the moment's urge to create something -- something dramatic, something wistful, something suggestive. Oils are lovely, but nothing beats watercolors when you have only a moment and a pent-up urge to splash around on a bit of paper. Go for it!

Shirley Trevena always used to use Winsor and Newton's artist range - I remember a film she made, but that was a good few years ago. Daniel Smith w/colours were not I think readily available in this country at the time. Yes, I'll try them - it's finding the money, as well as the time .... so many ranges to try. Acrylic - when I first started using them, after always having used oils before, it was like painting with toothpaste; the consistency was heavy, lumpen, and as you very truly observed, they just sit there on the paper or canvas. But - you accommodate yourself over time to its idiosyncracies; a major step forward for me was discovering Chromacolour, which actually reacts beautifully with water and doesn't just lie there in a resentful lump; and I use Daler Rowney's Cryla (which has much extended its colour range since I first tried them over 40 years ago), especially for more solid areas, and Winsor & Newton's Artists' range (which used to be called Finity) - which is particularly good for colour and consistency, although I prefer Chromacolour for the watercolour/ink effects it can create. Whether I would suggest your trying them again ..... I don't know; I think it's PROBABLY a good thing to have a range of media in which one tries to become reasonably proficient, but on the other hand watercolour is probably enough of a challenge in itself; and moving between media can be confusing even if it does also give you different ways of approaching subjects. I wouldn't be without oil, acrylic, or watercolour - but each to his or her own. The mistake, perhaps, is to think of acrylic as a substitute for either of the other two - either because people think it's easier (it isn't) or because they're intimidated by oil and watercolour but still want to paint in, eg, "watercolour style". If that's what anyone wants to do, they really are best advised to use watercolour, and not a paint which just won't behave the same way or produce anything much like the same results.

Robert, I only use watercolour and find it both the most rewarding and frustrating of mediums which is what makes it so compelling. I did try acrylics once, but it was like painting with household emulsion - it sits where you put it on the paper and that's about it. As Thea has said, watercolour behaves in such exciting ways. if you haven't yet tried the Daniel Smith range of watercolours, have a look at them on The Ken Bromley website - they are fantastic! (If you read the Artist, you'll have seen an article by Shirley Trevena a little while ago waxing lyrical about these paints. They can really take watercolour painting to a whole new level.)

You can't say gollywog in this day and age - you'll get yourself arrested, lol! I used to like the little ones you used to get with Hartley's jam. Sorry - side-tracked by that. Reading your last para, Robert, I can see that you are secretly in love with the unique properties of watercolour. Time to 'come out' I think and declare yourself a watercolourist, even although you also paint in a variety of mediums. What you describe when you see watercolour at work is exactly how I feel about it. It is the only medium that you have to learn to apply it to the paper and then sit on your hands and wait for it to do its bit. It is like a partnership - sometimes harmonious and sometimes downright combative - often frustrating in the extreme. However, if you do have the patience and confidence to work with watercolour paint, it can totally surprise and amaze you by producing wonderful effects that you probably had little to do with but can take all the credit for! So don't fight it, just enjoy it and you ARE a watercolourist and a good one at that.

I've always doodled - 60 years ago, my arithmetic papers were adorned by drawings of gollywogs: can't remember if that went down well or not, but I do know it was more fun than the arithmetic. Envelopes, wrapping paper, odd sheets of printing paper that have an inch or two of white space all fall victim to the phantom doodler. And I've often painted in acrylic on watercolour paper - anything rather than that ghastly paper they sell for painting with acrylics. Some brands of watercolour are insipid; some aren't noticeably lightfast; but when you find a brand - Winsor & Newton Artists'; Daler Rowney (ditto); Ken Bromley's own; and now Jackson's - that has real intensity, that doesn't fade back to nothing when you apply a wash, whether you feel you're very good with it or not doesn't much matter - you can see the paint blossoming, bleeding into other colours, actually WATCH it changing on the paper.... it's a physical pleasure, a sensuous thing; there's a tactility to it. Even watching a cauliflower forming is fun - the result probably isn't, but that can become almost secondary to the process. And guess what.....? I've just stretched another sheet of watercolour paper..............

Thea has made some sound suggestions to account for your dilemma - comforting if you want to stay as you are. Alternatively you can paint your way out into new directions by using acrylic on your stretched paper after it has dried. Just regard it as a prepared coloured ground and paint over it with acrylic straight from the tube. Learn by simply making marks - doodling if you like in a relaxed way. Create shapes which after a while will take on recognisable forms if you apply a little imagination. There was a television program recently presented by Andrew Marr about Winston Churchill and how actively painting kept him sane. Doodling has been shown by American research to improve imagination and memory. So go to it - looking forward to seeing your first imaginative efforts on Facebook.

Ah - you have been tempted by that most capricious of mediums. Watercolour does have an allure that people either identify with and feel comfortable with (me?) or they feel they want/must be able to use the medium and battle away when their heart isn't really in it. I recall that Robert has written a bit about this in the past. Whether you are good or bad in a particular medium isn't really the point. If you want to use it and want to have a go, then do. If not, then don't. You obviously do want to keep going with watercolour as it only took a tube of paint to suck you back in. As for being a better watercolourist - is that actually the point in the end. If it is a medium you can express yourself in, then who's judging?