WATERCOLOUR PAINTING

Potsdam Alter Markt Stadtschloss 1840
The Old Market with the City Palace 
in Potsdam in 1840  

Watercolours are made of pigments that are soluble in the water.  The word watercolour refers to both: the medium of painting and the resulting painting. 

Artists enjoy several advantages by using watercolours. These advantages lie in the quickness of its application and the transparent effects that the watercolour creates. One of the major attractions of using watercolours is that it gives brilliancy to the paintings. The artists often depict endless excellence and a sense of a place that would be impossible otherwise.

Watercolour: Gateway of the Art of Painting:   The handling of watercolours is quite technical, as there are very few chances of correcting any mistake done while painting. These colours also need special care on the part of the artists and the owner of the paintings. These paintings would be vulnerable to sunlight, dust and humidity in the air. However, modern techniques have taken care of most of the drawbacks of watercolours.

Watercolour paintings include fresco, tempera, aquarelles, gouache types of paintings. If we ask an artist why he or she uses watercolours, the answer could be in three words: speed, transparency, and spontaneity of the colours. These are the basic qualities of watercolours. And for permanency, even if they are sprayed on thin paper, these colours last for centuries.

Creating Harmony  Harmony is a state of happening where wavelengths of those present around meet each other to form a pleasant scenario. In painting, the harmony of colours is paramount. If the colours are used to create a harmonious looking painting, it is an achievement of the artist. Here the artist creates a single effect using different characters of the colours of his or her plate; the plate might be full with cool colours or bright colours, but the painter configures a whole picture to facilitate and please the viewers.

The artist, while painting in watercolour, oil colours or in any other medium,  endeavours to find equivalents of the colours he or she sees in the real atmosphere. But the choice is limited to the colours available in the palette. As the piece of music entertains the listener by creating a listening engagement, the painter tries to create visual attention in the eyes of the viewers.

Sternwarte Berlin Friedrich Wilhelm Klose
View from Dorotheenstrasse to the
old observatory in Berlin. Watercolour.

Sense of Order   The viewers, or the listeners, enjoy the art or music if the sense of order is there. It is pivotal for creating interest and the final enjoyment through the work of art. By harmonising the tones and values of the colours, the painter creates the same sense of order. With the help of his or her painterly vision, the artist creates a kind of lively equilibrium among the different tones of the colours used. Ultimately the end product, the painting on paper or canvas, arises creating a convincing reality of the object the artist has created. 

Adding Light and Rhythm     In the painting Sternwarte Berlin, we can see the adept handling of the colours by the painter. The light is everywhere as if the sun is out to fill every corner of the scene. And as it is the daytime, the people are walking on the street, happily, enjoying the presence of the warm sunlight. 

In the detailed foreground, the shadow of the building on one side is lighted by the glow of sunlight falling on another part of the street. Surprisingly, compared to the size of the painting and the proportion of the building, the space allotted to the sky is on the higher side. But the artist might have thought adding a powerful and complete feel of the noon-time, and thus he would have made the sky-space more prominent.

Another essential aspect of watercolour painting is the skilful use of light and darkness. It adds a rhythmic pattern to the final work. The large stock of light, filling the land, the road, and the street like the water fill a roaring ocean adds a pool of energy to the whole painting. There is another reason too for considering a painting with scorching sunlight a powerful one: the sun is regarded as the symbol of potent power. In watercolour paintings, the light adds rhythm enhancing the value of the painting. 

Turku Cathedral, Finland 

When an artist decides to paint in watercolours, the prime factor he would think about would be the light. The light, the sunlight, can be bolstering or pale; the light can be intense or diffuse. The artist sets his or her palette and watercolours following the pattern of the light. 

The second important aspect to consider while deciding on paint watercolour is the position of the sun. The way in which the sun or moon illuminates the objects in the surrounding becomes pivotal. For an experienced landscape painter, it is easier to consider the aspect of light properly. The falling of light adds value to the painting and infuses refinement to the objects. Ultimately the artists use these aspects to enliven the art piece. 

Here in this watercolour, the power of light seems to compete for the height of the cathedral. The sunlight falling from one side enlightens each and every object. Moreover, the presence of men in uniform on the street, and the horse-driven vehicle, carrying a supposedly representative of some power over the area, add much to the field of energy.

The Message in Painting     Surprisingly the man sitting in the horse carriage is painted looking pale in comparison to other objects present in the scene. The artist might have an idea to make it allegorical. Perhaps it conveys a message that however powerful a man may be, he is insignificant before the power of God, here represented by the cathedral and the omnipresent power of nature symbolised by the flood of sunlight.

S. Dali with Dandaline, Watercolour
CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There are certain and well-known techniques used while using watercolours. The most used technique is the ‘Washing’. In this technique, the artist wets the area of the paper to be covered by the wash. It is done by applying water with a brush or otherwise.  

There are certain and well-known techniques used while using watercolours. The most used technique is the ‘Washing’. In this technique, the artist wets the area of the paper to be covered by the wash. It is done by applying water with a brush or otherwise.  

The Glazing:   Similar to the "Washing" technique, the technique of “Glazing” is also applied after finishing the painting. The act of glazing, especially in watercolour paintings, refers to applying a layer of paint over an already applied layer of paint. The glazing is done by thinning the colour with water, making the colour transparent. After glazing the texture of the surface, the painted area that is glazed changes its looks.  The drying takes its time, depending upon the amount of water used and the quality of the colour used. After drying the glazed colour, it becomes the final look of the paintings.

For glazing, the artists grade transparent colours would be preferred. The popular pigments are Auroline, cobalt blue and permanent rose. For applying a glaze colour, the paintbrush is filled with quite a wet pigment. Then the artists apply the colours on wet paper or on the dried surface. The technique of glazing produces soft and subtle marks on the paintings. It makes the background areas hugely impressive.

Egyptian Pyramids, watercolour over graphite 
Henry BaconHonolulu Museum of Art, Hawaii

There is one more technique of applying colours; it is called the “Scrumbling” technique. Scrumbling is similar to the glazing described above, except, colours used here are opaque.  Instead of adding value to the underground paint, the Scrumbling obscures the same. After the scrumbling, it becomes difficult to identify whether the artist has used ' Scrumble' or not.  

Process of Painting  When an artist looks upon a scene, immediately a visual experience is generated in her or his mental sphere. If these visual images the artist made into his or her mind are is translated into colours within a short period of time, they can be recorded with deeper authenticity. For this purpose of lively recording, the artist needs a medium that can be applied with delicacy. The watercolours provide such an opportunity where an artist can use brushes, loaded with wet colours and infused with elegance. The immediacy is the real strength of watercolours. Such a facility, such a luxury is hardly available while using oil colours as the oil colours take their own time to dry.

Summer landscape with a road,
water paint on paper, 25 x 34.7 cm

Why Painting the Landscape:  The art of landscape painter revolves around the pivot of honouring and celebrating the physical environment we could see on the surface of the earth. An artist would try recreating it on canvas or on any other support. This task may be executed in a variety of ways. The main attraction for considering the landscape as a big canvass lies in the virginity of the beauty of the countryside. It is a delightful and relaxing place for retreating from the chaos of city life. Richly packed with long pastoral areas, the mountains, rivers, lush green vegetations and the down-to-the earth people: these are the subjects that hold great importance for landscape painting.

Act of Artist      The noble duty of landscape painters is to depict the underlying structures and not merely the details of the world which are revealed in three-dimensional forms. The painters by their art strive to let the art-lovers rising to a higher and noble plane. Real-life is full of imperfections, but the artists prefer the most beautiful parts to represent. On seeing the final artwork, our eyes would catch the painting’s colours, its proposition, and the balance of light and shade. Here the desire of the painter to replicate the ideal beauty is achieved through their works. 

Berliner Hütte, watercolour by Unknown artist 1879
Unknown artistUnknown artist

The artists use different styles and techniques while paintings. They have options before them so far as the tools of the trade are concerned. Various types of brushes in sizes and the long assembly line of colours to chose from are their facilities before they start paintings.

Water Colour Techniques:  The artists, for using their art in an interesting way chose different techniques. In these techniques of watercolour painting, the colours are prepared by dissolving desired colours in the water. Watercolours might be opaque or transparent; the artists should be well-versed with different techniques of watercolour painting. Then the necessary amount of pigment is mixed and applied over the wetted areas, and on any overlapping sections of the art, after which it is dried by either keeping in the sun or under the fan. Only after drying, the paint would spread evenly. At this time it would be useful to keep a piece of watercolour paper in hand for using it in case of need arises; adjusting paintbrush or excess colour laid on the paper. It would help a lot in bringing about controlled results.

There are several other techniques, too, which are applied by various artists making their artwork look attractive. They strive to make their work unique. While painting, in watercolour or oil painting, every artist desires to express his or her thoughts in different ways and techniques known to him or her. Take the case of a portrait painting. A well-painted portrait would show the inner qualities of the person whose portrait is done, as the aim of the artists cannot be limited to painting the contours of the face and limbs of the model. [All the images are in Public Domain, taken from Wikimedia Commons]

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