We derive our affinity towards watercolours from the British. Two British painters of the eighteenth-century Joseph Turner and John Constable were responsible for introducing it as an independent genre. Earlier watercolours were looked upon as preparatory medium for painters. The painter’s John Singer Sargant, Winslow Homer and William Russel Flint helped water colours reach new heights. The golden age of watercolours was during the period of Edward Siego, Edward Wesson and John Pike. In the latter part of the twentieth century, various styles and experiments in them resulted in the development of modern art. The term Modern Art covers pure transparent watercolours, gouache and other opaque colours.
Painting in watercolours is quite different from painting in oil. Since oil is an opaque medium it forms layers when being applied. In the case of oil painting if there is a flaw in the composition or colour the same can be corrected by re-painting that particular area. This is not possible in watercolours. In watercolours, if we reapply colour to the flawed a new colour appears as a result of the mixing of the old colour with the new one in the process damaging the work. Painting in watercolours can be compared to shooting an arrow from a bow which cannot be bought back once it is fired.
Watercolour can be defined as paints when mixed in water dissolve and flow freely. After being applied they spread out and remain there after the water has dried out. Gouache can also be called as watercolour as they are soluble in water. The main characteristic of watercolour s is the fluidity which proves to be a challenge as they flow freely on paper. Thus to get the desired result they must be regulated and blended to achieve the desired goal. This skill tests competence of the painter. To summarize painting in watercolours is applying washes carefully. The desired result is achieved by applying transparent colours one after other.
In watercolours, one has to keep in mind that the colours are transparent hence when a new colour is applied it affects the previous colour. For example, if the red colour is added to the previous yellow colour present it resulting in the colour changing to orange. Similarly, if we add blue to yellow the colour green is obtained. Care should be taken to avoid more than two washes as it leads to a muddy effect. The skill of the artist lies in not overworking and thus maintaining transparency.
One of the features of watercolours is that if white colour is required in a particular area that area is left untouched so that it retains the white colour of the paper. For example, if your painting has some snow-clad mountains first you need to outline the mountain in pencil and then the area where the snow is present is left blank. The ideal approach would be to plant the picture in advance so that you know which areas need to be let blank. Watercolours as a medium are dynamic. One of the disadvantages of using watercolours is that is difficult to control but helps the artist to speed up the process in terms of expressing his thoughts. This makes the picture spontaneous. To quote William Wordsworth on poetry “ It is a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” can be applied to watercolours also. The medium of watercolours helps you to achieve spontaneous overflow easily. Watercolour is one of the best mediums when you need to capture your ideas on paper. The other disadvantage of watercolours is mastering the technique which requires regular practice.
To achieve a free flow one needs to understand the effect of the colour that is being applied on the paper. The painting then exudes simplicity and ease without showing the effort involved in the creation.