Sunday, July 15, 2012

Back... to my Watercolour Ways

My introduction to painting dates back to my early public school days where pencil or crayon on manilla paper were the normal and only art fare in most classrooms. If one was lucky... a rare and brave teacher would break out the few tempera pans of solid primary colour... a battered  and too well used brush or two to push onto a brilliant white piece of 12x 18 inch cartridge paper. It was there... where my water colour journey first began!

I was blessed to have a family who provided me with other mediums to experiment with. I received more than a few paint-it-by-number kits with seascape and mountain motifs as Christmas gifts... and one set which I fondly remember... and truly particularly enjoyed painting... was a pair of pointers hunting pheasants. I really didn't cotton on to the idea of following numbers and not mixing my own colours... in the very same way that I truly detested colouring books... where the best most parents expect from their children in terms of accomplishment... is to "stay within the lines."... hardly an accomplishment for me.

I remember my first set of water colours made in Germany... one with an assortment of fifty hues that left rich... grainy stains of colour... which even then... excited my 10 year old senses! It came at Christmas to me from my Mom's sister Dorothy and her husband Don along with a HUGE pad of unblemished and virgin white watercolour paper... just for me! Needless to say... I paid little attention to any of the other Christmas gifts and soon had a crop of paintings to show about. That white "paper power" is something that I still treasure to this very day... and as well in my classrooms. God help the care-less young soul who crumpled up such a luxury and headed up to get another. All that such a person could expect... from a man who first painted on cereal and shirt boxes and "recycled" butcher paper... was a bit of "hot tongue and cold shoulder"... at best... along with an introduction to the waste paper basket and a lesson in  rescuing a crumpled sheet of drawing paper!

This said... let's skip along to the point in my life where I painted... ONLY in water colour. My teachers were Andrew Wyeth... AJ Casson... John Pike... Henry Gasser... Zoltan Zsabo... Franklin Carmichael... just to name a few. I went to their teaching classrooms and  conducted my own private lessons with them ... in books. Basically... I have thrived best in my searching and journey through this method of "study... copy and extend." It means simply... that "I" ... am the sum total of the works and artists that I have admired along the way... and I do not apologize for that statement. The simple truth is... that all new art... was once old... that nothing is new... but is merely re-translated. The world has truly produced very few "monuments" in the arts... mostly a lot of sheep like us ... who merely follow!

I painted solely in the water colour medium for almost twenty years and had a successful reputation and career using it. I even did some free lance work for Harrowsmith and Equinox magazines on occasion. I totally enjoyed everything about the medium... EXCEPT... that it could not be used outside in the colder months. That meant here in Canada... it was only viable as a medium for six months at best for outdoor painting. So I switched back to oils... and that brings us to current times. I prefer oils for this very strong reason. I love and prefer to be outdoors painting... and love the texture and smell of the oil paint!

However, as you have found out... I do still "dabble" with watercolour when I travel. It is portable... passes through customs easily and is a self-contained kit that requires little or no searching for additional materials while on the road or in the field. I find it useful to incorporate it with pen and ink... which provides a stronger sense of line... contrast and texture. In previous posts resulting from field work completed during my trips abroad to Scotland and the Barbados demonstrates the effectiveness of this combination of the two mediums.

In readiness for the next teaching session coming up on Tuesday... I have completed this little "prep" piece to introduce the process to the class participants. It is a recognizable and distinctly Thousand Islands motif and I feel it is crisp... colourful... while at the same time maintaining a loose and painterly approach. I feel that it is pleasing to the eye. I will also demonstrate using water colour only during the one hour lunch break to show water colouring in its "purest" sense. Should be fun!

I have selected three possible locations for the outing. The rest is up to the group! I'll simple become a resource and an encourager. The rest lies with each of them!

Stay tuned!...
Good summer Painting to ALL!!!


  1. Watercolor work is my favorite of all the mediums and your own is particularly beautiful, Bruce. Sigh inducing piece you've shared and I still think on that windmill from quite awhile back now.

  2. Hello there Sherry!... And watercolour suits you too. I particualarly enjoy the freedom that you exhibit... when you paint... in watercolour!

    Get at it Gal! That relative would love that house painting gift that you mentioned a while back!

    Thanks for sharing and visiting! Much appreciated!

    Happy Summer and Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  3. Hi Bruce, there's no doubt that using watercolours outdoors in winter is challenging. It's surprising what some people manage to do though. I expect you are familiar with David McEown.

    I hope you enjoy the watercolour outing.

    All the best,

  4. As always Bruce, your post are packed with such wonderful journeys into the past and back to the present. We all can relate to your journey of studying the great masters. Your work instills the inspiration and passion in all of us, to study and strive and just to enjoy our own journey.

    The road in endless and filled with wonder and excitement. Thank you friend for sharing your beautiful watercolor painting.

    All the best to you,

  5. Hi there Keith ... Thanks for stopping by and for your encouraging remarks!

    The class did quite well... given the high heat and almost 100% humidity. We painted right on the water... and in the shade for as much as we could and all produced pleasing results.

    Watercolour is a demanding medium and requires many years of trial and error exploration to accumulate the variety of techniques to create crisp watercolour.

    You and I both know that the effort is satisfying and worth the effort! You really have a magical way with them.

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  6. Hi there Joan!... I'm glad that you enjoyed the post! Thanks for visiting and for such complimentary remarks!

    Study and practice are the only ingredients necessary to grow one's proficiency in any medium. Each medium has its own peculiar traits which must be practised and understood.

    You certainly have "done your homework" ... both studying and applying yourself in search of new skills. Your work reflects this... and the obvious joy you have discovered in the process. Keep searching... and working!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,