The Most Important Watercolor Principle
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Angela Fehr – Artist Statement
It’s been nineteen years since I first discovered watercolour, a shy teenager newly returned to Canada. During my teen years I’d lived with my family in a remote village in Papua New Guinea, and the solitude had cemented a passion for art that I was excited to pursue. In that first class, I quickly realized that watercolour was a perfect fit for me. There is something about the fluidity of pairing paint and water and allowing them to “collaborate” on a page that is so captivating. It’s never boring, and always unexpected.
Over the years I’ve had many wonderful artistic opportunities. I’ve worked as a graphic artist, web site designer and freelance writer; served on the board of a local art society; shown my art in solo and group shows; taught art classes to children and adults; been featured in magazines, newspapers and web sites; and even been featured as a watercolour expert for a local television station. The world is full of exciting opportunities and new people to meet, learn from and enjoy, and I love to be a part of it all.
As a member of the Federation of Canadian Artists (Peace River Chapter), the Peace Watercolour Society and the South Peace Art Society, I enjoy the companionship of fellow artists and the opportunity to show my work several times annually as part of these societies’ group exhibitions.>
In addition to painting, I teach paper crafting, homeschool my three children, support my husband in his business and love living on an acreage in northeastern British Columbia. It takes creativity to live a full and interesting life, and I love creating art every day!
Hello, I am Angela Fehr. I am please to be on Art Instruction Blog today and I am here to share with you my most important watercolor technique. This is the technique I would use if I had just one opportunity to teach watercolor, if you were here in my studio in beautiful Northern British Columbia, I would want to share this one watercolor principle with you, if we just had a few minutes, this is what we would cover. And that is, all about the water. Here is one of my painting buckets. Water is the key to everything in watercolor and hence the name. What we see with watercolor is the more water you use, the more movement you get. Water is used for diluting your color. First it is used for moistening it. I’ve spritzed my palette to get everything nice and juicy to paint with and then from there we use water to determine how dark that paint is going to be. The higher the ration of pigment to water, the darker the color we are going to get and vice-versa the more water you add the more the color is diluted.
That is key to mixing paint, but when you are painting water plays a very important role and we are just going to do a quick little tree study I think here. So I am just going to start blocking in some shapes for my tree and as you can see right now I am working quite juicy with my brush. The pigment is actually kind of shiny on the paper and working with juicy pigment like this means we have more time to work and minipulate the paint so water is importaqnt in giving us time to allow the paint to move to put it where we want. Here I am using a wet brush to disperse the pigment. The water is pulling that pigment, if I put a color down that is too dark in one area I can use water instead of trying to lift it off the page or rub it off, I can use it, I can reposition it just by adding water and gently maniuplating it to move it accross the page. Gravity plays a role in painting with water. If I am tilting my board as you can see right now and I always work on a paintin board so the color flows downward and as you can see, if I were to , give that, it kind of stays in one place because the paper is dry but if I give it a nice little wet path to follow it will follow that path and here I have a trunk. Don’t I? Not necesarrily the color I want to work with but using water gives us that movement, it helps us move the color across the page as well as determing where the pigment is going to go. And because I am working nice and juicy, I am using a paper towel to lift those drips, and continue on.
I can use water to determine what and how much action is going to happen on my paper. Because everything is juicy, you saw, as soon as I added that little streak of water, everything started to move. Where as if I were to work with very little water, mostly pigment, I have a lot more control I can tilt my board with this paint on here which is put on very dry mostly pigment, just enough water to get the paint to move. If I were to tilt my board, this isn’t going to move anywhere. There are none of those droplets that you are seeing over here. So water gives you movement but it also means that you have less control, and if you are wanting to paint, when you get to the stage of your painting where you are putting in a lot of detail, thats where you want to work with less water. Early stages of a painting, as a general rule in the early stage of a painting, I painting with a lot of moisture. I want those fluid happenings to occur on my paper. I want to see that beautiful transition of color, where I’ve go this beautiful vibrant color flowing into darker tones and creating all kinds of amazing watercolor effects, and a lot of artists, if you are moving from painting in oils or acrylics, especially because the approach for those is very different than watercolor and so if you are transitioning from painting in one of those other mediums, you will find that your tendency is to work quite dry just like I talked about here, where you are using mostly paint and you are really layering it on with a lot of emphasis on the paint you are using. You are not so concerned about the water. You are adding just enough water to get the paint to move.
What happens then, is you are getting, you have a lot of control, but you are sacrificing the beauty of the fluid watercolor. So I encourage you if you are just getting started painting, work with exploring the movement that you get when you are working with juicy color. When I talk about being juicy, I don’t want a brush that is so saturated that it’s just going to drip all over the place as soon as you take it out of the water. Usually I will rinse it. I will take off those little droplets that are on the brush. So it’s saturated. It holds a lot of paint. Alot of water. But you know, I have to work a little bit harder to get it to drip. I’ve got lots of water. I use a big brush so it can hold lots of paint. And thats what I mean by a juicy brush. Its not uncontrollably dripping but it doesn’t have all of the moisture squeezed out so it acts more like a sponge. Once you squeeze the moisture out of your brush, you are going to be lifting up those droplets of color, just like a sponge would, rather than laying color down. So I encourage you, as you explore watercolor, play with this fluidity that we have in watercolor. This is an amazing effect you can get, you get beautiful transitions, notice I am using a very gentle touch when I am dropping in these colors. It’s giving me some really beautiful effects. When I have that fluidity I can really explore the effects that watercolor creates. Its beautiful uniqueness which is the whole reason I paint in watercolor, it’s the reason people are drawn to watercolor. When you are using it stiff and dry with just a tiny bit of water, you are really closing yourself off to some of this freedom and expressiveness that you can create.
So takeaways from this? More water equals more movement. Work nice and juicy. You have more time for things to dry. You have more expression, more dynamic color blends and transitions. You can really create a lot of beautiful effects with that beautiful fluidity. At this stage where I am at with this little dmeonstration, I would let this dry. I have my basic colors layed down, working nice an juicy like I said. Now that it is staring to dry, I can let it dry completely and then thats the time to go in with a drier mixture of paint to add in those precise details. place them exactly where you want them. And you can do two, or three or more really loose fluid layers over top of each other, before you go to that drier detail stage. So there is a place for all of these techniques, but take advantage of the fluidity for those early stages of your painting and then move into adding some more detail with more saturated, more stronger concentrations of pigment and a little less water so that you have that control for detail.
I hope you have found this tutorial useful. If you are interested in more of my watercolor instruction, I encourage you to look on my website. It’s Learn.angelafehr.com . I have both free and paid courses that are very comprehensive in presenting watercolor instruction, elaborating on techniques and showing how to apply them in different types of painting situations. Really just embrace your watercolor journey. It’s through practice that skill is built and created so really just love it enough to keep doing it and you will get better.