paints and pens, stuff i've made

aquarelle, ma belle

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I’ve got eight days off, and by the time I go back to work it will be 2014. The monsoon moved in about a week ago, and it has been grey, damp, and rainy most of that time. To while away the dark and gloomy days, I’ve embarked on something new. Two weeks ago I was given a really special present by my favorite mermaid: a 12 half-pan tin of Schmincke Horadam watercolours. Such beautiful paints (or so I’ve heard…I’ve never actually used real watercolours, as people were always telling me that watercolour is the hardest medium, and I never worked up the courage to try them)!

Claudia Nice “Creating Textures in Pen & Ink with Watercolor”

My mission, now, is to learn how to use these paints. I’ve bound a little painting book of 100% cotton rag paper especially for this adventure, and I have one reference book (by Claudia Nice…it’s from Jacksons Drawing Supplies) to help with achieving the look of different textures and materials (good tips on creating the effects of glass, metal, rust, wood, stone, fur, feathers, heaps more…) using aquarelles and pen & ink. That’s all I wanted, really: someone to show me how to make a calm sea look smooth and glassy, or a bear look deeply furry, and not the other way around.

(I tease Kris about this in his acrylic paintings…everything, from human limbs to stone walls, looks like it is made out of plasticine. ;) )

The planning ahead and keeping things light and translucent was a struggle for me but—headphones in and set up at the table outside, with plenty of natural light—I really lost myself in it.

UntitledI started with the blue bottle from Nice’s book (but my wonky drawing has produced a square-sided bottle with a round base) and then tried the techniques out using a real perfume bottle. Then I got ambitious and spread some acrylic plastic beads on the table, and tried to paint them.

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There’s something so wonderfully simple about this medium…the idea that a small paint tin, a demitasse of water, a soft brush and a pocketbook of rag paper are all you need to go into the world and start painting what you see. It all fits into a small shoulder bag! It really is the ideal traveler’s medium, and I can’t wait to take it with me on all my big trips next year.

Before that happens, though, I really must work on my drawing skills…look at these wonky half-pans of paint! Talk about distorted view…

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15 thoughts on “aquarelle, ma belle

  1. Tom Dad says:

    Nat, I immediately recognized the wonderful set that you sent Brian, which he bequeasted to me, not having time for anything but his big oil canvases). How inspiring! Thanks for the tip on the book. I hope to find it at National bookstore.
    Love and enjoy that vacation to the fullest! Dad

  2. I find them hard because it’s like letting go, instead of building up colour and shade, the coloured water needs to be unrestrained and make the marks where it will… Totally different to acrylics… Great start though!

    • Letting go is a great metaphor for it! I find them hard because the handling’s so subtle…coaxing a form out of little more than humidity and a hint of color! So different from pushing thick gobs of strongly colored acrylics or oils around with a brush like a paddle! Thanks for your insight!

  3. Melanie says:

    That’s incredible! I bought a set of watercolor paints at the beginning of the summer, but I’m still in college, so I never really found time to paint. Your paintings look great, though! I think I’m more in the “abstract” stage – I can’t really replicate things realistically quite yet.

  4. HEY! Don’t put you down! I can’t watercolor either. Yours look like you’ve been doing them always. (thinking to self that you must paint with other medium) I just get flat too much color or too much water, brush blobs or streaks, sigh. My artist friend said for me to approach it like energy work. Simply and calmly apply the color to the entire paper, use fingers, rags, brushes, so that my hands and fingers get to know the paints and the surface and they me. Then he laughed at the scowl on my face.

    • I’m not putting me down LOL but I am allowed to be newbie at something I’ve never tried before! I never said I wouldn’t get good at it with time. Then you’ll get sick of listening to me be all “Oh, yeah, I am soooo bloody good at this…” You’re right about painting before, it helps a little: Not so much with the drawing (which still sucks), but really looking, really seeing the subject…how to see that, and then imagine it as flat layers of paint. And I guess I learned to day that less really is more. My washes are barely colored when I start…I build up only when I can see a clear path ahead. :)

        • I meant seeing and looking with my eyes, and maybe holding a bead right up close. Literally. But if you want some inscrutable Eastern advice on painting, I offer you this:
          The secret to becoming a master painter is:
          Become perfect. And then paint naturally.
          *sound of a gong is heard in the distance*

          • I know I am sitting here puzzling and giggling over layers and testing paths. He said something like your shared secret there too :) Thank you for engaging this morning. I am enjoying myself and I appreciate it.

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