Watercolor, the Underdog

I was at Fed Ex this weekend scanning in some of my artwork (I totally recommend using Fed Ex for this btw, they have a nice large scanner and the color was pretty accurate). I started chatting it up with the employee that was helping me, and he asked curiously 'why choose watercolor?'. Apparently he gets a lot of artwork to scan, but rarely does he see any watercolor.

My juvenile answer: Because watercolor is just plain fabulous.

My real answer: Watercolor is a terrific medium. Strong and fluid, dynamic and organic. It's also totally the underdog, often misunderstood and therefore underrepresented. It's typically portrayed with pastel coloring, a favorite of beach scenes, a staple in baby's rooms. And while yes, I have painted beach scenes and nursery art with it, hear me now: It is so much more. Here are some more specific of why watercolor is wonderful:

Watercolor is honest > Because of watercolor's transparency, absorbency and its lack of white, there is no painting over an undesirable area and no real erasing (okay, yes, I can lift a lot of color with a paper towel, but not all. And that's a hack at best). The truth is, it forces a certain honesty from the artist, for overworking an area usually results in mutilated paper and often ruins the final effect. I know what you want to say here: Isn't this characteristic a bad thing? Not being able to fix mistakes?? No! I think the results you get when you can't overthink an area leads to a much stronger and more authentic final product. I think you will find this as well, if you give it a chance.

Watercolor is serendipitous > Serendipity: That lovely concept of fortunate happenstance, a pleasant surprise. Watercolor has this trait in spades. So often when I'm using it, I think I've made a terrible mistake, and then I take a step back, and realize this so-called mistake has made the painting beautiful and special. For an example, in my heron painting below, one of the splotches around the bird were originally a mistake. But after taking a step back, I fell in love, and proceeded to add more. I even mirrored the splotchy effect in the neck of the bird, which ended up being one of the loveliest aspects of the piece. These mistakes resulted in one of my favorite paintings I've made.


Watercolor is multi-faceted > Watercolor is full of awesome and easy effects that provide endless texture varieties. You can do wet on wet to get a nice watery effect. Dry on wet to get an organic, cell-like look. Wet on dry for detail painting. Add salt to a page to get subtle spots. Blot a textured paper towel to portray a rough surface. The options are endless and make for beautifully unique results every time.

Watercolor is simple > Supply-wise and set up-wise. I don't have to purchase an expensive canvas or oil paints. I don't need turpentine or linseed oil, and knowledge how to use these chemicals. I don't need ventilation. (I know it seems like I'm really hating on oil painting right now, but let's be honest, oils are a hassle). The set up and clean up takes just a few minutes and I don't necessarily need a dedicated area: Kitchen table and couch are my go-to areas right now in my small house. As I was thinking about it, I realized how mom-friendly watercolor is! Since even if I just have a thirty minute window, I can quickly grab my supplies and get a lot of paint on paper before one of my kids wake up. As any busy parent, or just busy person knows, this is a BFD. For real.

Watercolor is strong and versatile > I'm here to break the pastel prejudice. Watercolor can be heavy, dark and strong, as well as subtle and light. This is especially if you are using paint from a tube; just add little to no water to the paint and you basically have an acrylic. Sweetness. That is what makes it such an amazing medium; its versatility is breathtaking when you take the time to think about it. I'm hoping the painting below showcases its wide range. Just in this one painting, you have some heavy darks, some nice washes, and almost everything between in the mountain area.

My final point: It's time for a watercolor fine art comeback. Let's make it happen.

I heart watercolor.