I started my hobby painting career almost twenty years ago, with a watercolour class. I was in my early twenties, the teacher and the other ladies in the class were in their sixties. We did "traditional", rather faded looking watercolours of mostly flowers. I learnt the basic techniques but although the teacher and other ladies were all very lovely, I just wasn't really inspired.
The next class I went to after that was an acrylics class. It was at an artists studio. He was a good 20 year youngers than the lovely ladies. I adored his style, his ideas, his creativity, his teaching style, I loved the bold colours and textures of acrylic paint. We didn't do any flower paintings. I've been going there ever since.
It's not that I haven't tried painting with watercolours again since that first class. When I bought my first box of water colours, I asked the shop assistant where the black and white paints were. She looked at me with such an expression of shock on her face as if I'd just confessed a murder to her. "You don't use white paint with watercolour", she resolutely and accusingly told me. "If you want white, you just leave out the areas. And you never, ever use black in watercolour". I left the shop humbled and embarrased - although not convinved. But without any black or white paint.
When we did watercolours in the painting class once or twice, my teacher always told me that I needed to use much more water. Watercolour paintings should be transparent, not as bold as mine. So I came to associate watercolours with traditional, antiquated, colourless, boring. A little bit at least. Admittedly, I was also a bit afraid of watercolours. It seemed that you always had to get it right, that there was no chance of correcting mistakes. To me, it appeared to be such a difficult technique that if you weren't a highly accomplished watercolour artist already, you better just left it alone altogether. And I gladly turned to my beloved and forgiving acrylics.
So I hardly ever got out the watercolour paints - and it certainly wasn't because of a lack of supply. The little travelling box on the left (complete with dark blue velvety pouch) must date back to the times of my first attempts. The big box at the back is my latest acquistion. A large tin box with good artist's quality paints, which I bought in London this summer. It was one of those 70% off special offers. I simply couldn't resist.
In May, I visited Vienna, and I went to the wonderful Kunst Haus Wien, a museum designed by Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser to exhibit his work. I have admired his unique style for a long time, but had never actually seen an origianl painting. And I had never realised how much he had painted with watercolours. I had never associated his bold, colourful works with this medium.
When I went on my summer holiday to London not long after, I was very pleased to see that there was an exhibition at Tate Britain about - Watercolour. I really liked the idea of an exhibition not about an artist, an artistic movement, a certain period or style, but about a specific paint medium. I thought it was rather clever. And I really enjoyed the exhibition; learning about the history and development of watercolours, the different styles, techniques, and most of all its versatility. I was also very pleased to see that white and especially black paints were frequently used, as well as bold colours :).
I'm still struggling a bit. I find it hard to achieve a light and airy and transluscent style, without using too much paint (on purpose, this time), and to try and find my style with this medium. But I won't give up. I'm determined to practise and get more accomplished, just as with my sketching and drawing.
And I'll never ever listen to anyone trying to tell me that you can't use certain colours with certain paint mediums again. You can use whatever you want, however you want. And if I want to use white and black in my watercolour paintings (or even a white gel pen, like I did in the above portrait), I will. And that's it. If no one had dared to break conventions and try something new, art history would be a very short chapter today. And we would never have had such innovative artists as for example Friedensreich Hundertwasser.