Watercolors: A Love Story

Since I’ve been old enough to hold a pencil, I’ve been drawing. I didn’t start to get serious about art until I was twelve, and came across a book that changed my life. It was “Drawing the Head and Figure” by Jack Hamm, and I still have that book on my shelf.

I’m a colors person, generally, so pencils alone never satisfied me. Pastels were great – the sweep of color, how easily they could blend into one another – but those blunt edges never allowed for the detail I always seem to focus on. And not to mention the mess. Discovering charcoals was exciting – the dramatic darks still capture my attention – but too monochromatic to be my go-to medium. Calligraphy was fun and beautiful but not as a full-time endeavor. Acrylics, I could never get the hang of them outside of crafty uses; oils, too toxic; computer art, too glitchy. What’s a budding artist to do?

In college I was fortunate enough to take a class in batik, which was as close as I could get to my pipe dream of silk painting. Batik, in short, is dyeing fabric using wax as a resist. (You can read more at Dharma Trading) It forces you to think backward from most mediums – you have to work from light to dark, know exactly which colors will go where, how they’ll work together, and stick to the plan. Batik gave me a glimpse of the world of textile art, and I loved it.

Skip ahead a few years, to fall of 2005, as I’m looking for something new to try. My old community college was offering some classes taught by my former batik professor. I enjoyed her batik class so much years earlier that I decided to give one of her current classes a try. Why not watercolor?

Right from the start I knew I was onto something. Though I’d never done anything with watercolors outside of grade school, they felt natural to me. Instinctive. I still feel that learning batik prepared my mind for watercolors – the planning mindset is similar in both, to me at least. The wayward oil/acrylic folks in my class struggled with the limitations and general pickiness of watercolors, but to me it was kismet. Pure color, as soft and abstract or tight and detailed as you want. What more could I ask for? It was love. They may not be for the faint-hearted, but the more I learn of watercolors, the more I love them. And continue to love them, to this day.