Thursday, July 16, 2009
Watercolour Landscape Painting...So Much to Learn.
I found myself looking online, at the paintings of another artist the other day. And, once again I wrapped my head around an old often thought idea. "This person has 'fast tracked' their way into art by painting single subject works, reinforced by a good background wash."
It happens a lot it seems.
An artist paints a spray of flowers in a vase, or a couple of apples on a table, or a bird sitting on a branch and gives it a background wash and signs it off with the sweep of his/her name.
This observation was reinforced by an artist, of many years, whom I know, who stepped out on the limb and painted a few landscape scenes. It was evident from the get go, that he was swimming over his head in pretty deep water.
But, I have no cause for patting my own back. Nobody asked me to paint landscapes - in watercolour. That was my choice alone. I made my own bed to lie in.
The learning curve is mighty, for the landscape watercolourist. Its not like painting a peach on a windowsill.
You have to learn the art of composition, and how to identify the potential within a picture. You have to learn to develop visual pathways into your work - roads, rivers, birds in the sky, terrain shapes, and fences.
Then there is the matter of values - learning how to appropriate suitable values and how to play these light/dark values back and forth against each other. As if that isn't enough there is the routine stuff such as painting water, trees, fields of waving grass, rocks, clouds and the list goes on.
Then there is the challenge of selecting a suitable pallet and interpreting values to create atmosphere or mood.
See what I mean? Its no easy task.
I once took a one week course on painting skies - and by week's end I had hardly opened the door on the subject.
The downside of being a landscape artist, is that 'you have to know your stuff, and do it well.' Everyone sees trees and rocks and skies around them, and if they aren't painted well - clumsy fisted techniques can bring rapid criticism.
The chance of making a mistake in painting a pear on a table cloth, is minimal. But the chance of screwing up the painting a tree with a reflection on water is immense.
Since landscape watercolouring is a hard venue to learn - it takes a long time, perseverence, and hard work to reach your goal.
I stopped at an art display one day and looked at the works of a respected local artist. She was an abstractionist. I asked her how long she had painted.
She said...."one year."
I followed it up to ask her if she had taken classes....."no".
She responded by saying, that she didn't wish to be influenced by someone else's style.
Well, from what I could see there was no problem there to worry about.
I nodded and made a few positive comments and walked away thinking.......one year from picking up your first brush to publicly showing and selling your works and handing out business cards and wearing the title of being an 'artist'. Not bad. Not bad.
On the other hand, a landscape watercolourist I know publicly said that she didn't consider that she had arrived at a level of skill where she could comfortably call herself a real artist, until after 5 years of committed work.
As I walked away, I reflected back to my own development at the end of my first year of painting in waters. Let's just say that if I attended art school for children, I would have been known as the big kid at the back of the 2nd grade class who was given a big chair and desk.
From my persepctive.....landscape watercolouring, is the toughest of all media to make it in.
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