Thursday 15 November 2018

Delicate art of laying on washes

Watercolour painting is one of the more delicate forms of art. Its practitioners are like the poet, yearning for 'the heavens' embroidered cloths' but often ending up with 'the blue and the dim and the dark'. Like the poet, too, when they are finally done, they appeal to one's sensitivity and compassion.

'Tread softly because you tread on my dreams,' they say. And it is true; the dividing line between achievement and failure wavers there with every brush-stroke. The watercolour artist brings an army of artistic weapons in the form of a simple palette of colours and employs a general's strategies in the laying on of washes.

Patricia Butler puts it well, in her book, Three Hundred Years of Irish Watercolours and Drawings, when she says that the medium cannot conceal what is underneath, 'the painted surface becoming a series of colour filters which allow the light to pass through them and reflect off the white surface beneath'.

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