Watercolor Class #7
June 17, 2013
300gsm Arches watercolor paper, W&N watercolors; 4×6″ sketches
It’s taken me six weeks, but I’m starting to get a very clear idea of the differences between pencil drawing and watercolor, or particularly, my style of pencil drawing and my teacher’s style of watercolor sketching.
Pencil drawing is all about detail, especially architectural detail, and is a vehicle for the struggle of observation; watercolor is all about suggestion, the lack of detail and the absence of any struggle. Pencil drawing is enriched by detail and re-statement; the latter is enriched by working alla prima, the absence of re-statement, the lack of any struggle on the part of the artist and must come across to the viewer as entirely effortless.
Pencil drawing is all about the process yielding up the lightest light against the darkest dark as if by accident at the end of the drawing, but watercolor is all about making most of the important decisions before one starts, e.g. knowing exactly where the highlights and bright whites will be in advance and leaving the paper blank there at the laying down of the very first wash.
Pencil drawing is all about a discovery process through observation; watercolor is about playing God and designing everything in advance.
Tonight’s lesson was based on a watercolor of Venice as seen on the front cover of Andrew Wilton’s book, “Turner Abroad”, with remarkably little more than very thin washes throughout, with the odd pencil embellishment.
Flicking through my sketchbooks of the last six months, I suddenly realise how I would paint the watercolor inclusions entirely differently. I suddenly want to re-do lots of pencil sketches as watercolors know that I “know” what it was I’ve experienced and observed in the original pencil drawing.
Next class is all about Boats and Reflections in Water. I went out yesterday to sketch boats, near my house, moored in Tempe Basin; I can see more benefit in drawing/painting boats from photos than from real life because of their constant movement; they move more vigorously than any life model lashing about in one minute poses! I came back with photos of my own and I’m armed with Ernest Watson’s book on drawing boats – not surprisingly, most of his pencil drawings deal with moored boats and derelict, forlorn harbor scenes in Maine.