Saturday, November 7, 2009
Painting Watercolors and Cooking Squid
Tim Wootton over on the Wildlife Art section of Birdforum.net recently posted a link to Joseph Zbukvic, a watercolorist who works at blazing speed. As I watched the video clip I was amazed at his facility with watercolor and brush. He says all you need is "faith." Well yes, but that faith only comes I think, for most people, with some confidence in their abilities, a confidence generally won through hard experience. At the same time watercolor looks so good when it is done quickly and not muddied and belabored.
On the other hand there are some watercolorists for whom I'm sure that this is blasphemy. They do great detail over many, many days, letting the paper completely dry before doing additional work.
As I was thinking about this it reminded me of most basic recipes for cooking squid: you either cook it over a very high heat for just two minutes or so, or you simmer it over a low heat for 30 plus minutes. So the same food treated very differently, both with excellent results.
But the important cooking and art lesson here, is that in-between just doesn't work very well. I know! So I decided to force myself to start doing some quick watercolors, often with a time-limit.
The 14x17 inch watercolor above of two soras is an example. It's based on sketches and photos of the soras we saw at Horicon NWR in September, 2009.
The sketch above is one I did in preparation for the watercolor. I then spent about 15-30 minutes drawing something similar onto the watercolor paper. Then I made myself work quickly. I had thought about 15 minutes but that was way too short. 60 minutes seemed about right. It allowed me to let the paper dry a bit when it needed to but also prevented me from getting too detail oriented or too tight. The ticking clock kept my brush moving.
I think I'll do some more of these. I'm happy with how this turned out. There will always be some things that I'd like to repair in such paintings I'd guess but there's also much that can be learned by working quickly. The important thing is bright fresh squid, not overcooked, jaw-breaking, rubbery stuff!
That same discussion on birdforum.net forced me to go look at my ancient textbook on Chinese brush painting, itself based on the 17th century Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting. But that's a story for another day!!