Updated: Mar 31
We will soon have an immersive x4 week expressive watercolour course (from Monday 24th April), so we thought you might be interested in a little in-depth look at this fabulous medium!
Watercolour has a rich and fascinating history that spans centuries. From its humble beginnings as a simple mixture of water and ground minerals, to the complex and vibrant hues we see today, the evolution of watercolour pigment is a testament to the ingenuity and creativity of artists throughout history.
The history of Watercolour painting stretches back to ancient times. Cave paintings in Lascaux, France, dating back to approximately 15,000 BC, feature colours made from natural pigments mixed with water. In ancient Egypt, artists used a mixture of water and ground minerals to create vibrant paintings on papyrus. This technique was later adopted by the Greeks and Romans, who used watercolour pigment to create intricate illustrations and decorative designs. During the Middle Ages, watercolour pigment became a popular medium for illuminated manuscripts, with artists using a variety of natural pigments to create intricate and colourful illustrations and the Renaissance saw a renewed interest in the medium of watercolour with artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Albrecht Dürer experimenting with new techniques and materials to create stunning works of art.
Watercolour became a popular medium in the 18th and 19th century for landscape painting, with artists such as J.M.W. Turner and John Constable using the medium to capture the beauty and majesty of the natural world. Pre-Raphaelite painters utilised watercolours to create highly detailed and realistic works, while artists such as John Singer Sargent used the medium to capture dynamic and spontaneous landscapes and figures. In the mid-20th century, artists began to experiment with abstraction in watercolour painting, like American artist Mark Rothko and Helen Frankenthaler who were at the forefront of this movement, creating works that focused on the interaction between colour and form.
Watercolour is the medium of art that exists in its own realm of beauty. Unlike other mediums, such as oil or acrylic, watercolours have the ability to capture the essence of the scene with unparalleled delicacy and sensitivity and are often considered unpredictable, as they have a mind of their own, which makes them even more charming to work with.
When one thinks of watercolour, the first thing that comes to mind is its transparency. The colours are bright and vivid, yet light and airy at the same time. It is almost as if the paint is alive on the paper, dancing and mingling, creating shades that are unique to watercolour and the transparency of the medium makes it ideal for landscapes and natural scenery. Another aspect of watercolour that is often talked about is its fluidity, paintings have a movement that can't be replicated in other mediums. The way the paint flows and mixes with the water is integral to its beauty. Some of the most beautiful effects produced are the result of allowing the colours to be poured and blended on the paper, paintings are often thought to have an ethereal quality that is hard to achieve with any other medium.
Today, with advancements in technology, including pigments, papers and tools, the form of painting continues to evolve and flourish. The versatility of watercolours - wether used for delicate, translucent washes or bold, dynamic mark-making - makes it a very popular and exciting choice. Watercolour painting is a beautiful and expressive art form that will allow you to convey your emotions and ideas through the use of colour and brushstrokes. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced artist, watercolour painting offers endless possibilities for creativity and self-expression. By layering colours and allowing them to flow into one another, artists can create rich, complex hues that convey mood and emotion. For example, deep, moody blues and purples can be used to evoke feelings of sadness or melancholy, while bright, vibrant yellows and oranges can convey joy and excitement. Watercolours can be used in a variety of ways, from light washes and delicate brushstrokes to heavy impasto and bold, gestural marks. By varying the texture of the paint, artists can create a range of effects, from soft and dreamy to bold and dynamic.
Expression through watercolour is an opportunity to be spontaneous and fluid in your approach. The nature of the medium can be unpredictable, with the water and paint often doing unexpected things. Rather than trying to control the paint completely, it is better to let go and allow the process to unfold organically and this can lead to surprising and beautiful results with a sense of energy and vitality in the painting. By playing with colour, texture, technique, and spontaneity, you can create paintings that are filled with mood, emotion, and energy. Watercolours offer a unique and versatile medium that encourages experimentation and creativity.
If you have not tried this medium before, or would like to expand your watercolour technique, why not join us on our next course and explore the endless possibilities of this beautiful medium, in an expressive manner. We also have a mini watercolour break 'Wild Summer Botanicals' in June, so why not join us for an afternoon dabble - if this suits you better! Whether you are a beginner or more experienced, both courses are perfect for anyone who wants to learn new techniques and break free of traditional watercolour, leaving you feeling inspired and empowered!