Wolf Kahn says in his book, Wolf Kahn Pastels, “I believe that every artist has one medium that determines the way he uses every other one. In Turner’s case, for example, the artist’s oil paintings aspire to the quality of watercolor. Daumier’s use of line and tone in every medium recalls the marks that a lithographic crayon makes on a stone. Van Gogh’s brush marks and palette-knife slashes are the colored equivalents of the lines a quill pen makes on paper. In my work, the determining medium is pastel.” (pg. 15)
If this is true, (and it seems to bear out in these cases and many others), then MY determining medium must be watercolor. I am not an artist on par with any of those Kahn cites here, nor do I think that I use all other mediums (pastel, acrylic, and charcoal are my other favorites) in exactly the same manner as I do watercolor. The critical point is that though I make forays into these other mediums…watercolor is what I always come back to and I always have something I’m working on in watercolor while I’m working with the others.
One of the things I adore about watercolor is just how many ways it can be used! Everything from it’s defining oozles and wazzles, all the way to quite opaque paintings that hint at acrylic or oil. Watercolor can be layered, spattered, splashed, washed, glopped, palette-knifed, textured, smoothed, bold or delicate. I’m hard-pressed to say exactly which way is my favorite way to use it…that all depends on the day. I enjoy it for the big shape paintings with bold, opaque color, AND I love the oozling and unpredictableness of liquid colors. Greg Betza, one of the artists who contributes to a favorite drawing site, says he likes to spell it “watercoloUr” for the latter reason…its luscious passages from one color wazzling into another. Here! Here! My sentiments exactly. Bob Lysiak and Skip Lawrence taught me the more opaque approach with watercolor and all its benefits: ease of re-working a section, gorgeous color combinations, layers of color that are still seen “through” other layers (unlike acrylic), and the shimmer of light bouncing through the paint to the white paper and back again. To see more of my work in this vein, click here.
To say that watercolor is “my favorite” somehow waters down the truth. It is not merely my favorite, like chocolate (and oh boy, do I love chocolate!!), but rather it is essential, anchoring, foundational. Kahn goes on in the next paragraph to say about pastel, “Pastel was the thread that tied me to my past commitments. And it was with pastels that I reestablished a solid continuity once I had regained my confidence…” (pg. 15) I would say this is true with watercolor for me…a thread…a solid continuity. It once even inspired me to write an Ode to it here, should you wish to read.