I arrived early for this week’s lesson. The prospect of doing ‘wet on wet’; ‘taking off’ and ‘feathering’ was a great incentive – they do all sorts in Kent.
I reach for my watercolour set – I was hoping to get money off from the craft shop because there doesn’t seem to be a black or white in my colours. How do I get pink or ebony? My art teacher pushes on… explaining that watercolour artists don’t need those colours – they simply mix from the colour wheel. Hmmm… I still think maybe the craft shop was trying to sell me a duffer.
We then have to fill in our colour wheel… no cheating… just using yellow, blue and red. Now it seems that I didn’t even need the other nine colours. I could have saved myself a few bob.
Getting busy flooding my blocks of colour with water. It comes to nothing. I really have to work this geezer… my yellow. Now it comes to mixing yellow and blue to get… what should be green. But the mixing palette doesn’t seem to play ball. The brush seems reluctant to part with the insipid lime colour. What little does remain on the palette seems to be unhappy to be there. It coalesces into a minuscule blob. It seems that my palette behaves like the ‘water off a ducks ar#e’. In fact, I’m sure that it has the precise molecular structure of a ‘ducks a#se’.
First we start with ‘wet on wet’ and it’s nothing to do with body art it seems. Teacher demonstrates with a painting using just water? I can’t see it but I guess I have to go with the flow. Everyone else seems to see it… Is this the emperor’s new clothes?
Then we move on to ‘taking off’ which again doesn’t involve any kind of clothing. It’s about removing paint where it shouldn’t have been in the first place? This is really challenging my creative mind.
Finally, we discover the world of ‘feathering’. It involves using a stubbly old brush to push out what wet paint we have been able to smudge on the paper. The effect is quite a dramatic firework display. For me it’s quite an experience. I would have got a ‘wally topspin’from the art teacher at school if I had been found to be abusing the brushes in this way.
And then last of all, there’s the watercolour paper. It soaks up my dithering gestures and quite unexpectedly seems to create something all of its own. That’s great, you set it on its way and it does its own unique thing. Is that cheating? I’m sure I didn’t do that… this paper seems to have a way of creating depth and texture. Is that what artists do? Do they just start things on their way and let the materials do their magic? Well it seems to work with me… I’m more of a fatalist than a believer in agency theory. Remember Steinbeck – in East of Eden, the main character extolled the ability of folks to act independently and exercise free will. But it seems sometimes that politics and health have taken that luxury away… and so has my paint palette. Yet on this occasion, losing control has let me discover the artistic talents of the paper itself. On this occasion, fatalism has taken a beautiful path.