I was a little girl when my interest in watercolour was first sparked. My parents gave me a tiny watercolour box for my birthday, I think when I was about 12 or 13 years old. I still have it and I have to admit that it hasn’t been used a lot… And I also still have some sheets of watercolour paper that I got at the same time!
Back then, I had a serious problem: I felt I had only a few sheets, and that I shouldn’t spoil them by making bad drawings… So I made none at all. I also used to have very few ideas, and the landscape or realistic type paintings that I tried were always disappointing. Then about 10 years ago, I gave myself a big watercolour present in the hope this would get me going: a much larger set of watercolour paints. But they also stayed dry for a long time. I felt quite blocked and could not really produce much.
But that changed about 3 years ago and now I have none of these problems. Actually, I sometimes can’t sleep because of all the images and ideas that come into my head. Not that they’re all world shattering ideas, but at least they are ideas :) I’ve also started using my watercolour paints a lot to make small sketches and drawings. There is one book I have now that I wished I could send to my 13 year old self: Water Paper Paint by Heather Smith Jones.
About the book: Water Paper Paint
In the introduction, Heather tells about her personal journey with watercolour; she loved it as a child, but she got frustrated with the medium when she took a course in her teenage years with someone who seemed to do magic with the paper and paint, Bob Ross style. Her paint didn’t want to do what he seemed to do so easily. Sounds familiar. During graduate school, she started to experiment again with watercolour, finding her own style and way of working. Heather now helps budding artists to discover the magic of watercolour. I love her work; it combines dreamy watercolour with poetry and natural bits and pieces.
In her book she strongly encourages you to experiment and find your own strategies and style. “Learn to make the paint work for you and convey your ideas so you can create your own work unlike that of anyone else”.
The book consists of three parts. In the first chapter she covers the basics of watercolour painting, paper, brushes etc, and there is also a section about one of Heather’s passions; making your own watercolour paint by hand.
The second part of the book consists of 30 projects. You’re encouraged to use a wide range of techniques and methods and surfaces, and the projects are both abstract and realistic. Some of my favourites are ‘writing with watercolour’, where you incorporate a poem into a painting; making ‘an artist’s book’ where you create a mini-journal; and ‘working with paper ephemera in a painting’. At the end of this post are a few images of a project I did as an exercise from Heather’s book using bits of an old and partly burnt geography book that I found along a road in our village (what’s the story there??).
Heather ends her book with gallery, showcasing interesting watercolour work from various artists, including work by Geninne Zlatkis, whose work I absolutely adore too.
This book is great fun for anyone who finds watercolour a bit daunting, and would just like to start playing with it a bit. And you know, this is how great work happens.