Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Samson And Sparrow

The very last page of Darren Woodhead's 'Up River' has the acknowledgements. It's not often that you find any pearls of wisdom in this location. But here you do. He thanks his tutor at the Royal College of Art, John Norris Wood, for telling him 'just use colour direct in brush', thus determining the subsequent style of his work.

And a striking and beautiful style it is, painted watercolor with rarely any sign of pencil drawing. There's of course nothing wrong with pencil drawing and some of my favorite watercolor artists, e.g. Winslow Homer, use it. But it can also be inhibiting and restricting, something that holds you back from using the full expressive powers of watercolor.

I think most truly accomplished artists of whatever sort can claim that their artistic instruments become extensions of themselves, almost like an extra limb. That is true for me when I'm drawing. Whether it's pencil, charcoal or pastel I feel like I'm wholly connected to it. It's not a foreign object I'm holding in my hand. Not so with brushes and watercolor though. The brush often seems like a foreign object, whose directions are in a foreign language.

It was only by happenstance that I received 'Up River' while I was doing my quick watercolors. Their main purpose has been to get me to feel freer with watercolor so that the brush becomes as familiar as a pencil. It was just fortuitous that I got this book at the same time.

All of which is a long-winded introduction to the watercolor sketches at the top. A few nights ago I realized that our cats seemed to be posing for me every night, just asking to be drawn. I didn't want to draw them but I thought it was an opportunity to paint them in watercolor. As you can probably tell these are done very quickly, often in less than a minute. They've been fun. And besides having some visual memento of two of our cats, Samson and Sparrow, they're helping me to feel like a watercolor brush is just an extension of my hand.

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