Up to 2012 I didn’t have any experience of watercolours (in fact, not much painting experience of any type), so taking a watercolour sketchbook out and about on holiday has been something of a voyage of discovery. Watercolour, it turns out, can be a tricky customer, but when it works, it’s a great surprise.
Watercolour is a lifetime pursuit… mostly uphill. (Robert Wade)
From the first sketch of Montepulciano, Italy, in 2012, I realised that I was having trouble getting depth and definition. Maybe it was partly because I was using paint from pressed pans, not tubes, but the colour intensity I’d hoped for just wasn’t there. Even getting the dark shadows on the edges of the trees was a struggle as I tried to handle the paint.
Disappointed by the ‘flatness’ of the first image, I started to use the fine pen to produce line and wash sketches. Paint first, then pen – not the usual order, but it seemed to help me. I felt encouraged by the next picture, although contrast was still an issue. I really enjoyed the way the paint behaved on the tree foliage, although trying to put in individual tree twigs was definitely a mistake I only realised too late…
A few days later, still in Tuscany, I managed another quick sketch. Feeling a bit braver, I managed to get a little more impact into this one. But still a long way to go…and three years later, I’m not there yet!