A package arrived to my workplace last week. In fact, several packages arrived but I had been waiting for one in particular. A brush. A brush I’d heard so much about I really thought it would be a game changer. I waited for a month because I couldn’t find it here in Montreal. Ordering from Amazon and having to wait a month is not fun, it’s the severest form of “first world pain”.
Finally it arrived. I unpackaged it carefully just to be able to admire the thing in all its glory. All my faith was in this magical wand.
I still had to work four more hours before I could get home and dip it in water and in my lovely White Nights watercolor paints. In my mind I went through all the things that had to happen before that moment: a 30 minute subway ride, eating dinner, cleaning the kitchen, walking Boris, unearthing my watercolor pad, the paints, changing the dirty water of the previous painting session and then, only then I would be able to experience the joy and the fabulousness of this brush.
The strange phenomenon of the “fine materials” is relentless. But this time I was convinced that after my incomplete #100daysofwcpostcards I had tamed it. In fact, I thought I was on to something, I loved making my postcards and I loved each and every one, even those I ended up tossing. In my head, with this brush I would be able to paint a-mai-zing-ly.
But I didn’t know what to paint.
“Should I paint another postcard?” It was dark and the artificial light changes colors. “Do I want to paint something figurative? Do color swatches?” I ended waisting a sheet of paper just doodling. I put the brush away.
Ignoring what is already there
Weeks go by so fast and I paint so much. It’s like a race to get somewhere, only I don’t really know where. I love painting with watercolor but I’ve been focusing on certain principles and rules and I didn’t totally love what I was painting. I love the immediacy of watercolor, but there are some styles that require long, painstaking processes, like layering, glazing. Precise, realistic, delicate. Other styles are very illustrative, almost like coloring. You do a sketch and then you fill it with color. The style I’m mostly drawn to and the one that has been emerging this year is the fluid, poetic, brush-strokey (sorry, this isn’t a word), but it’s the style where watercolor blends almost in a messy way.
In this style you sketch directly with the brush. It’s a risky undertaking because you have to work so quickly. The painting above is one of the very first sketches I did. It’s inspired by Virginia Woolf’s garden. My palette was a real pile of mud afterwards but I was quite happy with this very first result.
This was another sketch, of which I did two versions, one with gouache and the front one in watercolor.
This one I did on a different type of paper:
The thing is, I did these paintings with my old brushes, not with the magical “new one”. So why order a brush that “I heard” was exceptional? Because somewhere along the line there is still a lot of doubt. I still believe that all those artists using this particular brush are so much better than I could ever be (and they ARE great!) but I have to force myself to recognize that all the practice, all the seeking, all the art book carrying from the library studying different artists has amounted to something.
Today I stepped out into my backyard to try to capture some of the (delayed) autumn colors. There is no fiery red anywhere yet. More dark browns, greens and occasional burgundy reds. I took the magical brush and tried it at last.
Now, do you see a difference?
I don’t really. I could easily keep evolving without any more brushes. I’m happy about the looseness and this looseness comes from the paint, the water and a medium-quality watercolor brush.
If you are considering those fantastic materials that an artist on Instagram is being sponsored for because you believe your art will improve BECAUSE of it, I urge you to step back and look at the work you’ve produced until now. Ask your work: do you need it?
Look at some of the pieces you’ve made, what did you use? What did you like? Compare to earlier work, do you prefer it now? Chances are that all the work you’ve done until now has been the result of just that: YOUR WORK and your evolving artistic style.
Now, if you suffer from brush addiction, I can’t really help you. I’m currently in withdrawal 😉