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Thoughts of a Watercolourist

Relegated by Art History and « High Art » to the low ranks of minor art form, to that of a mere preparatory technique, of a nice pass time for nice, proper young girls from nice, proper families, despised by art dealers that can never seem to make enough money off it, it is for all of these reasons that I wanted to proudly wear its colours.

It has become by definition the “realm beyond” of drawing that I was looking for in colour, tapping into the light of forms and sketching out dimensional areas in water.

No subject matter goes unwarranted. The alchemy begins with the soft white paper, the puddles of pigment that fuse, meld together or clash and, in the end, a miracle (what joy!) either occurs or evaporates: disappointment that quickly disappears in favour of continuing, starting over, always moving forward in search of the “unattainable”.

Contrary to the fragile appearance that it might give, watercolour is a technique that allows no weakness, particularly in terms of technique: sketch and colours, the message must be articulated and executed with spontaneity, as it would be for a drawing, only one that would show perfect mastery from the very first sketch. In where lies its true difficulty; whether it be in its gentleness or in its vigour, no gesture goes unnoticed, not a single one can be hidden or covered up, as transparency reigns supreme as the golden rule.

In watercolour there is neither true white nor true black. The black used is more often a mixture, far preferable to what is available on the market ready-made, and as for the white, it is the paper that is protected in its pristine state. This is what creates the light, that intense light in which forms either disappear or take shape.

The clair-obscur (that internal tension between lightness and darkness) that characterizes watercolour is a notion that seems contradictory, yet takes on meaning when one goes about trying to capture in light only the essence of things, when the desire to describe is no longer the main concern. Exaggerated glare, for example, such as an “American night”, might serve as a point of departure: it is no longer the defined shapes that stand out but rather zones of brightness, of reflections and of shadow that define each successive layer.