I love watercolour, but watercolour doesn't love me (yet). This week I took a 12-hour Introduction to Watercolour class at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. I figured if I was going to humiliate myself, it was better to do it where I didn't know anyone.
Many fibre artists have done some surface design with paint. We know how bubble wrap can be used with paint to stamp on an interesting texture, how to make a soft mottle with a sea sponge, how to sprinkle salt on wet paint to get a twinkling texture.
We know the basics of colour theory: monochromatic, analogous and complementary colour schemes. If we dye cloth we know about mixing complementary colours to make neutrals.
We know some fundamentals of design: odd numbers are more dynamic than even numbers, consider your negative space, use a range of value and plan out your values. Use high value contrast to create a focal point. If we've done figurative work, we know about atmospheric colour: create depth by using faded colours in the background, more saturated in the foreground.
But trying to pull this all together on a sheet of cold press paper while it is slowly warping under your hand is a different story. Wet areas dry too soon and the line hardens. They dry too slowly and then bleed into a neighbouring patch. You are attending to an area that needs work and all the while the water and pigment are puddling where they shouldn't be, in an unsupervised corner. (Not unlike teaching kindergarten!)
Here are some things I want to learn more about: working loosely, using the white of the paper for highlights, and helping the medium make beautiful passages, transitions from one colour to another.
Meanwhile, I have a whole new respect for those who have tamed this medium to produce welcome accidents. Some day I may be one of them.