When we returned from Iceland, I knew I would have to paint its landscape. It didn’t just creep into my soul; it exploded it, shaking me awake after a long sleep.
As I began trying to re-create the feeling of being there, I unconsciously migrated from the transparent watercolors I’ve been using for over year to a set of German watercolors that hits than sitting in my desk drawer precisely because they were too heavy for anything I had done before. indeed, I had only purchased the set because I wanted the tin the paint came in.
I loved the results almost immediately. The intense new colors were just what I needed to bring back that experience. I found myself breaking a lot of cardinal rules of watercolor-the big one being to not use white.
Part of me felt like I was committing original sin, but I loved the results so much that I kept giving into temptation. Finally, certain that I must be using this brand of paints inaccurately, I googled them and watched one of their tip videos.
The guy in the video confirmed that these paints were not transparent watercolors, they were opaque. Not gouache but also quite different from what I’ve been using before. The other point about which he was quite emphatic about was that the paint makers wouldn’t have made white, if they didn’t want you to use it.
I paused the video at that point and made the big guy watch it too. The revelation was so obvious but still seemed like someone holding out an apple from the Tree of Knowledge.
I knew using white is breaking the rules if you want to submit your paintings to many watercolor societies, But as I thought about the ways this new paint was different from my other sets, it occurred to me that you could break some other rules with it. I broke out an old canvas, mixed up some colors and painted my standard experimental apple on it to see how it worked. Then I tried painting a sky and, gasp, adding some white to the clouds.
I loved the results-and the implications. A whole new world of experimentation is opening up. now, I’m not knocking submitting to artistic associations, if your world of experimentation leads you in a direction that works with their rules. If the rules get in the way of experimenting, however, committing an artistic sin or two might be the best way to keep growing.