Today I am going to share with you my favourite watercolour artist. I recently purchased Shirley Trevena’s ‘Vibrant Watercolours’ book. What a riotous feast of colour she uses. For someone like myself who is in love with colour, her painting is such a delight.
The book is filled with useful information about her process illustrated with many of her wonderful paintings. I have always been into oils and pastel more than water colours , however Shirley’s work has given me much inspiration and an excitement to do more with water colours.
Her water colours truly are vibrant. In this book she has several demonstrations of her processes and takes you from her initial set up – as in the example below,
Still Life Set UP – Shirley Trevena
Through to the finished painting…
Small Painting In Blue – Shirley Trevena
On pages 68 and 69 she discusses using water resistant material with your water colours, such as, masking fluid, wax resist, oil pastel and mixed media and texture medium. She gives examples of ways to use these products, for example in the next experiment in the picture below she uses a mixed media approach with oil pastel, water soluble crayon and ink.
Playing With Mixed Media – Shirley Trevena
And the she shares with us a beautifully vibrant piece using these techniques.
Still Life With Red and Green Fruit – Shirley Trevena
If you don’t have this book I highly recommend it if you want help in making your water colours zing and vibrate. It would make a great Christmas present for an artist friend, or yourself even!
This Weeks Question: How can you improve your watercolours?
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This is a topic I have revisited many times over the life of the Blog. However today I want to focus on something that you may have discounted as being of little value in terms of helping you to move creatively. This is, considering exploring a new medium.
Like all other artists, I too have had my periods of being creatively blocked. Some of these periods have lasted a short time maybe a day or two and others have lasted to some degree or other over a period of years. What do you do when the joy goes out of creating? How do you find that lost spark again.
I have been stuck in the blocks backwater for some time. Well I was until recently, and I want to share with you how I got myself out of it. My main medium for many years now has been Oils. I love Oils, and everything about them, so I never really considered changing to do anything else. However I have spent the last many months not doing a great deal at all. There are a couple of half finished paintings hanging around the studio that seemed like a good idea at the time, yet now I just can’t muster up the enthusiasm to get them finished. And of course every time I go in there, they stare at me accusingly as if to say, ‘Well get on with it. Why haven’t you finished us?’ All of which is very disconcerting and makes me hightail it out of there as fast as I can!
Thinking about this I have come to the conclusion that there were several reasons for my stuckness – and here they are –
- I had got to the end of my inspiration for that subject matter and painting technique, which I had played with through several paintings. This goes for both these unfinished paintings even though they are vastly different in subject and technique.
- I was struggling to find time to actually get into the studio in the last 10 months due to a life style change – suddenly an instant family appeared with a new partner and my 7yr old granddaughter also becoming a permnant fixture in my life.
- I had lost touch with my creative spark and had reached the point of wondering if it would ever return.
So what took me out of it in the end?
- During a visit to the NSW Art Gallery, I found and bought a book on watercolours by Shirley Trevena which I really loved.
- I began teaching some new watercolour students and decided to redo all my watercolour sample exercises for them, which I had originally done years ago.
- As I played around with my student’s exercises I began to appreciate and study Shirley’s book a lot more intently. I was drawn to her work because of the brilliant colour and wonderfully loose painting style she has along with a great gift for stunning compositions. Also I began appreciating the subtlety of colour layering which can be achieved relatively quickly with watercolours, compared to oils. Layering has appeared in my work in many different forms over the years, so I was suddenly excited again, to be exploring this new aspect of something that has always fascinated me.
- The other thing that worked for me with this is that I have a space in my office now with my watercolours permanently set up and I can just fit in a brush stroke or two whenever I get the chance. It makes it so much easier for me to create.
- As you can see it was not any one thing that created this shift, but a series of events that led me to find my way again. I was drawn to Shirley’s book, but if I hadn’t bought it this sequence of events might have either never happened, or taken much longer. It is interesting because at the time I bought the book I was really thinking it would be good for some of my more advanced students and the furthest thing from my mind was for me to explore watercolour painting further.
Still Life – After Shirley Trevena
Also don’t be afraid to copy the work of artists you admire, as I have here. Assimilate their techniques and the things you love about their work and then begin applying them to your own original compositions. Copying ‘The Masters’ is a time honoured tradition in the art world. All our learning is built on the shoulders of the artists that have gone before us. Use what they know as there is much we can learn from them.
In conclusion, I would suggest that you follow those inner urges, like my visit to the art gallery bookshop because you never know where it’s going to lead you. The creative journey is not a straightforward one, it involves many twists and turns and what we sometimes think are blind alleys, miraculously turn out to be fascinatingly fortuitous event in the end.
This Weeks Question: If you are feeling blocked, what is some small sideways step that you might take in order to still be moving forward on your creative journey?
Pix Credit: Ronnieb