The following quotations sum up a lot of my feelings about all that is watercolour painting, and I think give an insight into my motivation and approach…
“I have recorded in my sketch at least something of the joy of that moment with nature…. This is indeed a beautiful world. What need is there for shouting ‘I have painted a picture, come and see it’. What necessity for public appraisal or critic’s approval? My picture may be destined never to be seen by anybody but myself. It is done and I have added something to my life which nobody can take from me.”
English landscape watercolour artist
“The timid watercolour painter is generally sincere in his regard for the craft; he is over judicious in the control of the medium, and fondly believes that the little painting so hazardously conceived does actually convey his impression of what he sees.
To foster a broad simplicity of vision, to maintain a restrained and truthful palette, and to aim at a frank, bold, decisive handling are resolutions which should form a valuable antidote to tameness or over-finish, into which many modest students are so easily beguiled.
The courageous student, on the other hand, suffers from too much confidence and asperity in attack. The rules by which he is guided are of his own devising and are made to suit the twists and turns of fortune. He does not believe that there should be any conventional restrictions, but stands or falls by his instinct. It is a brave creed, but it sometimes leads to a complete sense of frustration, when instinct fails and nothing he does 'comes off'.
Both types of student, I think, can learn from the character who, while never timid, relies on instruction to confirm his initiative and strengthen his resolve. His methods are tentative rather than timorous and tenacious rather than emotional.
Resourcefulness comes to his aid at that crucial moment when the more courageous student's "bluff has been called" and the timid one is baffled by lack of courage and faith in himself.
This student does not strive to invent new processes but is conscious that the same language is capable of a variety of expressions. He is content to master the techniques of the past and to borrow from it all that best suits his individuality, so that what he acquires he moulds and modifies to suit his purpose, translating it into a language which is his own, and in the process enlarging it with new and further life.”
English landscape watercolour artist, author and teacher
“In the happy painting ground of Cotman, Crome and Constable I am making no more than a modest attempt to follow in the traditions of the English School.”
"Why do you paint?"
“That's really rather difficult to answer, for I've wanted to paint ever since I can remember. I believe that I have a perception of Beauty, and I want to give that perception outward expression. Partly because I have an overwhelming urge within me to do so; partly because it gives me pleasure, and because I can imagine no better way of spending my time; and partly because I sincerely believe that I can give pleasure to certain people who have a similar love for that perception, and an appreciation for it in the form of paint and canvas.”
English artist and author
“A fine watercolour is not merely the result of a pleasant hobby, nor even some facile gift. It comes only with intense concentration, after many failures and years of valiant practice.
A large number (of artists) write that they abominate sham, pose, ‘artiness’, the snobbish attitude towards art, distortion, lack of beauty and lack of poetic feeling, bad drawing, self-advertisement. From which we can deduce that sincerity is the main passion among artists. It is indeed, impossible for a man or woman to do fine work without possessing in abundance this particular virtue.
A fine painting is a personal achievement and as much part of its creator as his own heart and mind.
Many virtues enter into it, the most fruitful of which are reverence and love.
On the general question of technique, let us first be certain that a watercolour painter uses the method in a fluent way.
Its genius is inherent in the first wash. If that is put down with skill and courage, the artist being a good draughtsman, always refining and simplifying his subject rather than accumulating detail for the sake of detail, the picture will emerge in strength and purity.
I should like to make it a rule that nothing should ever be altered in watercolour. If it goes wrong the picture should be put aside and another one begun in its place. Only with such hard discipline can we arrive at the point of authority that makes watercolour as strong and invulnerable as the perfect argument. Clarity of tint and surety of drawing are the essentials.”
Author and expert in English watercolour art
“Build up your picture as one great whole, one intention; not as patches of separate interests, but all tending to one purpose and only one, every part being interdependent upon another, that the whole be sure and certain, as confident as a sketch and as spontaneous as Nature....
There should be no sense of fatigue; you may have given it weeks of thought, you may have groaned and writhed in the deepest anxiety, yet the result should be as simple and direct as a beautiful sonnet....
See that you paint your subject under conditions that will best bring out its special characteristics. Consider what are the qualities essential to support its characteristics, and what are non-essential. Nature is so prolific in her offerings that selection becomes an artistic quality of the first order.... Perhaps the highest and rarest gift is the power to see the big things of Nature, the real essentials, those which reveal and stamp upon the mind of man those fundamental qualities by which it is expressed.
Open your heart and your eyes widely. Approach Nature with the heart of a child. Don't try to be sincere, but be so.
Your business is to give one a fervid impression of the place, its biggest facts painted in just relation to each other, and its characteristics set down frankly, fearlessly and in the most direct manner possible.... There is, I know, always the temptation to realise the beautiful details of Nature, but you must never sacrifice the big things of your landscape to the details.... The suggestion of the fact that the tree is thick with leaves, and that it is living and moving , is infinitely more satisfying to one's sense of truth than would be a painful mass of innumerable and carefully realised leaf-units.... You must, as I have said before, find out yourself, by careful study and observation, how this is to be done, bearing in mind that the greatest realism is the expression of the vitality and character of the thing painted.”
Sir Alfred East (abridged quotation)
English artist and author