Breaking the rules of watercolour

Much is said of the rules of watercolour.  You must paint light to dark, it must be transparent, you mustn’t use white…or, heavens forbid, black, you must sketch first, you need a limited palette, the list goes on.  The rules of watercolour seem to cause such an outpouring of emotion by those who feel confined by their existence, that there is now quite a rebellion at hand, to break down the rules of watercolour and find a new way.  Quite often this new way leads to an exploration of mixed media, which is of course a whole new topic in itself!

Having immersed myself in watercolours relatively recently, I have met this flood of changing perspectives head on.  I have always been book lover and my natural reaction on learning something new is to buy a book on the subject.

After some initial attempts at throwing caution of the rules to the wind, I sought solace in some older books aimed at beginners.  Here I learned the dreaded rules that are at the foundation of many heated arguments on the subject.  I actually found it quite reassuring and by following these rules I made considerable improvements.  This came because I began to understand how the paper, pigment and water worked together to create the painting.

It makes me wonder how many of these rules are actually quite sage advice, that helps beginners to understand the medium and learn to work with it. Once we have this understanding we can begin to explore further and try new things.  That underpinning knowledge will help us to be successful in our attempts and to understand what may have gone wrong in our failures.

If I cannot draw a flower accurately I am unlikely to be able to create a convincing abstract interpretation. And if I don’t understand my pigment choices I am more likely to create the dreaded ‘mud’. By questioning and assessing for myself, I can learn the rules that work for me and the ones I want to deliberately break. I begin to know what restricts me and what supports my development.

Both yoga and Buddhism teach us to question and find our own answers.  As is so often the case, a mindful approach to the matter at hand leads to greater progress in our journey.