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Monday, October 17, 2011

Important Watercolor Considerations!

Published by Carol Carter on Monday, October 17, 2011 at 6:10pm on FB

(excerpts from) Making Your Mark

Let me offer a few examples with which you may or may not agree. There are just my personal observations; you can consider them or ignore them as you like.

As a watercolor painter, I am painfully aware of the prejudice against the medium. It has mostly enjoyed a second class status, labeled as a sketching medium for amatueurs and dabblers. Do I think this is fair of justified? No, but we watercolorist has a lot to do with the current reputation of the medium. I wil confess that I am self-taught in watercolor, and that I looked at many how-to books while I was learning to handle the medium. In the many years since, I can't begin to tell you how any hundreds of watercolor paintings I have seen that look just like a page from one of these books. These watercolors are often impeccably painted, but disturbingly repetitive, not only showcasiing similar rote techniques, but fixing on certain ubiquitous subjects as well.

Even the watercolor abstractionists don't fare much better, appearing as if the artists all attended the same few workshops. My comments will probabaly not win me any friends in the watercolor community, and I regret that, but there should be more contemporary watercolors hanging in our hypothetical museum along with the Homers, Sargents, Prendergasts, Marins, and Burchfields.

Likewise, the virtuosity of many contemporary plein air painters is astonishing, yet I often have trouble telling them apart. Why all this devotion to a particular form? Can this be healthy?

Although loved by all today, the first generation Impressionists were innovators; their paintings were radical and thoroughly modern, shocking and not immediately accepted. Their emphasis on high chromatic contrast and aggressive brushwork were departures from accepted practice. The subjects chosen by the Impressioniss were images of the everyday life of their time; contemporary streets, trains, carriages, parks, fields, and farm workers. I wonder how many contemporary plein air painters we will be able to hang alonside the Monets, Pissarros and Van Goghs in our museums.

Lest anyone thing that I hold myself above all thes criticisms, please know that I torture myself over this stuff! I constantly live in the land of self-doubt and questioning. I recognize these shortcomings and I am always searching for soemthing more. We all have our limitations, but can't we also have higher aspirations?

For us to ultimately succeed as artists we need to cultivate our individuality. When we camp in another artist's territory we don't do them any favors, but perhaps even worse, we don't do ourselves (nor the "cause of art," as described by Kandisky) any favors either.

We should take a clue from nature and pattern ourselves after the dogs who recognize each other's marked territory. If you are also going to try to claim a territory for your own, you had better be a bigger dog than those who preceeded you.

Matthew Daub Professor of Fine ARt at Kutztown Univeristy of Pennsylvannia

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