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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Xavier Swolfs Interview

You are the co-founder of the Belgium Watercolor Institute and of the European Confederation of Watercolor Societies. What was the idea to create these two organizations?
Together with three other watercolourists I founded the Belgian Watercolour Society in 1978. ECWS has been founded on the initiative of this society on March 14, 1998. The ECWS is an artistic, cultural and free association of watercolour societies without any economic objective. The aims of the ECWS are to internationally promote the art of watercolour painting, to foster cooperation among national and regional watercolour societies and to promote the artistic activities of its member-societies. In the framework of the ECWS, activities (such as: international exhibitions, workshops, meetings, the publication of catalogues or books and any other projects wich further the aims of the ECWS) are organized on a regular basis. We are very proud to see that this umbrella association is steadily growing and that artistic associations from nine European countries participate in the annual exhibitions. In 2011 we participated in the international watercolour exhibition in Turku (Finland) and in 2012 we will be partners in Genova (Italy).

Xavier Swolfs. Belgium Landscape.

What do you think of the place of watercolor medium in contemporary art?
Watercolour is one of the hardest media to learn and control. Although it is an independent genre of painting, oil paintings have a higher prestige value and you seldom see a watercolour exhibition in the musea.

Xavier Swolfs

Is there a difference in watercolor approach and aesthetics in Europe and US?
The European watercolour has its own tradition and individuality. In the different European countries you see a different use of colour and choise of object. In Eastern Europe there is a more graphical way of painting. In the US Watercolor painting had outstanding practitioners as Andrew Wyeth. I consider him as one of the greatest watercolourists. American watercolor is often technically perfect but it is tightly controlled and lacks any spontaneity.

Xavier Swolfs

How could you describe your working process: as planned or spontaneous?
I like spontaneous painting. Once I have an idea of what it has to be, I m free to let loose with the paint and let the unique, spontaneous qualities of watercolor take over. In my paintings abstraction and figuration smoothly synthesize.

Xavier Swolfs 

Your art works give a lot of space for imagination. Do you have a vision of the result to achieve when you start painting?
The main and most crucial aspect is to see the painting in your head before you wet the brush. This does not mean the painting is over-thought or the visualization is rigid. You need to know the concept, the basic flow and design. You have to see the areas clearly in your mind in terms of light and dark. Knowing where those highlights are and how the light will play on your subject is crucial. It is important to maintain the transparency and management of white.

Xavier Swolfs

Can you correct your painting if something goes wrong? 
Yes, I can. You can correct certain ‘mistakes’ by wetting the paper, letting it dry and putting a new layer over it.

Xavier Swolfs

How do you prepare the paper for your work (fixing, wetting, ect)? 
Preparing the paper is a waste of time. When you use a sheet of 600 gr. there is no need of any special treatment. The texture of the paper depends on the work one wants to carry out. I use the wet in wet technique and simply wet the paper with a large brush and paint into the dampness.

Xavier Swolfs

Your color mixtures are complicated and soft. Can you say something about your color approach?
One of the most important aspects in watercolor painting is the sense of color. I think I have the inborn talent of discerning colors because I never studied any coor theory. My favourite color is blue. Color mixing isn't complicated if you think first about what color you want to end up with. For me luminosity is the single most distinguishing attribute of a well executed transparent watercolor painting.

Xavier Swolfs

What is more important for you: color or texture?
Both are very important. All watercolor paper is not equal because of the different qualities The wide range of weights and surface textures of paper gives me an opportunity to explore different effects simply by using different papers. My favourites are Fabriano 600 gr. and Arches 600 gr.

Xavier Swolfs

Do you have a criteria that your work is complete?
My work is never complete ! It is always a challenge. The wet-into-wet technique is an exciting method of painting because it can produce unpredictable results. The nature of watercolor, its unpredictability, its sensuousness, the textures it seems to make and its luminosity are some of the most important criteria.

Xavier Swolfs

Can you give an advice to young watercolor artists ?
Watercolor painting has the reputation of being quite demanding. For me it is very important that a watercolorist knows how to draw. The connection between drawing and geometric shapes and measurements simply cannot be denied. To become a good watercolorist,  it takes time , patience, perseverance and much experimenting.But if you succeed, watercolor can be magic!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this interview from one of my watercolour heroes. Great insights.

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