Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Watercolour views

click photo to enlarge
One day I want to produce a really good water colour painting! This particularly English art form was once denigrated as "daubs" and "sketches", and compared unfavourably with oil painting in the grand manner. However, the work of artists like J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) and John Sell Cotman (1782-1842) opened people's eyes to the possibilities of the medium, so, whilst it is still seen as a lesser medium than oils (or even acrylics!), few doubt that great work can be produced with the insubstantial materials of water colour.

My favourite work in water colour is Cotman's view of Greta Bridge (1805) painted whilst he was living with rich patrons in the north of England. The bold flat wash of paint over the paper produces a simplified and sublime image of a romantic landscape. John Piper (1903-1992) used water colour for abstracts, buildings, seascapes and landscapes, as well as for preparatory drawings for stained glass windows. The medium can clearly be used effectively for a wide range of subjects, but in England it is usually associated with landscapes.

This view of Lancaster Priory and Castle, on their hilltop overlooking the small city, is seen from on top of the aqueduct of 1797 that carries the canal over the river, a mile or more north of Lancaster. It would be the perfect subject for a water colour painting. The calm River Lune and its flanking trees and reflections, the buildings by the water's edge, the slightly hazy church and battlements against the sky, all cry out for a treatment where the watery paint runs free, and the motion of the artist's hand can be seen in the brush strokes across the paper. One day I may try it! In the meantime this photograph is my attempt at a "watercolourish" image. The shot was taken in the afternoon, against the light, and this monotone effect was the result. I used a long zoom lens at 176mm (35mm equivalent). My camera was set to Aperture Priority (f6.3 at 1/400 sec), with the ISO at 200 and -3.0 EV.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen