Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tools of the Trade

Preparing for the start of a new session of watercolour classes, at the midnight hour I was cleaning up palettes to load with fresh clean colours. It turned out I was using the new brand of coughdrop-impregnated tissues, which made the palettes cherry-menthol-fresh.
The tools of this watercolour trade are simple enough:
a few good brushes (silky-soft, but with a strong snap-back to position when flexed)
a palette and some artist-grade colours,
a block of 140 lb watercolour paper,
plus an HB pencil, my wonderful mystery-putty eraser, a box of tissues, and (though in practice I rarely use it, opting for brush control instead) a bottle of liquid latex removable masking fluid.

Simplicity is often the key to good painting, and to quote from Louisa May Alcott's An Old Fashioned Girl, "taste is economy sometimes". At the drawing stage I put everything in, then with the eraser I pare it down to the essential lines before starting to paint.

It wasn't until I started working for the greeting card industry that I was introduced to the liquid satiny qualities of artist-grade tube colours. For years I worked with a selection of fine brushes (my only extravagance) and a box of student-grade watercolour cakes, a boxed set. Despite their limitations, and perhaps because I didn't know any better, it was possible to produce clean bright colours that have lasted over the years.

One such early painting was
has come up to town
In a yellow petticoat
and a green gown."

And so she has.

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