Watercolour is too damn watery

The order of a spectrum of pigment pans; the disorder of the paint splatters; the neat tin with fold-out palette: this sight is pleasing to me.

A less pleasing sight is what I am capable of painting with it.

Here’s the galling thing: I was better at watercolour when I was nine. (I was better at most things when I was nine. Peaked too early.) My school art teacher taught us the main watercolour techniques with a classic newbie watercolour exercise: making us paint pictures of a tree on a hilltop, next to a piece of broken fence. Somewhere my parents have a stack of my pictures of trees next to broken fences, and I dare say Monet’s mum got a bit sick of looking at his poplar paintings too.

Anon, I grew up, and put away such childish things. I didn’t paint much again till my mid-twenties, whereupon I was on a far more cartoonish streak painting in acrylics – I will try to dig out some pictures of these sometime.

Anyway, for some reason, after some twenty years not missing them, I chose to use watercolour to paint my brother’s Edinburgh poster last year. It didn’t turn out terribly well, albeit with mitigating circumstances as I mentioned, and it reminded me that actually I quite hate watercolour. How are you supposed to exert control over something that is so damned runny? How are you supposed to love a medium that won’t let you cover up your mistakes? An even bigger problem for me is reversing the mindset I got into through acrylic and oils, with which you add light; watercolour is all about taking away light, which necessitates too much forward planning for my tastes.

But I can’t put away the watercolours quite yet, in case I just hate them because I’m crap at using them. Hatred is bred of fear. I MUST BEAT MY WATERCOLOUR FEAR.

With postcards.


Watch out, friends! If you invite me over for a meal, three days afterwards you’ll probably be assaulted by a practice watercolour postcard depicting something that cropped up during our discourse.

For Catherine, who cooked us Sunday lunch, the swan above. After we ate, she took us for a walk along the canal, and waited patiently whilst my husband spent an inordinate amount of time trying to take Instagram pictures of swans grooming themselves.

Then we were fed supper by Racton and Eleanor, who wound up with:


I can’t remember why Robert Evans came up in conversation, but the caption is from our friend Amy’s bravura recreation of The Kid Stays In The Picture. If she ever decides to go professional with the after-dinner speaking in the manner of 1970s Hollywood producers, I’ll let you know, because it would definitely be worth the fee.

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