March 3rd, 2016

Venasque, Provence

Renowned watercolor artist Iain Stewart discusses experimenting with a bold new technique.

Artist: Iain Stewart, United States
Artist Statement: I have been experimenting with different tools and techniques for the last year or so, mainly a flat brush, dry brushing, and a palette knife, to explore the possibilities of a combination of my current approach to painting and some new ideas. I’ve been highly intrigued by the palette knife for some time and the impasto qualities this adds to watercolor. If done wet in wet the edges will blur slightly. If done wet on dry then you can work gouache much in the same way you would oil paint. I can scrape out negative shapes or use gouache in a very thick mixture to give impressionist marks that are hard to accomplish with a brush. Depending on the wetness of the paint I can also make darker marks with the palette knife if this is done early in the drying process.

I refer to this type of painting as “serious play” and that’s exactly how I approach it. In my piece Venasque, Provence I’ve taken a perfectly good watercolor and then begun the process of purposely changing it to suit myself. I’ve done a lot of lifting which blurs the hard edges of some passages and then with the palette knife come in and scraped, in a methodical way, the “bones” of the structure. This didn’t give me enough punch so I decided to introduce, cadmium red, zinc white, new gamboge, and lavender in gouache to amplify the effect and add pops of pure color.

This type of painting suits me very well. It’s spontaneous, colorful, and I’m going purely on instinct in the final stages. I enjoy the effects of painting counter-intuitively to the general methods of watercolor and will continue to explore these techniques. It’s good to do something completely different at times regardless of the results. I find that if you allow yourself to have fun and explore in the studio, your work will only profit in the end. You just need to be open to ruining a few paintings in the process. As a advocate of Stillman & Birn sketchbooks and loose paper I might add that the Beta Series held up very well to the continued abuse I tend to put my paper through and the surface is perfect for a palette knife.

MEDIA: Watercolor and gouache
SURFACE: Beta Series – Extra Heavyweight – 270 gsm – White – Cold Press Finish

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Venasque, Provence



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