How does one create texture in a watercolour painting or should one wish to? There are various schools of thought about watercolours, one of which is the `purity' one, beloved by traditionalists like the much-loved Edward Wesson. Wesson was against many of the modern trends, which have accelerated in the years since his death in 1983. To quote Ron Ranson in `The Art of Edward Wesson' (1993 David & Charles).
" He viewed with undisguised disdain those artists who threw water, grit or salt at their work, distancing himself from what he termed `Americanisms' - the use of masking fluid, body colour and scraping- out techniques"
Turner used scraping and scrubbing in many of his watercolours so....?
With many of today's artists using one or more of these techniques he would probably have had apoplexy. Wesson is held up as the archetypal Englishman with his outspoken views and much quoted remarks, a high profile artist with a huge cult following. He is still promoted, especially by Steve Hall. I was once a Wesson enthusiast but less so nowadays as I feel possibly
things have moved on. I may be wronging him, if so I apologize, but he seems to belong to the era, common among some, who resist change in the name of `tradition'. Change for it's own sake is not all good but neither is tradition. On the other hand Americans, with a much younger history have a more questioning attitude and are more prepared to take chances and try different things. Any hackles raised yet? I hope not because I don't want to upset anyone, after all painting isn't about life or death.
I do not necessarily believe anything goes, as it is easy to have too much of a good thing and I personally believe - but there are artists whose work proves the exception - that watercolour benefits from simplicity, but even so to hold a rigid view of what should and shouldn't be done is equally wrong. It is all a matter of opinion and I take the view artists can do what they wish as long as they are prepared for the consequences. I am irritated by some artists who preach in a biblical manner, as though they are Joseph descending from the mount, and demand that everyone follow their edicts. Don't use black is one example - `The Prince of Colours' according to the old masters..
With that sermonising out of the way where do we go from here. This post is mainly about texture, of increasing interest to many modern day watercolour artists. The books I feature are not solely about this, as the titles suggest, but cover `techniques' and `tips' and `tricks'. This is straying onto dangerous ground as there are those who feel that tricks, especially, can be overused and `tricksy' paintings are to be avoided. It is true that many American artists have promoted such things for years in the American open-minded manner, so three of the books are American. I should add I'm not suggesting they are the most outstanding ones but are those I own. I'm sure there are others and several books, like the very good ones in the Search Press catalogue, include the use of texture amongst other techniques. I reviewed two recently, one by Robin Berry and the other by Diana Craig and Hazel Harrison.
81/2" x 11" Softback 158 pages North Light Books 1987
This book shows `54 ways to create imaginative effects in your paintings'. It just about covers everything needed to create texture, various tools, liquids, natural bits and pieces and then some! The only danger is overkill. Worth buying? Yes at the right price. A query on Abebooks, my favourite source of used books brought up many copies. Those from UK booksellers ranged from £13.48p to £24.85p. But from the American booksellers prices starting at £5 including carriage. Amazon has `new' at £71.23p - can you believe this - and used at around £10 including carriage.
Cathy Johnson has written several other books and a later one with a similar title, which increases the number of `ways' to 75. Is this a better bet? Not having seen it I couldn't say but two reviews on Amazon were lukewarm. Two is insufficient really to make any sort of decision. Check it out if you are interested.
8" x 11" Softback 128 pages North Light Books 1998 Edited by Rachel Rubin Wolf
This book is specifically about textures and takes the form of excerpts from previous North Light Books by 9 well-known artists like Claudia Nice and Zoltan Szabo. There is a lot of good stuff in the introductory part which covers many tecniques for texturing. Then follows pieces from the individual artists, as stated taken from books previously published. It is pretty good and I'd certainly recommend it. Prices range from £22.90p (UK only one) to £18.00 - £20+ (USA) on Abebooks. Amazon have it at around £15.98p for new with used £11.58p. A bit pricey perhaps at the higher figures.
8" x 11" softback 144 pages Watson-Guptill 1983 Edited by David Lewis
This is another good book but once again is a series of excerpts from previously published books, specifically by Charles Reid, John Blockley, Christopher Schink, Zoltan Zzabo, Richard Bolton, E.John Robinson and George Shook. It covers everything from materials and equipment, brushwork and handling colour. We then have five sections ranging from painting landscapes to seascapes with one specifically on textures. All top artists. The piece from Charles Reid is from his first flower painting book which was superseded by an entirely new (and far better) later book. Prices are incredibly cheap on Abebooks ranging from £3.39p ( only one UK bookseller inc carriage) to around £6 from the USA. At these prices a steal. From Amazon prices range from £19.55p new to used (Amazon partners) £00.1 + £2.80p carriage (!!)
9' x 10' hardback 127 pages Collins 2007
I have already reviewed this book so won't go into great detail. Although a contemporary of Wesson, Fletcher-Smith and others of that era, John Blockley used texturing in his landscapes and mountains/buildings. His daughter is following his lead and changing her style somewhat. A little bird told me that at least one of the galleries where she had previously shown was unhappy - quite disparaging actually - with her change of style but her new paintings had sold very well at her own recent exhibition in the Cotswolds. This is an excellent book and can be obtained new from Amazon at £11.51p (rpp £17.99p).
Two examples of Ann Blockley's latest work. The use of texturing is very obvious. I rather like these paintings - striking is one word that comes to mind. Note these are landscapes rather than flower paintings - reminiscent in some ways of her fathers original style.
A point about the prices I've quoted. Abebooks www.abebooks.co.uk
is primarily a used book site and in my experience is excellent. I have had many books from the USA, some from the UK and one from Australia. UK booksellers tend in most cases to be expensive and in the worst examples a rip off. American booksellers tend to have better stocks and prices are much better in most cases BUT carriage charges can vary from acceptable to ridiculous. Stock on Abebooks is constantly changing so may differ from that quoted. Amazon's service is first class but once again they occasionally
quote ridiculous figures and prices can vary week to week.They do have many excellent offers so it's a question of selection. In my experience Amazon partners are quite good and as you pay Amazon you are protected if something goes wrong.