And everyone did it! Painted I mean. The Victorians made sure of that. Some folks are born with a silver spoon in their mouth. I've always thought all Brits were born with a Windsor & Newton paintbrush in their mouths. Oh how I've longed to be born British, then I'd be a natural born watercolor painter from the word GO. The Victorians pretty much invented the paintbox. They certainly decided it was a good idea to go off galavanting around the world on The Grand Tour. And you better have your paintbox along to record your travel experiences. Watercolor is the perfect medium for travel - lightweight, fast drying, fluid and very portable. "Darling. PLEASE hurry up with that sketch of the pyramids! OMG, the camels are getting restless..." You get the idea. The British even taught THE FRENCH how to learn to love l'aquarelle. Richard Parkes Bonnington, the greatest of them all, taught Delacroix how to paint a wash.
Hilltop Town, watercolor, 6 x 9"
There's a huge mystique about painting in watercolor too. It looks so damn easy and it's so damn hard. Or that's how it seems the first few years you attempt to do it seriously. And that's another problem. Because it looks easy no one takes it seriously. Galleries don't that's for sure. OIL PAINTING is serious. But nevermind that nonsense. Painting in watercolor is an obsession right up there with loving macarons. An even bigger obsession in fact.
Sorry macaron lovers, but there is ENDLESS paraphranalia you can buy just to make a simple watercolor. The retail art industry has seen to it. Adorable little porcelaine mixing dishes from England. Fancy Russian Kolinsky "travel" brushes from everywhere. "Blocks" of watercolor paper stuck on a board so the paper won't curl up while you're painting by the Iguazu Falls. Special containers to carry your water in. Special enamel travel palettes. And lovely pleine aire (outdoors) carryall bags to put all of the above into. Did I forget to mention sponges? Believe me, I've bought every scrap of it.
And on every trip, the first stop is ALWAYS the local art store to search for some new treasure to drag home. Note the big gorgeous looking brush with the red handle. I got it in Arezzo, Tuscany. Do I ever use it? No. The art supply biz understands our obsessions perfectly. BTW, when you're in Europe, you'll see paintboxes and pans in every store you go into. Here in the US, the art suppliers decided it was too much bother to deal with pans. Pans can be stolen, lost, misplaced, so they've fed us a line that TUBES are a MUST.
Tubed watercolors make you feel like you're painting with oils and they do have an oily consistancy when first squeezed out - rich and lush. But they dry hard as rocks. While the pans are easy to wet and more portable IMO. Mind you, this is only my theory...
There are a ton of how-to books for the beginning watercolor painter. I bought every one. AND I've gone on too many of watercolor "workshops" - Savannah, New Jersey, Maine, Tuscany, Devon, Provence. HELL, I can't remember all the places I've dragged my paintbox to. And I've dreamt of many more. SouthJerseyBoy will tell you :)
Near Pienza, watercolor, 6 x 9"
But the truth is, you just need to sit down with a jam jar of water, a basic watercolor set (10-12 pans to start with) and some nice paper. Then start to doodle. First drop a pool of water on your paper. Next drop in some color with your brush, starting with a lighter, warmer color first (burnt sienna works fine). While your puddle is still wet, add some darker, cooler color (French blue). The blobs of colors will "bleed" into each other and form "blossoms", that's where the colors run together and you get "happy" (or unhappy) accidents. You can help the paint along by tilting your paper back and forth.
If you can get some good painted blobs going, you've got the beginnings of a nice atmospheric landscape painting. It's that easy and it's the best way to learn the properties of different pigments + color theory. Lesson over. Now get cracking!
*TIP: for those watercolor-obsessed out there, if you're in London, stop in at Green & Stone of Chelsea on 259 Kings Road. They have antique watercolor sets in the back. You may find a set that's been on a Grand Tour? Back to painting those &#%$ macarons...Grrrrrr