How I Fell In Love...

...with watercolours!

I have always loved paint, there’s no denying that, but I wasn’t always so enamoured with watercolours. I was always more of an acrylics kind of girl. The colours were bright and, if something went wrong, you could always paint over the mistake. Oils were a pain as they took ages to dry and you couldn’t wash your brushes with water and watercolours? Well I always felt like they were a bit too technical and precise for me, like you needed to put a lot of planning into your painting before you started and I’ve always been more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, throw-the-paint-on-and-see-what-happens kind of a painter!


watercolour paints Anya's Studio


I did a one-day course in watercolours a few years back. In fact, it was just over six years ago to be precise as it was the day before I found out I was expecting my first child and before life got more than a little crazy! I remember being taught a few random techniques, then being expected to somehow apply them and be able to suddenly paint a photograph in front of me. The techniques felt odd, my brain found it hard to work in the way he was telling me and I just felt a bit put out by the whole thing.

Flash forward six years and I’m now doing the majority of my work in watercolours. So what on earth happened?

A year ago I was asked if I could paint a portrait of seven cats in a bright, rainbow, splattery style. Never one to baulk at a challenge I got to work figuring out how best to do this. I remembered back to all those years ago, playing with paints as a child (we spent a lot of our childhood creating things and playing with paint) and how we used to blow watercolours around with a straw to great effect and so I thought, why not give it a go again? And from that one technique, my first pet portrait and my whole style was born!


watercolour pet portrait cocker spaniel


I should mention that, as I didn’t have any straws in the house, I found the next best thing and used a kazoo which worked just as well and is eco friendly to boot!

Watercolours still carry a slight bit of terror for me in that, if a bit goes wrong, you really do have to start again - there’s no fudging over mistakes like you can with acrylics or oils, but I’ve also found a whole new level of love for them. I love the unpredictability of where the paint will go and how this makes each painting unique and totally unrepeatable. I love the range of colour and tone you can achieve and the loose washes to the tiny details. I love that I don’t always end every painting session covered in paint that I spend the next few hours peeling off!

Most of all, however, I love that it has enabled me to discover a style that I never knew I had and that watercolour has gone from being a medium that I thought would take a million years and lessons to perfect, to one that I can conquer by myself. One of the things I love best about art is how a hundred artists could paint from the same still life or view, and every painting would be different and unique. None would be wrong and none would necessarily be better than another, they would all just be that artists take. I think learning to use a medium such as watercolours is very similar. There are plenty of different ways in which you could approach working with them, different ways you could layer the paint or order the composition, but there will be a way that works best for you and you just need to discover what that is.


anya's studio watercolour art painting


So remember, and this goes for any aspect of life, don’t give up on something because you’ve tried it one way and it hasn’t worked. Try again, differently. We all learn differently and we all work differently, so find out what works for you and see where it leads!

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