Watercolor vs Acrylic

Last week I finally gave in and bought a set of watercolor paints for myself; Windsor and Newton Artists’ Water Color in tubes.  I love them.  Great quality and I also got lucky and found most of the colors I wanted on sale.  Now that I have a good variety of pigments and colors it won’t break the bank to add to the set once in a while.

Tubes of water color paint and an underpainting created with watercolor washes depicting a spray of flowers.
My new watercolor paints and the beginnings of a new mixed media piece.

I have been holding off buying them for years because I just kept telling myself that I could achieve the same results with my acrylic paints. Admittedly I was telling myself little white lies to keep a tight lid on my art supply budget.

While there aren’t huge differences between washes created with acrylic paint and washes created with watercolors there are certainly some.  I didn’t realize how much I missed working with watercolors until I started working with them again a few days ago.

The textures are finer and more varied with a watercolor wash than with a wash created with acrylic paint and I even find it easier to manipulate the washes because the binder in the acrylic paint does not seem as fluid.

Since water colors don’t become insoluble in water once they dry you can also blot off some of the color in an area that you find has gotten too dark, even after the paint has dried.  Not possible with acrylic paint.  The paper also remains more absorbent with watercolor than it does with an acrylic wash; I found it easier to draw over the watercolor with ink than I did over an acrylic wash. With pencil and conte though, I don’t find much difference.

There are times where it might make more sense to work with an acrylic wash though; for example if you are trying to seal in an area so that it is no longer water soluble.  Since I’m always mixing up my media, I have also found acrylic paint useful when I am working over an area of pastel or conte with my brush.

I don’t think that I actually prefer one over the other, but I did miss my watercolors and am happy to have them back.



Because I can’t stop. . .

A mixed media drawing of bell-shaped flowers hanging from a vine with leaves in the background.
‘Bell Flowers’ by E.M.Schumacher, mixed media on rag paper. Water color, gouache, ink and pastel.

I don’t know how many artists are workaholics but I suspect quite a few.  Maybe I don’t fall into that category, but once I get started in the studio, I really don’t want to be anywhere else or do anything else.

I have been lucky lately though as there have been some very good reasons to get myself out of this work space.  Since Christmas I got to attend to the International Festival of Animated Objects in Calgary, I took part in Art Battle 252 in Edmonton a few weeks ago and had a wonderful Easter weekend with family.

It’s harder to get myself away from a particular painting though, because if I’m not satisfied, as long as it is pinned up on my wall I can’t leave it alone.  That’s what happened with ‘Bell Flowers’ a mixed media piece on rag paper that I’ve been adding layers of media to for weeks now.

I even signed it and kept working on it because I couldn’t stop.  The paper won’t likely accept anything else now as layers of watercolor, ink, pastel and gouache have been added so many times that I’m sure that it weighs as least twice as much now!

Most of the time when I can’t stop, I just put it away.  Sometimes for months.  This time though, I enjoyed building my drawing up and making endless changes, some subtle and others not so much.  There are times when I can’t stop that I get frustrated and destroy my work, but this time I know that I found something more:  new directions and maybe a new way of working too.


Working with layers

This mixed media work has just been started.  The first layer consists of watercolor washes.
This mixed media work has just been started. The first layer consists of watercolor washes.

It’s been busy here in my studio lately.  I am on a roll.  Painting and drawing and building up layers.

The walls, where I tack my work in progress so I can stand back and get a good view, are finally filling up with new work.  It feels very good to have so many pieces there, but now I need to finish some so it feels like I am really making progress.

Looking at what is up on my wall and the incomplete canvases stacked around the studio made me realize that although my style has changed over the years my way of working hasn’t ever really changed at all.

I have always built up my images with layers of paint and drawing material.  Starting with a layer of watercolor washes keeps me in my comfort zone. When I work on canvas I am not nearly as comfortable as I am when I start with those washes on paper.  It seems to be easier to go back to the beginning, back where I started to experiment with mixed media.

But no matter where I start, I will build up those layers until I get to where I want to be.  Or sometimes until I realize that I won’t get there at all ever, with this particular painting.  And that’s okay too.  We all learn from the pieces that don’t make it and trust that our work will just keep getting better because of it.

Mixed media work on paper on the studio walls.
Mixed media work in progress is pinned up on the walls of my studio.





My Camera

It is fall here in Alberta.  One of the nicest examples of the season that I can remember.  The days have been mostly sunny and bright and I believe warmer than average for the season.

The last couple of hours before the sun sets are so full of warm light and color that I now know that the love – hate relationship that I have had with my camera for years and years has finally come to an end.  The hating part has completely vanished!  These days I just want to keep it close.

Being able to get out there and grab an image that evokes a special moment in time during this perfect fall weather and save it for later now seems like a gift.  My camera lets me do that with barely any effort.

My photo of fall treetops in evening light.
My photo of fall treetops in evening light.

Even during the coldest, darkest days of winter I know that a glance  at one of these pictures will bring back good memories;  the mood, the feelings will all be there to experience once again.

Later on I’ll decide just how to use them.  I am sure that I’ll find many ways to express myself with these images.  For now it’s enough to get out there and make sure that my trusty camera is at hand as I enjoy the last of these golden days of fall.

Whyte Ave Art Walk

My first Whyte Avenue Art Walk is over and luckily I made it there with my new display tent, nine of my largest paintings and enough energy left over to enjoy the experience. I did not implode while packing the car even though it took most of Thursday to decide what to take and to carefully fit everything inside.

Even though I had outdoor Vancouver Island art shows such as the Originals Only shows and the Kitty Coleman Woodland Gardens Art Festivals behind me I really didn’t know what to expect. Setting up a tent in the city, on pavement where visitors were expected to number in the tens of thousands had me thinking that the experience was bound to be different.

Setting up, hanging paintings and taking down wasn’t really different from what I had experienced. It’s always a hassle to get to your site unpack, find parking and then do everything in reverse at the end of the day when fatigue is taking over.

The flow of visitors was much the same, though the numbers were much higher. Many people looked in for a moment then carried on, but those who stopped in were interested and here I benefited more than ever before from their response and feedback.

So many people of all ages really seemed to enjoy my Plastic Fantasy series which I was showing for the first time as a complete set. This is the painting that I finished just in time for the Art Walk;

Plastic Fantasy #5
Plastic Fantasy #5

The five paintings each include an original piece of post card fiction that tells the story of a couple’s journey together through strange lands. My largest painting, ‘Colors #1′ drew a lot of interest as well and the youngest set especially enjoyed “Ladybug Flower”.

Now that it’s over, I need to rest and recoup, at least physically. But mentally I feel encouraged and refreshed by the whole experience.

So before I close here, my sincere thanks; to my patient daughter who gave up her weekend to help me, to Kim Fjordbotten and everyone at the Paint Spot who worked so hard to make this event a reality, to the kind and generous volunteers who were there to help, to my neighboring artists and their friends for their support and to all the visitors to my display who shared their thoughts and ideas with me and gave me more than enough encouragement to carry on.