Friday, October 31, 2008

trucks and meaning

Mark and I were talking about this in the car and it started me pondering... I was wondering why it seems to me that there is a tendency for there to be much more kitchy water colour painting out there, and most really "real" contemporary or interesting work is done in oil or acrylic. I went to Art Central and was just checking out the art, and its always inspiring...but there is a real lack of water colour work. And then I realized I dont see much water colour work - unless it like a painting of a barn, or something. Most of the work in "how to watercolour" books is technically great but not really thought provoking to say the least. It seems watercolourists tend to veer towards technical proficiency over content... and the work seems to shout out skill even when there is thought... I can think of one artist whose watercolours are incredible, and that Gary Bertieg who is a good friend and mentor. Some of his watercolours are simply soul stirring.

some theories I had are:
1)watercolour is harder to do really well. If you are a contemporary artist looking to express an idea, you may choose oil or acrylic because, in my very humble opinion, those are easier to fudge...without like 25 years painting experience.
2)watercolour is more like a zen thing that focuses on the act of painting, because its harder to change after you put something down. So you tend to focus on the skill rather than the content
3)because water colour is cleaner, more portable and doesn't require big canvases it is more accessible to amature painters who dont have an "art"education and are more concerned with technique than participating in an artistic/visual dialogue.

those are my thoughts...what do you think? do you think its harder to make something
that is powerful in watercolour for these reasons? (what do you mean you dont think my muddy truck piece isnt a meaningful dissertation on our human condition?)


Bruce Rout said...

Yes, it's the truck. I see the truck. It has meaning. Is it a good truck or is it a bad truck? Or is it just a truck?

Cameron D. said...

I think your theories are right on.

Watercolor is hard, it's not a forgiving medium & does require that you let go - making it more difficult to pursue concrete concepts because it can all change in an instant.

My paintings start off rather like watercolors: I water down acrylic paints, gesso and coffees to stain my canvas in abstract washes. I never quite know how it's going to turn out - it's rather unpredictable. I have become better at manipulating the liquids over time - sometimes to my own detriment because I fear that I will lose that spontaneity, but I can sort of start to capture what I want. Sort of ... I never really know how things are going to turn out. From there I build images up: I impose a content on the image.

Some major artists that I can think of that have used watercolour are David Hockney (, Anselm Kiefer (, Sigmar Polke & Gerhard Richter ( A common theme is that watercolor is embraced after becoming established painters in, oil and/or acrylic.

As for the truck:

"Representational paintings have a transcendental aspect: since every object, being part of the world whose last and first causes are finally unfathomable, embodies the world.” ~ Gerhard Richter

Cameron D. said...

I'm going to be working out of Art Central soon ... more details to come!

Anonymous said...

Ooooh, I love the artist that linked in this post. It's so magical and mystical. I'm in awe of your ability to paint the same thing again and again, being able to really study and dissect it. I'm afraid I have a much shorter attention span and after I've painted something once, I have to move on to other things or else I get bored. Your approach is a wonderful way to learn new things.

You're right, watercolor is less forgiving, but it's also a lot faster to paint than oils or acrylics. I love Georgia O'Keefe's watercolors (she did some large ones).

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