I subscribe to receive various emails and updates from Winsor and Newton, and openly confess to having an affinity to them as my watercolour ‘brand of choice’. So it was with great interest that I watched Christopher Le Brun, President of London’s Royal Academy of Art speaking about watercolour in Winsor and Newton’s most recent video offering:
The video doesn’t necessarily feature or reveal anything particularly earth shattering. It did nevertheless send a shiver of excitement down my spine that made me realise just how much this whole ‘watercolour’ malarkey has gotten under my skin!
Watching what he does in the video, just mixing together a few colours, letting them run together, combine and react with each other to create the most beautiful colours and effects with most minimal of intervention or effort is really mesmerising. I can’t think of any other medium that gives so much with such little encouragement! When I did my demo painting the other week, my time at the easel was interspersed with frequent breaks to paint with some of the children that were visiting the Open House with their parents. It was obvious that some had never painted before, or at least not with watercolours, and to just be able to use a few colours, lots of water, and to let everything run together – with absolutely no intention of making ‘a painting’ was really wonderful – and many of the children found it really magical too. What I remember from that day, was that these abstract paintings, done by children, spoke much more of the magic of watercolour than anything I was working on or displaying.
Seeing this video, and thinking about my experiences of painting reminded me of analogy that I’ve been playing around in my head with for a while. Quite some time ago, I attended a brief training introduction to the use of Coaching in the workplace. It was only a half-day session but some the principles really stuck with me – in particular, that the role of the coach was not to provide answers. The skill and expertise of the coach is to be able to ask the right questions, at the right time, to help the other person think through a challenge or situation and to develop their own answer or range of answers.
This is increasingly how I feel about my relationship with my paints. My watercolour paints already possess all of the answers. I just have to ask them the right questions!
Often, the more that I try to impose my will on the paints, the less satisfactory the outcome. With practice and experience, I’m getting better at asking the right questions, at the right times, and letting the paints deliver their own solutions – regardless of whether those solutions are what I’d intended. As often as not, in the right conditions, the paints have a way of surpassing anything that I intended or imagined!
Here’re are few examples, the results of me my artists’ collective asking some questions together over the weekend and allowing our paints coming up with some simply brilliant answers. Sometimes it’s good just to play, if only to remind yourself of why you love something so much!
Energised, invigorated and looking foward to my next watercolour coaching session – I’m going to sign off quoting Christopher Le Brun (and NIKE):
“Just do it – it’s all in the doing.”