The next in our Isolated Moments series, aiming to keep spirits buoyed and creativity alive during COVID-19 global social isolating and quarantining measures, comes from Japanese artist printmaker Misa Gott. “Yuragi” (dynamism/ fluctuation) in nature is the central idea in her practice. She uses watercolour to explore ideas in sketches and develops these into monotype and relief prints and collages.
During lockdown I have been looking after my five-year old son, so time in the studio has been limited. The practicalities of making prints are not conducive to childcare, so to continue to make work I re-discovered the magic of watercolour and its inherent qualities; transparency, freshness of colour and fluidity. I stopped seeing these as sketches and recognised them as works in their own right.
This workshop will introduce you to the magic and fun of watercolour and encourage you to get lost in making. As Ms. Frizzle in my son’s favourite TV show The Magic School Bus says “The motto here is let’s get messy, make mistakes and take chances”.
You will need:
- Watercolour paint: two colours of your choice and black and white will go very far!
- Painting tools: typically, a paint brush but also fun tools such as a toothbrush, straw, skewer, toothpick, sponge, kids medicine syringe, cotton bud, twigs, leaves and even your fingers can create interesting results
- A Palette: use paper plates, old plates, lids, or glass jars.
- Paper: ideally watercolour paper but pages from unwanted paperback books, cereal box cardboard or a packing box will do.
- Kitchen paper or an old rag, to wipe spillage and excess paint
Note on watercolour paint:
Mixing watercolour is fun. Just watch out how much water you are adding as the more water you add the fairer the colour will be when you paint. Once painted, the colour will dry lighter than when it was wet. Watercolour paints can be left to dry and then reactivated when you want to use them, so you don’t need to worry about them drying up.
Make or choose your colours. You can leave your choice wide, but I find it easier to limit the colours in order to prevent works getting muddy. I recommend colours that have contrasting tones such as navy and lemon yellow or green and pale pink.
Have at least six pieces of paper ready! Each piece can be small. If you are impatient like me, it is good to have several pieces to paint on so that you don’t have to wait around for one to dry. You can of course choose to work on one large sheet of paper.
Choose one colour and make a mark. Don’t think too much, just make the mark with a brush or any other tools of your choice.
- Splatter diluted paint. I like to make use of the liquidity of watercolour. Onto the paper I place a few droplets of paint, then move the paper which teases the paint and creates a shape.
- Stamping. Use cotton buds, toilet paper roll, an edge of card, or anything you can find to stamp.
- Enjoy watching the paints dry. The colours will look different from when wet and may leave interesting marks at the edges.
Observe the paintings and consider the kinds of marks and colours to use next. If the marks you made first were bold and strong, try to make more delicate marks. If you used dark strong colours, try light and soft next.
If you’d like to see how colours bleed when placed either next or on top of each other, start painting before Step 3 is completely dry.
Pay attention to contrast when choosing colours or marks. If the painting has overall similar tones, introduce stronger more saturated colours. If the marks are blobby and painterly, it will look more interesting to contrast with sharp and defined marks.
Carry on until you get bored. Be ready to make a lot of paintings! The key is not to be precious and overthink, but to just do it. It’s a good idea to stop and observe what you like and what you don’t like.
Some more ideas:
- Sprinkle table salt on wet paint. It makes freckled marks when dry.
- Put cling film on when the paint is still wet and leave it to dry. Peel and see!
- Cut up the paintings to make a collage.
- Ask another person to make the first mark. (On some of these watercolours the first marks were painted by my son, after which I added further marks)
- Introduce other mediums such as crayons, colouring pencils or ball point pens.