of spring flowers

It’s been nearly six months since I wrote a note here, and regretfully that means I have passed by many opportunties for noting the slow but methodically forward learning that has happened in the intervening span.

For example, my spring has been consumed by the most stereotypical of watercolour subject: flowers.

You know. Close your eyes. Picture a watercolour painting. Now say aloud what was in the image you just pictured. Ninety-three point four percent of you just said the word “flowers” —and you wouldn’t be wrong.

Early on in my watercolour adventures I told people I was getting into this medium an many of the responses fell into the vibe check of “so—you like painting flowers, huh?”

I resisted.

I painted urban sketches. I dabbled in nature scenes. I painted bugs, animals, portraits, snowy landscapes, and autumn foliage. I avoided flowers—mostly.

Then, my favourite local watercolour instructor, a guy who teaches community art classes in my neighbourhood, offered his spring course selection and it was—yup. Flowers.

layers of light and colour

there is a good reason flowers are a watercolour favourite. The medium lends itself well to two particular characteristics of colourful blossoms: light and colour. beautiful flowers are semi-transparent whisps of colour and gradient. beautiful flowers are collections of organic curves evoking hues evolved over eons to evoke our senses. And well-tuned watercolour is the same, watery gradients of semi-transparent colours, layers of hues evoking shape and texture and even accidentally a watercolour abstract is likely to imply something floral. it is almost as though the very medium was invented to solve the human urge to depict flowers as art.

I relented. I signed up.

Sure. I meant that me, a middle-aged cis white man who spends his days training for running races and writing science fiction would be spending an entire evening each week in a room full of the type of women who signed up for a flower-painting course at the local community centre. (They’re all creative and lovely, by the way—I’m just the odd duck in the room because all their husbands are at home doing more so-called manly things like changing their oil and drinking beer while they watch the hockey game in their garage.)

And yet it turns out that painting flowers is probably what I needed to do—at least as a progressive step on my watercolour learning adventures.

Watercolour flower painting is rife with technique and form in the medium. The delicacy of the subject, the application of hue and tonal value, texture and shadow, transparency and implications of our primal understanding of these shapes, all of it is of vital importance to paint a flower that isn’t growing somewhere in the uncanny valley.

All of it is vital to becoming a better watercolourist.

It may be stereotypical, but that is not without ryhme or reason. It is stereotypical because it is like asking if a baker knows the recipe for cake, or if a photographer can shoot weddings, or if a barrista can pull an espresso. Watercolours are turning the world into flowers. Everything is flowers.

It’s probably not unrelated that this morning I bought myself a summer pass to the local botanic gardens, and need to go pack my travelling art kit.