Appreciating Watercolours

Appreciating Watercolours


Varanasi by Aparup Mukherjee

Watercolour painting is both an exacting and suggestive art. By definition, a watercolour is both a medium and the finished artwork. As a medium, it refers to a paint that is water soluble with one of its key attributes being its transparency, allowing brushstrokes or drawings painted under to show through a layer painted over, giving depth and sometimes luminosity to the work.

Why do we call it a suggestive art, because in watercolour painting an artist seeks to capture the essence of the composition or scene? The artist paints a visual image of what they have analysed and internalised. The attempt is to suggest not emphasize or over paint. The image created should hold the correct balance. In watercolours it is said that the tone is the hero and colour just the supporting cast.

A true watercolour masterpiece shows an individual personality of its own. View the foreground, mid-ground and background to gauge its depth. Never underestimate the value of a single brush stroke.  Examine the whites to see how they get placed against the darker shades. Remember, there is no transparent white watercolour paint; the white parts in a watercolour artwork are often those that are not painted and allowed to be seen as they are carefully placed and left blank while painting the artwork. Imagine how a watercolour artist sees the entire painting before he starts actually sets brush to paper, knowing what colours to merge and where to place his strokes to achieve his vision!

Water is an active agent in any watercolour painting, and the artist’s skill in commanding the fluidity of this medium reflects the mastery in his craft. The artist is an alchemist too, blending water and paint to create shades and hues that capture light and luminosity. There is frankly no way of correcting a watercolour painting, any flaws is glaringly obvious. Paint once placed on the paper will leave its mark. It is no wonder then that we admire those who have mastered this craft.


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