Alice Wormald: Watercolour, a challenging medium

March 13th Alice Wormald Watercolour Demonstration

Alice makes beautiful, complex, meticulously painted watercolours  of weird landscapes. She develops her imagery through collages which she composes from photographs of natural objects, like flower petals, rocks and mountains. Watercolour is a challenging medium, because you can’t hide anything, but the natural imagery is very forgiving.

She paints on 640 GSM Arches hot pressed water colour paper. The smoothness of the paper allows her to capture the fine detail in her source material. Alice feels there is no point trying to use a lighter paper and stretching it, not only does it never really work, but you have to cut away the original deckled edges of the paper, so that it loses a great deal of its beauty. With the 640 GSM paper you can just go for it straight away. In other words, expensive but worth it.

Start with the very lightest colour you will be using and build up layers of colour over the whole work, rather than working in discrete sections butting up against each other. Alice pays particular attention to the staining power of the paint she uses. An example would be that although she likes to use a mixture of Phthalo green and alizarin crimson to make a grey black, Phthalo green is very staining, meaning it  can’t be wiped  off the paper, so when she wants to create a blurry edge to objects, this creates  too heavy a mark. In this case she would mix burnt sienna, ultramarine and a little alizarin. As Alice puts it, ‘Different colours travel differently’. She points out that it helps to have a lot of different colours on hand, to be able to mix just the colour you want.

The demonstration ended with a completely contrasting activity – making free form abstract paintings using mixtures of water colour with white gouache,  which was really relaxing and a lovely example of how there are so many different ways  the same material can be used..

Julia Gorman 2014

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