Get a room full of artists together to discuss their favourite watercolours and soon enough you’re likely to have a lively discussion on your hands! We asked a handful of our favourite watercolour painters to choose their favourite works, be it from their own collection or from someone else’s. Here’s how they responded.
The image at the top of this article is ‘Two domes, Jardin des douars’ by Simon Fletcher.
“During my watercolour workshops I often show painters the work of Kurt Moldovan. When I worked in Germany and Austria, exhibiting and teaching I came across his work and liked it immediately, so vital and only possible in watercolour. I had the good luck to show with many illustrious painters in Europe and often found that for them too Moldovan had been an inspiration”.
“My favourite painter is Gabby Malpas. Gabby lives in Australia and describes herself as a ‘transracial, Asian adoptee’ whose work combines elements from Asian scroll paintings as well as Flemish still lifes to create paintings she considers “exotic but also familiar.”
Gabby’s choice of subject matter (flowers, fruit butterflies and birds) is so similar to my own and, although her painting is in a looser style than mine, it’s rich with the kind of detail I really enjoy seeing. And crucially, for me, Gabby achieves the kind of clean, vibrant colours I so enjoy working with myself, and are the main reason I love the medium. You can see more of Gabby’s work at http://gabbymalpas.com/
I’ve spent a lot of time during my career looking at watercolour paintings and being asked to pick just one as a favourite is a daunting task. After much thought I found myself drawn towards painters that tackle subjects that are unusual and that at the time struck me as being wonderful examples of watercolour painting at its best. One such example of this would be Trevor Chamberlain’s painting of a large tanker in dry dock at Falmouth.
Trevor is very much a plein air painter and to a) identify this as a subject and then b) actually sit there and paint it requires a special talent. I love the way that the complexities of deck equipment and fittings, dockside cranes and clutter have been simplified and the way the late afternoon light is bouncing off the hull.
If I think about my favourite paintings from my own painting career, I would probably choose ‘Heading Home, Snargate’. This again is perhaps slightly unconventional. It shows a group of beaters at the end of day’s shooting at the top of Snargate Hill in Yorkshire with the temperature dropping like a stone and the sun setting as they make their way back down the hill to the farm below, watched by an audience of cattle huddled together on the hillside. Again the emphasis has been to keep it simple, concentrating on the colours of the winter sky and its reflection in the ice on the road, with the figures of beaters, dogs and bullocks stated loosely and simply. There was only time to produce a fast sketch on the spot before the beaters disappeared down the hill, and it got too dark to see and before I froze to death but I painted in the sky as soon as I got home and tackled the rest of the painting the following day and found that my rapid sketch and the memory of the moment was sufficient to work from.
David is a Past President of the Royal Society of Marine Artists and regularly exhibits with galleries both in this country and overseas. He is currently working on a new book on watercolour for Crowood Press which will be published later this year.
It is difficult to pick out favourites but one watercolour that has a lot of meaning for me is one called ‘Teasels by the water’. I walk past this subject regularly watching it change throughout the year. The river winds through a tangle of willows and different plants take turn to grow beside the water. In this interpretation I let watercolour and inks flow on the paper, echoing the movements of the river itself. I made different textures with ink and paint to recreate the jumbled tangles of the undergrowth which contrasted the dazzle of the water.
I recently discovered the work of William Kilburn (born 1745 – died 1818), his work is held at the V&A; he was a botanical illustrator but also a textile artist. He used watercolour and painted the most exquisite designs for a calico printer based in Wallington, Surrey. His chintz designs for muslin are so beautiful, they left me in awe of his design skills and wonderful brush work; while this is not the work of a loose or expressive painter it is artistry made specifically for living spaces which to me is always of interest. If you are anything like me, your favourite paintings change with each new discovery of a painter. The library of inspiration that I hold in my memory is what drives my urge to paint and William Kilburn is the wonderful fuel that that is driving my creativity at present.
My favourite watercolour is always the one I am currently working on. Although I look back at paintings that have sold over the years and particular cockerels that won awards, along with a portrait of a child that looks so wistful, are still very dear to me. As is the dog I painted for an art feature that was sold and now hangs in a home in Africa. My paintings now seem to be far and wide globally. I travel regularly for workshops and book signing events in Australia, Europe and USA. I have just returned from a tour and the colours I saw were incredible. These are flowing into my new gallery collection. I love movement, vibrant colour and high energy pieces. I use a variety of watercolour products to gain the best effect. But each has to be high quality as I expect a high performance level from them. Right now my favourite colour is Cascade Green by Daniel Smith. Maybe green is my lucky colour but it seems to always add life to my paintings , in particular my horse racing scenes. My new favourite is ” Winning Chance” because of the light, speed and movement captured in the scene. Will this be a winning painting? It stands a chance!
A version of this article appears in our watercolour catalogue which is out now. To order a free copy click here