I don’t consider myself a watercolourist or an oil painter. I’m an artist, and as an artist I use whatever materials and mediums best express my desire to create art. Whether I’m using a camera, a paintbrush, a needle, a saw or whatever it is I happen to turn my hand to, my art comes from being me. People, however, have all sorts of differing views about what constitutes art, and how one must go about performing and creating it in order for it to be accepted.
One of the dilemmas I faced when I was discovering my artfulness as a wee kiddie was in deciding for myself which forms of art were more valid to pursue, versus what was considered valid, culturally speaking. Oil paintings, and portraiture in particular have always been one of the top ranking forms of art. People will pay a very hefty sum for an oil portrait, especially if it actually looks like the sitter. That bit is quite hard. Getting the money out of people is probably even harder once you’ve finished – many an artist has gone hungry from not being paid in time. Watercolour has always been seen as the hobbyist’s painting medium, and so, such paintings are worth less in general than an oil or an acrylic, for example.
Mr. Turner himself was a big advocate of the watercolour medium, but because oil was the thing in his day, he rebelled somewhat and brought his watercolouring techniques to the canvas (which really upset the folks at the Salon at first). However, as an artist, both I and Mr. Turner have an understanding that the same level of work goes into producing a watercolour or acrylic painting, as does one created with oil paint. The medium is not the art, it is merely the vehicle for the artist’s intent. These days cartainly, watercolour paints are just as expensive as acrylic or oil paints, and so you’d think that each of these painting forms would now enjoy equal billing. Yet, this asinine mythological status that surrounds oil painting prevails. And, poor Mr. Turner will be turning in his grave at that very notion. In over 150 years since he graced us with his presence, absolutely nothing has changed, except for what one may now consider art (cough, cough!). I do believe Mr. Turner was responsible for that though. He made it acceptable for artists to begin to deviate from the classical norm – naughty man!
Do you think you could tell the difference between an oil painting and a watercolour unless you were standing up close?
Paint is paint.