5-2-5 Research Point : Compare pure watercolour and mixed media

Make comparative notes on the differences between pure watercolour and mixed media.

OCA Course book . . . …… Watercolour can be used in many ways and in combination with different media. However, there is still much to be said for the unique qualities of watercolour used on its own or in such a way that brings to the fore those qualities. There are many watercolourists today who base their work on simplicity and purity of effect.

Images from websites noted, accessed on 8th Oct’16




Quoted from course notes in OCA book –

There are also artists whose main work is far away from watercolour but who discover the particular qualities of the medium and exploit them in their own way. Andy Goldsworthy is a land artist and photographer, but sometimes uses water in his own special way. In this snowball painting by Andy Goldsworthy, the pigment was ground red stone taken from Scaur Water. It was mixed with snow and left to melt on the paper. The water creates an image of natural process from the natural materials of the place itself. In other snowball paintings he uses other pigments such as elderberries, ground slate and different coloured earths.

Above and left –

Andy Goldsworthy: “snowball paintings” examples.

Having read a small bit about Goldswothy’s “snow painting”, I was eager to try my own version of this method of abstraction and deriving a random piece of ‘art’.  Having previously used coffee as a medium for painting and drawing I mixed a quantity of coffee, and dilute acrylic paint and popped them into the freezer over night

First up I broke the solid frozen lump of coffee in to several pieces and sat it at the top of the sheet and propped up the board to have a slight angle to encourage the thawing liquid to flow.  This then made several tracks of brown stain down the paper.  I let this dry and the set up the paper for the blue ice pieces to flow across the sheet and followed this up by the yellow.  The result is an abstract with strong linear elements from the tracks of thawing liquid paint.  The yellow looks like a stem topped by a flower and the horizontal brown lines echo the horizons in a landscape.

Image created from allowing frozen paint to thaw

Frozen paint – painting, Image created from allowing frozen paint to thaw

The above technique may be a useful one when you wish to introduce an element of abstractness to a blank sheet prior to painting or to use a springboard at the start or for the next stage of the painting in the middle of producing an image or to finish a work.  The possibilities are endless as the potential effects are indeed endless as you could never reproduce an exact replica due to the random nature of this effect.

Unable to go to go on Gallery visits

Due to a long lasting leg injury I have been on crutches and either in plaster or a leg brace for the last three months and was thus unable to venture out to galleries to view and compare mixed media and pure watercolours.

Make comparative notes on the differences between pure watercolour and mixed

Watercolours like all painting and drawing media can be used in a multitude of ways.  However, some artists believe that the techniques utilised by the 19thC British master is the path to follow.  This group of artist have set up a society to promote this method and teach other artists the ‘true’ path. They are “The Pure Watercolour Society”, they promote using this medium in pure transparent washed allied to fine draftsmanship in the method exemplified by the 19th century masters.


So the purists will not entertain the use of anything to support the producing of a watercolour image except – watercolour paint, paper and water applied by brush.  Many people regard this as old fashioned and a retrograde view, these people support the other side of the debate and view watercolour as a material to be exploited when producing an image.

The non-purists – the Royal Watercolour Society, http://www.banksidegallery.com/about; “promotes very best in contemporary water-based media, championing the work of new and established artists, promoting work on paper, exploring its boundaries.”

By pushing the boundaries they welcome watercolour and water-based media used with imagination and innovation rather within the tight constraints imposed by the purists.


http://www.banksidegallery.com/Artists accessed 17th Oct’16


Lisa Traxler –Settling into the Year, mixed media


 Lisa Traxler – Let Thoughts Wander, watercolour



Akash Bhatt  Sidewalk, mixed media on paper


Akash Bhatt, Run, mixed Media on paper


June Berry – The blacksmiths Paramour, spotted by his wife, watercolour





David Curtis



David Curtis – Rising tide on a still morning Aberaeron


David Curtis – Rising tide Staithes Beck


David Howell


David Howell – Brancaster Staithes, watercolour               


David Howell – Barges at Pin Mill watercolour



Looking at the images from both the purists and the modernists!  I would think that must greater levels of skill are required to produce the pure form of watercolour.  Like any great debate both sides have important points to make and will never exactly see eye to eye.

Whilst I would love to have the skills of the great watercolourists I enjoy the unencumbered nature of the non-purists style of watercolour.  Where would modern watercolour be without the use of cling film, wax, salt, resists, and other mediums? most likely visually poorer.

Examining some of the examples about,

Akash Bhatt, Run: this image mixes various types of media and techniques including writing on the image to produce the final painting.  Bhatt uses a coloured ground, brown wrapping paper, on it he utilises opaque paint and washes with scraping back, scumbling and collage as well as pen to introduce text.  The image is held together by a strong drawn structure.  The final result is a painting that has your eyes darting around to decipher the various textures and elements of it.

Comparing this to

David Curtis – Rising tide Staithes Beck: Curtis utilises a strong composition that has been pre-planned.  The strong drawn elements are set against a visually abstract background be it the hillside scrub or the shimmering still waters of the harbour.  The whites and highlights have been reserved by careful planning and accurate deployment of washes; they are painted around rather than reserved.  The washes are layered to achieve depth, tone and texture.  The range of tones goes from very dark to white but there is no sense of drama to it which seems inherent in the work by Bhatt.  The sense of tranquillity, luminosity and transparency of Curtis’s image is in direct contrast to the vibrancy and drama of the Bhatt image.