I arrived at my friend Stacey's last week with a lot of questions. I wanted to hear where she stood on the matter of staining and non staining pigments, her thoughts on hot vs cold press paper and if there was a better pigment or paper to use.
Stacey obligingly pulled out a reference book, The Wilcox Guide to the Best Watercolor Paints by Michael Wilcox and showed it to me. On each page there was a precis of every shade of watercolor known to mankind. She offered to loan me the book but the sheer weight of the information was daunting.
When I pressed her for the essential facts on these issues, I could feel her resistance. She explained that rather than reading about pigments, she prefers to work with the colors herself, testing one, then another with a whole cadre of colors. She opened a black notebook to a two page spread with the most mouthwatering series of colors I've seen in a while.
What was most interesting about the samples she had painted was that there was no
uniformity. You could see crystallization in some of the colors and in others, like viridian, there were speckles of plum and rust. "So, is that sedimentary?" I asked, pointing to the viridian wash. She told me that the paint water had remnants of many colors suspended in it--or, as she put it, "it's dirty water."
It was apparent to me that once again, I was facing the creative continuum of choice, trying to decide between two ways of approaching a painting or drawing. When I arrived that at her studio that morning, looking for answers, Stacey was telling me to experiment, to work by trial and error, always heading in the direction that that elicits energy and joy, rather than the road marked "I really should...."
Simply put," she said, "avoid the 'shoulds'!! "If it seems like you have a choice and one way is going to bring joy, go that way."