September 30, 2012

Watercolour Sketching

I was lucky enough to be invited by my friend Cynthia last week to the quarterly opening at the Kelowna Art Gallery. The featured artist was John Hartman, an Ontario painter who took a week to drive through the Columbia River basin, making fast watercolour sketches of the landscape as he went, like this one of Nelson, BC.

He made 30 paintings, all the same size, about 9 x 12". Cynthia and I loved them, watching a video of Hartman at work, and joking that "we could do that!"

It's harder than it looks. I was inspired to try my hand, while at the same time fulfilling an item on my bucket list, which was to go up to Kettle Valley one sunny afternoon and paint. There are two benches there with little tables in front of them - just perfect. It was a glorious afternoon and I had so much fun and gained new respect for John Hartman. But hey, it was just my first try. I bet I could get better at this.

Hartman didn't do any colour mixing at all. Because he worked quickly outdoors, he just dabbed away directly from his watercolour box, getting some colour variation by overpainting once in a while, but mostly the pictures all have the same 8 - 12 colours and they look great together.

I decided to pay little attention to colour - hence the purple mountains. This watercolour sketching method, working fast with no preliminary drawing, takes the pressure off trying to be perfect. Even though my scene looks a bit like palm trees by the Nile river rather than the park at Kettle Valley, I'm pretty excited about doing more of this, and taking a break from the watercolour portraits I've been working on lately.

You can see Hartman's paintings at the Kelowna Art Gallery for the next three months.

Update: I tried another one (left) looking out over the valley from Thornhaven the other day. Too much fun.


  1. What fun! Good for you for making the time for this creativity.

  2. Thanks Jeremy. In retrospect I wrote to Cynthia: I can’t even believe I posted that picture on my blog! It’s so bad – but it represents so much delight for me, I think in that I was really able to suspend perfection and judgment and just dab happily away.

  3. I like it -- the joy of the process is represented in the product, and as you've found with your portraits, they get better and better.