Take a Peek at Jamie Wyeth’s Watercolors

27 Oct 2011

Raspberry House by Jamie Wyeth, 1988, watercolor, 22 1/2 x 28 1/2
This is one of the artist's more traditional pieces in terms of his painting process.
(Raspberry House by Jamie Wyeth, 1988, watercolor, 22 1/2 x 28 1/2.)
Watercolor is one of those wondrous materials that can be manipulated in so many different ways. Techniques vary, levels of liquidity and viscosity can be changed, and the way the paint is applied is open to wide interpretation. There's a volatility to watercolor as well, and that's what makes water-based paints so exciting to use.

For Jamie Wyeth, son of notable American realist Andrew Wyeth, watercolor paintings have been as much a part of his oeuvre as oil painting. But Wyeth never approached watercolor art as a purist, allowing his work to live outside of the box in many ways.

He would often combine pencil, ink, gouache, acrylic, and pastel with watercolor. The mixed-media combinations allowed him to create paintings that don't look quite like other watercolors.

There's a weightiness to the paint—a heft that is visually interesting. Painting this way also brings in a lot of surface variation to Wyeth's work. The paint texture can vary from rough and delicately pitted to liquidy, sticky-looking, or gleaming and glazed.

There's also an opacity to the pigments that is rare to see in watermedia. This is the result of the artist combining different materials, but Wyeth would also build up thick layers of watercolor paint—quite a feat considering the nature of the medium. To prevent the surfaces of the paintings from cracking and flaking (when he didn't want them to), Wyeth used Old Holland watercolors, which have an elasticity to them that the artist found useful.

Sea Battle by Jamie Wyeth, 2003, mixed media painting, 29 1/2 x 43 1/2.
Sea Battle by Jamie Wyeth, 2003, mixed media painting, 29 1/2 x 43 1/2.

Discovering what the best artists working in watercolor—like Wyeth—are doing allows me to know the potential of the medium and myself. I enjoy Watercolor cover to cover because there is always something new that catches my eye, and the color mixtures and mark making that I see can often ignite an idea for a new idea in my own work. I hope it is the same for you. Enjoy your subscription!


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