He’s a Water Whisperer

29 Jul 2012

Every now and then an artist's body of work will resonate with me as being amazing, incredible, and just right not because the paintings or sculptures show technical skill or I'm moved by the subject matter, but because the artist seems to have found the medium that they were meant to work in. The artist is able to show off the best of that medium in the work. Eric Fischl, though he isn't solely a watercolorist, has created watercolor art for well over 20 years and his work has so many of the characteristics that I revere in the medium.

Untitled by Eric Fischl, watercolor painting, 2010.
Untitled by Eric Fischl, watercolor painting, 2010.

For one, Fischl knows how to build layers of wash to create forms that look like they were effortlessly painted. In any given watercolor painting of the figure, he somehow paints skin, the curves of limbs and muscles, and the lights and shadows that appear on the body with an economy of layers. There's no sign that he goes in again and again when he works and I find that surety astounding. The results are works that feel really lively and gestural but pristine and not too messed with.

What I mean by "not too messed" with is that Fischl seems to show a lot of restraint when it comes to trying to control the medium. He doesn't have a stranglehold on his brush. Instead, he lets the paint take shape the way it wants, and he lets watery strokes bleed out into interesting curves or dabs thin out to demarcate the sole of a figure's foot or a finger tip.

Untitled by Eric Fischl, watercolor painting.
Untitled by Eric Fischl, watercolor painting.
He also understands that with watercolor, the pigment can be both the surface and the foundation of the figure. How the paint dries and solidifies does double duty in his works because it describes the physical appearance of a figure but it also gives substance to the figure as well. Seeing that capability in watercolor is incredibly inspiring to a wannabe watercolorist like me.    

If you are equally passionate about watercolor painting, Watercolor magazine's competition--What Do You Love?--is your opportunity to shine! I'm so thrilled to see our Artist Daily members show off their skills and show the people, places, and objects that inspire them to make art. The competition is accepting entries until August 6th, so get your water-based paint on and submit your work soon!


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