Painting Blog > Watercolor > Global Change

Global Change

Originally posted on May, 10, 2007

The change from painting in oil to painting in watercolor is a global change. It is difficult to imagine something bigger in those terms.

John Singer Sargent was right. Painting in watercolor is an emergency. Degas was probably thinking of watercolor when he likened a successful painting to the perpetration of a crime. It takes much cunning to do a good watercolor.

Oil, on the other hand, affords the freedom of contemplation. It is such a flexible and forgiving medium that comparatively it is like a breath of fresh air. You can go to a quieter place and plan your next move.

What do these mediums have in common? Besides the obvious fact that we are placing pigments on a flat surface, they take place in time. Time is the common element. Watercolor is the contemporary medium par excellence because it is fast and spontaneous. Oil is contemplative. It unfolds under a much longer period. It is kind of like the difference between a fine wine and “pepsi”.

Hermann Hesse said that the artist and the mystic where attempting to do the same thing: annihilate time, the artist through hyperactivity and the mystic through inactivity. This distinction, I think, is poorly understood today. We do not slow down enough to understand the contemplative side of things. Be that as it may.


Published in french as Changement global


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