Penny Duncklee

On a drive across the country I discovered watercolors. I wanted to paint my own postcards and bought a kid's set of paints. The painting was fun but frustrating. I kept putting on more color to make the picture as brilliant as the scene. But, the paint lacked pigment, and what there was sunk into the paper. When I arrived home a friend suggested I buy good paint, paper and brushes. I did. Good tools do make a big difference.

That was about thirty years ago. I have been learning secrets of this illusive medium ever since, through constant practice and an occasional workshop from master painters. Watercolor paint travels better than oil or acrylic paints by drying quickly and being easily removed from palettes and clothes. I can take a small set of supplies to a beach, sit behind a dune and finish a painting before supper. I can use water to wet the paints, and the brushes will forgive me if I forget to clean them right away. Many pieces of paper fit in the travel case both blank and painted. I can take watercolors on an airplane without worry.

Painting with watercolors is like dancing with both lover and stranger at the same time. When in sync magic happens; when I stumble, the painting ends up having no life and is dull. When everything works, the painting is full of luminosity and variations of brilliant to subdued colors.

Everything seems to make a difference: paint, paper, brushes, weather. I have found that even different brands of those items make differences. With one paper the paint sinks in and flows differently from another. One brush makes a blunt mark, another makes both blunt marks and thin lines depending how I hold it. Because of using water, the paint dries very quickly on a hot dry day in June in New Mexico, and very slowly during the humid days of July in North Carolina.

Yes, my mind-set makes a difference. With another mind-set, a different picture emerges. Of course, that would be true whether I was painting with oil, acrylic, watercolor, or crayon. Lately I have been playing with watercolor pencils and markers.  They travel nicely and do amazing things when wet with a brush. They do the magic things regular watercolor paints do, too.  We shall see what happens. 

So, why do I paint with watercolors rather than anything else? In the end, it is because I like the results that come from the challenges of working with watercolors, whether regular or pencil or marker. And, although painting with watercolor is the most difficult work I ever attempted, it is the most fun.

Penny Duncklee