Why is watercolor so suited to expressiveness?
Expressiveness is the quality that gives watercolor its mood. Other adjectives used to describe this aspect are “juiciness”, “wet in wet”, or “uncontrolled.” Water is the vehicle that spreads the paint on the surface in a watercolor; consequently the quality of expressiveness is inherent. Certainly not every watercolor has this quality, but when the artist allows the medium to flow, fluidity results. With other painting media (acrylic, oil or pastel), fluidity may be significantly more difficult to achieve as water is not the chief medium.
We are drawn by conscious and unconscious elements such as subject matter, mood, color, contrast, shape, and texture. Humans usually do not know why they are attracted to a particular painting. We may be looking for a certain subject matter, but unconsciously, we are drawn to the use of darks and lights (contrast) and/or the use of color. We are affected by color’s moods whether we realize it or not. Reds are associated with fire, blood, warmth, love, and passion. Oranges and yellows are warm and used in fall landscapes. These warms also can signal danger or fear (warning signs like the yellow jacket, i.e.). Greens are almost universally used as a sign of growth, and have calming effects. Blues are soothing, cool, and remind us of water. Purple, a royal color, may lean towards warm or cool.
The Drama of Darks and Lights:
Watercolor lends itself to subtle changes in color or value (darks and lights). This enhances the mood of the painting. The subtlety of watercolor can give a sense of mystery. 19th century British J.W. Turner‘s watercolors employ movement and fleeting changes of light. His later work had the quality of expressiveness or drama by capitalizing on this fluid medium.
In my watercolor “And on the Third Day“, I started with very wet paper and a large, soft brush to achieve the drama in the sky. The effects of “lightning” and storm clouds seemed to appear on their own with little help from me. I think this painting shows the expressiveness of the watercolor medium. Please tell me what you think in a comment.