ARTIST BLOG / MODERN WATERCOLOR

What is Modern Watercolor?

MODERN WATERCOLOR – is a relatively new term from what I can gather.  I started to see this term used more frequently in the late 2000s.  But technically (no pun intended) it is a more “modern” way of saying MIXED MEDIA WATERCOLOR – which has been around for a countless years.   So it’s not a very new form of art – but it has gained more popularity online in recent years.  

Okay – now that we have clarified that modern watercolor is a form of mixed media watercolor – what does that mean? But how is modern (also known as mixed media watercolor) different from regular watercolor?

Well before we can really answer that question – first we need to take a look at what modern and traditional watercolor have in common.

THE COMMONALITIES OF MODERN + REGULAR/TRADITIONAL WATERCOLOR

  • There are technically 4 different ways – modern and traditional/regular watercolor are similar….
    • #01: They both use watercolor as their primary supply
    • #02: They both use the core supplies of watercolor (paper, brushes, paint, palettes, etc.)
    • #03: They both use the same techniques for watercolor (washes, wet on wet, wet on dry, etc.)
    • #04: They both paint similar subject matters or and styles

SO WHAT MAKES MODERN + TRADITIONAL WATERCOLOR DIFFERENT?

After reading the previous list – you might think – okay so what makes these so different? Well, there is one very crucial key difference and the key lies in their supply list and how they use them.

THE TRADITIONAL WATERCOLORIST

A watercolorist who holds to the traditional view of watercolor will ONLY use watercolor and sometimes a bit of gouache to add some accents to their piece. They also use their paints in a more loose and watered-down format.

THE MODERN WATERCOLORIST

The modern watercolorist uses watercolor as well as a slew of other forms of mixed media art supplies.   Below I've listed a couple of common supplies used by Modern Watercolorist…

  • COMMON MODERN WATERCOLOR SUPPLIES USE IN ADDITION WITH WATERCOLOR…
    • INK
    • GOUACHE
    • ACRYLIC PAINT
    • OIL PASTELS
    • CHALK PASTELS
    • COLORED PENCILS
    • GOLD/IRIDESCENT ACCENTS/PAINTS

and that’s just to name a few…

Another interesting tidbit is that modern watercolorist tend to use their paints more vividly or in a more thick/acrylic paint consistency. Which is a big no no for a traditional watercolorist.

SO WHY DOES IT MATTER TO UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MODERN / TRADITIONAL? WELL FOR TWO REASONS…

THE FIRSTis it's good to understand what type/form of art you enjoy. There is nothing wrong with either and you can learn alot from both art forms. However – even though both art forms (modern and traditional/regular watercolor) are very similar they are also extremely different. So you might be able to learn from a teacher who's style differs from yours but you won't feel fulfilled in the long run.

AND SECONDis it's good to understand who you are learning from. Like I said earlier – there is nothing wrong with learning from either art form. However – if you are being instructed by a traditional watercolorist – they might have different expectations when compared to a modern one.

In all honesty – most art teachers will not care what camp you aline with – but there are some who are super rigid and might rain on your parade for being in one or the other. This is what happened to me in high school and it really confused me for a bit in my art journey. At the time – I couldn't understand why my art exploration was always wrong. Now looking back – it was because I was a modern watercolorist – whereas she was a very strict traditional watercolorist. In the end – I actually did learn a lot from her – but I kind of wish it had come without the baggage of hurt feelings.

Needless to say – I learned and now have a name for why I paint just a bit differently with my watercolors.

About Author

Hi there! My name is Carrie and I'm a Watercolor Misfit! What's a Watercolor Misfit? Well, anyone who is willing to try new things and not afraid to get their hands covered in paint! So what do you say, are you a Misfit-ian?

4 Comments

  • Susan
    June 2, 2021 at 4:36 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. It answered questions … even some I didn’t know I had. :-)

    Reply
  • Pam Bianucci
    June 10, 2021 at 12:10 pm

    LOVE this Carrie . . . you have given me “license to thrill”

    Didn’t see this reply opportunity and sent you an email (please disregard)

    Reply
    • Carrie Luc
      June 17, 2021 at 12:03 pm

      Thanks so much Pam. Glad you liked the post!

      Reply
  • Chris Clapham
    September 25, 2021 at 8:19 pm

    Do any of these art teachers know that famous artists like John Singer Sargent used watercolours in non traditional ways? If you study his work you will see him using gouache for example. He is not the only one. Tell those people who try to rain on your art parade to go study some art history. It sounds like they need to.

    Reply

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