ARTIST BLOG / WATERCOLOR

Why Do I Call Myself a Modern Watercolorist?

Recently, I've been asked by several of my readers – why I call myself a Modern Watercolorist and not a Mixed Media Artist?

Well, in all honesty – it’s mainly due to the supplies I use, how I use them plus a pretty traumatic story of how I learned I wasn’t a traditional watercolorist.   But I’ll get to that in a second…

In my previous post [CLICK HERE TO READ] I actually discussed the difference between modern watercolor and traditional or regular watercolor – so if you didn’t watch that video or read the post please please make sure to check it out.   

Some of you were curious after that video aired why I didn’t call myself a Mixed Media Artist but rather a Modern watercolorist which is how this video came to be.   

SO HERE’S MY STORY OF WHY I DON’T REALLY LIKE TO REFER TO MYSELF AS A MIXED MEDIA ARTIST…

College was pretty rough for me – I honestly struggled ALOT in school and it was one of the most emotional roller coaster rides of my life – with really awesome highs and really depressive lows.  During that time – to just kind of help me kind of process – I often would draw or paint in my dorm room.   And one particular year I made what I deemed some pretty awesome art.   So – I decided to take my art to the local county fair and showcase it just for kicks.   

I had often done this as a child and entered my art into age categories based on grade – but now that I was an adult I needed to specify what medium of art I would be entering in.   The categories were photography, watercolor, oil, acrylic, and mixed media.   I of course labeled my artwork under the category of watercolor – thinking that’s what I had painted.  My art piece was composed of watercolor, graphite pencil, and a bit of white gouache for highlights.   

After standing in line for some time to submit my work under the watercolor category – I was met with well some not positive responses.   As soon as the lady working the desk took my painting in her hands she immediately shoved it back into mine and said with disgust – “wrong table.”  Confused, I said – but it’s painted with watercolor.   She then proceeded to say – “Is that all you used?”  Confused – I told her I had used some gouache for highlights but before I could finish she pointed to the mixed media table and said in a very demeaning voice, “Over there.”   

Needless to say – I was really confused – but walked over to the mixed media table and once again waited in line to submit my work.  Looking around – most of the art in this location was a mixture of mainly acrylic and ink.   No watercolor to be seen.    After some time – once again I was standing before another woman to submit my piece.   After filling out the necessary paperwork – I then proceeded to ask – why my work was considered mixed media instead of watercolor.     The lady was a bit confused as well – staring at my work and the others that had been submitted.   She then called over the preview woman who had shooed me over to this table and asked her the same question.   

The woman then proceeded to inform me that only “true” watercolor paintings could be submitted into her category and that mine was not considered a “true” watercolor painting since I had used gouache.  With that short and albeit curt explanation – she then stated “rules are rules.” and walked away without any further explanation.   

Now I get “rules are rules” and she wanted her watercolor category to be “pure.”   But that day – I learned a pretty hard lesson from the art world.   Many what I would deem “purest” artists – or artists who want to stick to the more traditional side of their art medium – viewed mixed media art as the trash art category of their world.    And as a result – I really felt like trash just being associated with that category.  So I went home feeling pretty lame after that whole ordeal.   

Needless to say, the whole ordeal was pretty well discouraging and I was really sad that my art wasn’t considered watercolor.   I loved watercolor and I loved painting with watercolor – but that day I hadn’t felt wanted – well actually I was downright ostracized from the group and placed into a category that they deemed “trash art.”

THE SUM UP…

Now – I do want to clarify – I don’t think of Mixed Media art as “trash art” and there is absolutely nothing wrong with painting with watercolor the traditional way.   This was just my first impression of this world and while I do consider myself a Mixed Media Watercolorist today I still prefer the term modern Watercolorist mainly due to this particular event.  For years I really struggled with the term Mixed Media but I’ve come to accept it better now.     

This is also why  I started calling myself a Misfit when it came to watercolor.   I just decided to take a different approach and well “break the rules of watercolor” and just have fun.     I think that’s more what art should be about – creating stuff that makes you feel good about yourself no matter how you go about it.   

Most people won’t encounter the same experience that I had – but it does still happen based on the comments from my previous video it most definitely still happens.   

So yeah – that’s my story and hopefully, this answered some of your questions from the previous video.  If you have any more questions or would like me to answer any other topics make sure to leave a comment below – and let’s keep the conversation going.   

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?

6 Comments

  • Sheila
    August 1, 2021 at 4:44 pm

    Gouache is watercolor, absolutely! It’s just opaque. What a silly ‘rule’ to exclude it.

    Reply
  • Henry G.
    September 7, 2021 at 10:53 pm

    Great Story. That lack of respect some people have for others, is a big problem in all fields. That person at the table should have been removed from the event. In the Navy, I taught my sailors that respect goes up and down the Chain of Command. People need to be more respectful and helpful, instead of negative and disrespectful. Everyone would get along better. There is no trash art, all art is requires a lot of thought and hard work, and that is why it’s beautiful. Stay positive and continue doing you art.

    Reply
  • Diana Searcy
    September 11, 2021 at 11:51 pm

    I enjoyed your story as it is very relatable…I didn’t start drawing/painting until I was in my late 30s, and never took any kind of formal class.
    When I discovered my talent it became my world, always having something to create with…that said as I complete my masterpieces I use any kind of media I feel will give me the proper end result that I am looking for…I think not having any training led me to not know that wasn’t a thing.
    Thank you for sharing and know you are not alone…but I tend to think and live outside the box and know I am not like most

    Reply
  • SUNITI KHASTGIR
    September 13, 2021 at 1:34 am

    I fully agree with you. I also work with ” mixed media” as they call it ?. I have done work with watercolor, charcoal ( either on a watercolor base, merge it with my fingers or do the opposite use water calour on a charcoal work).I even use in some areas or finish with acrylic. Acrylic is also water-based. I has participated in an International watercolor competition where they said we can use water based colours.and it will be considered as watercolor.
    Would live to see some of your works.

    Reply
  • Guiti Ravanbaksh
    September 14, 2021 at 10:16 am

    Hi Carrie, love your approach. Remember any new ideas and rearranging minds faces rejections. No worries.
    What did you use in your video for white resist and then painted over it with turquoise? I have hard time to use masking fluid as it doesn’t give me the ability to maneuver and flowing? Appreciate.?

    Reply
  • Heidi E. Nelson
    September 14, 2021 at 5:26 pm

    Thank you for this article. Art is so subjective. I figure these purest groups, typically with the word transparent in their name, have a right to preserve a place where they compete against others with the same limitations. It takes awhile to understand all the rules. We artists usually dislike rules, especially about our artistic choices.
    My gripe are the “purists” who insist watercolor has to be a spontaneous. Stemming from the history of watercolor being used as a quick way to get an color sketch to later paint in oils in the studio. Watercolor was even declared “not art” by some important people (in France I think. ) A opinion that had effected watercolors a long time and is supposedly gone now, in the past 10 years.
    I was taught it is important to use a medium according to its nature. Watercolor (and gouache) naturally make seamless transitions from color to not color or to another color. No brush strokes showing! Making them perfect for glazing in layers where having multiple layers of brush strokes often makes a messy look. Thus by this unique quality of watercolor and gouache it is perfect for the way I paint.
    I love building layers of colors to create glowing color mixtures not possible with the same colors mixed together on a palette first. The “purists” criticize me for my favored way of using watercolor, usually with snide little comments quietly when no one else can hear. Grrr. I do occasionally win awards in competitions with these guys though.

    Reply

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