Artist, illustrator and designer Felix Scheinberger challenges you to take your watercolours on-the-go and refresh your approach to capturing urban scenes. 'Urban Watercolour Sketching' offers tips and techniques to help you capture the moments around you with colour confidence.
We caught up with Felix to find out more about 'storytelling in colour' in an exclusive interview...
Hi Felix! Congratulations on the release of your new guide, ‘Urban Watercolour Sketching’ – can you tell us more about how the concept for the book began?
I’ve always liked watercolour. A few years ago, however, watercolour was regarded as rather old-fashioned in "cool design circles". I found it a pity because it is very handy and very intuitive for painting. That is why I designed the book - to introduce young designers to this beautiful technique.
How has your career lead to encouraging others to paint in watercolour?
I work as a professor at the University of Münster (MSD) and I teach drawing and illustration. I find watercolour allows young artists to work very spontaneously and beautifully without having to bear high costs. In contrast to many technical means, watercolour is relatively inexpensive. And it is contemporary at the same time. It combines beauty and simplicity.
You talk about ‘Storytelling in Colour’ – is there a process for achieving this?
I believe illustration is actually not always just painting pictures, it is telling stories with pictures.
Where did your love for watercolour as a medium begin?
I first met watercolour in school. In the course of my studies, I experimented for a while with oil colour but found the smell in my room at the time so intolerable that I just started looking for another technique.
Your style uses very expressive and bold mark making – almost the opposite of ‘traditional’ watercolour application. How do you think your approach to watercolour can inspire other artists to see it as a diverse and modern medium?
I find the great strength of watercolour is that it is so intuitive - and when you work intuitively it is much easier to develop your own distinctive style. Personally, I do not believe that watercolour is only suitable for traditional flower pictures or landscape painting. I believe watercolour is suitable for any kind of image and not least for modern pictures.
How has your style developed?
Your own style evolves by itself and it can be a mystery. I think style is simply a mixture of what you like to see and what you like to make.
You capture a range of busy city scenes to countryside escapes on-the-go. What materials would you suggest for any artist painting on the move?
I would always advise young artists not to use expensive and elaborate material. Expensive and elaborate material is only a source of uncertainty – whatever you paint, it’s good to get started, but you’re only likely to do so if you feel you’re allowed to make mistakes.
If you spent a lot of money on an overly expensive material, you think you have to paint especially great pictures. Start slowly and allow mistakes. Learning is done step by step. I advise beginners simply to buy a good sketchbook and a small watercolour box as well as a good brush in medium size. Less is more!
There is a real exploration of colour and what makes different pigment combinations work. What is your advice for anyone introducing colour into their work for the first time?
I would advise you to limit yourself with the colours. To start with, it is always helpful not to use too many colours. If you limit yourself to a few colours you like, you’ll find that your pictures succeed with more peace and beauty.
My tip is to pack all three basic colours and then maybe three more that you really like, which should be enough to start with (especially since it also means they can be mixed).
How does an artist get out of their colour comfort zone?
We all have areas where we feel more comfortable and feel safe. A good trick to get out of a colour comfort zone is to simply use the colour palette of a colleague, you can exchange with friends and colleagues and you will be surprised what you end up making.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start watercolour?
A task I give my students is to paint the ingredients of their lunch before they start cooking. Take small steps and paint small things – a piece of fruit or a fish – and you will see how watercolour builds up piece by piece.
It’s true: it is not a simple technique but even if it takes longer to learn it, once you have you’ll see it is a beautiful, intuitive and natural way to deal with colours.
And you'll see it's worth it!
‘Urban Watercolour Sketching’ by Felix Scheinberger is available to buy in-store and online.
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