Handling Watercolour Schemata

What are schemata?

Schemata are imaginary things we see in odd shapes. For example when you look up at sky, we are inclined to surmise the shape of the clouds look like things. That cloud looks like a face or a dog running, etc. How do we see these things? We assess the shapes of clouds by their basic symbolic shapes and then we fantasize the rest.

Watercolour: cloud schemata

Watercolour: cloud schemata

That is what happens when we paint with watercolours. We assess things, ie shape of your brushstrokes or how things merge, as we paint.

If blunders occur we quickly translate the schemata blotches that appear in our painting into something more significant. If it looks for instance like a flower or a butterfly, we either add plausible detail or eliminate superfluous details, so as to give the shape a more authentic appearance.

This calls for sensitivity of spirit:

Our minds and spirit must be in tune with what’s happening all the time on our paper. So we can quickly identify any possible unexpected schemata and decide what alternatives we can use in the situation.

This of cause can change the format of what we initially planned for our composition. Sometimes drastically!

Don’t get upset. It doesn’t help. Look carefully at what you see. Look for the beauty in the moment, the end result maybe more appealing than you expect.

This is a wow-moment, when you realize paintings taken on their own personality and life of their own. Like characters in a TV soapy, the influence of the actor’s personality affects the recording. And you as the stage manager, you are handling the end result.

The constitution of the pigments and the state of the brush and paper play a big part in the state of affairs. Their characteristics define the personality of your painting. As the artist you need to be flexible in our attitude and thought processes to make things work for you.

 Perfection verses emotional impact:

If you try to reinforce your original concept, your painting will only look contrived and stiff. Be more concerned with how you are communicating, rather than been authentically correct according to reality.

Whatever the schemata shape, consider the inner part of the shape. Just as we meet people we assess their mood, ie what vibe they are sending us. So it is with art, consider what blend of colours you are using within and surrounding the schemata shape:

  • Blue and green: cool calm vibes.
  • Red and orange: warm vibrant vibes.
  • Yellow: warm and sunny vibes.
  • A mixture of analogous colours: harmonious vibes.

 Controlling mistakes:

To make the schemata shape settle comfortably with its surroundings (so our mistake doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb) consider using harmonious, similar or analogous colours and tones to correct the situation!

The intricacies of watercolour:

Every medium has some sort of idiosyncratic intricacies. Watercolours aren’t any different.

As a beginner it can be disconcerting, irritating and frustrating at first. But once you have learnt how to handle problems and unexpected elements, you’ll be able to seize what it presents and `go with it’.

Don’t panic. Be flexible in following through on the consequences of your actions. Inflexibility doesn’t give room for manoeuvres.

Consider the problems you confront in watercolours like you were doing judo. In judo you use the strength of your opponent to swing him over. You use your opponent’s energy as your energy. You follow through on what your opponent presents.You would have less stress if you calmly grasped the problems that came and use them to your advantage. And you will find the dramas are never as big as you first thought.

Think of unexpected schemata as opportunities!

To an inexperienced person handling unexpected facets is scary. But each experience adds to your expertise. And as time goes on you’ll stop been petrified of things that could possibly go wrong, and feel the power of being in control, and actually enjoy manipulating accidental occurrences.

  • You will see the ingenious skills you used to handle these unexpected schemata, could possibly open many a door to your success as an artist.
  • Perfect your skills and help build your style.
  • Open your eyes to new concepts and take you down corridors you never dreamt you were capable of.

So why all this about schemata?

Not only do we assess schemata to correct mistakes, but it’s also the way watercolour paintings evolve through schemata.

When our watercolour paper is blank we have nothing to work with. As you know a blank canvas can be stressful. We need a faint suggestion of marks to convey an impression and stir our imagination.

When we start watercolours with blurred shapes, we have schemata formation and mood to work on. After that we add facts and define the shapes where necessary, until our painting is complete.

Conclusion: Painting watercolours is like adventuring into the unknown. Starting with a vague beginning and using your imagination to unravel the `story’. The exciting part is, as artists we get to tell the story, create a beautiful vista as a time capsule.

How to make sure of your success:

  • First, have some sort of campaign strategy.
  • Set out all you need within reach before you begin paining so you won’t panic when the unexpected happens.
  • Like before a board meeting, simplify the composition so you can handle additional details should they arise.

 Here is a progressive demo to see how watercolours evolve through schemata:

Majestic Mountains of the Cape

Photograph of Cape mountains

Photo of majestic mountains near Worcester in the Cape.

Majestic mountains of the Cape:

These majestic mountains in the photograph, with their heads high in the clouds were seen on our way back from our stay in the small town of McGrgor in the Cape.  I think this range of mountains are somewhere in the Worcester area.

First attraction is the height and seeming power these mountains have. As to the contrast of colour and tone, the subtle patchwork patterns of the cloud shadows over their foothills and surrounding valleys is so beautiful, it makes it a `must to paint’

Timing is crucial when getting photographs from a moving vehicle.

Waiting for just the right time to click the camera, I still captured part of the framework of the car window!  And if you zoom in carefully you will see someone walking into the center trees. The house you see in my painting, surrounded by trees in my painting though, is my addition!

The composition of the majestic mountains scene:

Even with the hazard of taking photographs from a moving car, I was lucky this time to get a fairly good composition format. The trees in the center work as a fulcrum and the two smaller bare trees in the foreground help to lead the eye into the picture. And see how the contour lines of the mountains draw towards the tree fulcrum? You could almost say as well the sky and mountain (blue/grey) area cover two thirds of the compositions and the foreground one third “horizon” space (fresh warm colour) at the bottom of the composition.

Oil painting of mountains near Worcester in the Cape, South Africa

Oil painting of the majestic mountains

I painted the mountains different tones of blue. And then because I didn’t want the grandeur and shadows of the majestic mountains to look patchy, I filled in and blended the colours by interlacing and `scumbling’ the colours.

To get just the right effect I allowed each layer of paint to dry before applying another `scumbled’ coat of paint. This took about two sittings. This technique allows each coat to radiate through, creating a shimmering effect.  It works somewhat like impressionistic interrelationships of more than one colour, shimmering together so as to be seen at last as a `third’ dimension of colour.

Judgement:

Once I allowed my husband to go out canvassing new galleries for me while I was preparing a new stock of paintings. I smiled when he came back to tell me one gallery owner thought my technique of scumbling was a sign of indecision. His remark showed me that the gallery owner didn’t know all that much about painting! If you try to apply one coat, with one contrived colour direct from your palette you can’t achieve convincing blends of different hues.

Technique and style:

I love painting atmospheric conditions. I will do anything it takes to create special effects. That is an artists’ prerogative, to use his or her artistic licence. With the interlacing of techniques, each artist creates his own recognizable style. Just as Vincent van Gogh’s work was considered amateur in his day, his particular technique of applying his paint is now admired and considered masterful!

What do think? Have artists the right to create new ways of doing things? Or should we stagnate in old expectations?

Now you have seen how I painted these majestic mountains, perhaps you would like to see more paintings? Please feel free to check out ‘Photo demos’ page and category.