by JESSICA PAG-IWAYAN
Scientific discoveries have shown that art in different forms have existed long before modern civilization was established. The oldest known prehistoric artworks were discovered in the Auditorium Cave, Bhimbetka, and at a rock shelter at Daraki-Chattan, India. These were in the form of rock art or a series of petroglyphs or rock carvings. These were part of Acheulean culture from the lower Paleolithic era, which dates back to 290,000 BCE.
During the Stone Age, another art form was cave painting. Using charcoal, ochre, and other natural pigments, early Paleolithic men painted images of animals and humans on caves. This technique was later improved on and popularized in different parts of the world, as seen in Egyptian art and in Chinese paintings. This art technique is now known as watercolor painting.
Today, thousands of professional artists, students, and even hobbyists from all over the world use this technique. Some of the world’s renowned watercolor artists are Vincent Van Gogh, Frank Webb, and William Sommer. Among contemporary artists, we have the likes of Andrew Wyeth, Dima Rebus, and Prafull Sawant.
At the recently held Art Bar Art Fair, Manila Bulletin Lifestyle had the opportunity for sit down with Prafull, winner of the Bogomil Raynov Solo Exhibition Award at the 2nd International Watercolor Triennial in Varna, Bulgaria, who generously gave tips and reminders on how one could start using and exploring watercolor techniques.
- Start young
Growing up in a family of artists (his father is an art professor and figurative painter, while his brother is also a painter), Prafull acknowledges that starting at a young age has its advantages. “The period between ages 10 to 16 years old is a very good time to develop your own thoughts and your own hand. At this stage, you are exploring who you are and, by nature, your body accepts many good things,” he says.
- Practice live sketching
The Nasik, Indian-born painter also emphasizes the importance of drawing and sketching. He encourages everyone who wants paint using watercolor to do at least 15 to 20 sketches every day.
“Do live sketches of [a] table, window, or bottle. After that, you move to figurative subjects. Through sketches, you’ll get very good confidence in your art, because sketching is the soul of art,” he says.
By “live sketching,” Prafull doesn’t just mean simply sketching or drawing based on images on mobile devices or photographs. Every artist “should use his own images,” he says. “Any kind of artist should use his own images, not from Google, not from Facebook, not from Instagram. Use their own images, their own thinking, own photographs. Paint it from live, live portrait, live objects. In Europe, 95 percent paint from the location, live. Many painters are creating painting from the photographs, as for my thinking, this is a re-creation of the photograph.”
- Start light
Prafull says that by doing live, small sketches every day, one’s skills will be sharpened. These skills will give the artist the confidence to move to figurative subjects later and even landscape images.
“That’s why sketching is a must,” the Dawei International Art Exhibition Silver Award recipient says. “In the beginning, start with small sizes. Just draw and paint small subjects and then later you try bigger subjects like landscape, architectural landscape, and later on portrait. Start small, not big.”
- Pick the right paper and the right watercolor brand
For those who are still exploring, Prafull says that ordinary drawing paper and student-friendly watercolor brands will do.
“They can use any brand of colors. If they have no money to use a professional brand, no problem. They can use normal brands,” he says.
- Use the right brush
On the other hand, Prafull is specific when it comes to using the right brush. He says that instead of synthetic brushes, one must use a sable brush. Sable-hair brush is made from the hair of weasels.
“In watercolor, sable-hair brush is most important. If you have the synthetic brush, it doesn’t have the quality to absorb water inside,” he explains. “Sable-hair brush has the good quality to absorb a large quantity of water inside, it helps to make wonderful wash in watercolor painting, because in watercolor, you must put some washes for the light tone, middle tone, or dark tone. Synthetic brush has not been able to hold a good quantity of water.”
- Practice every day
Just like with sketching, Prafull also encourages artists to constantly explore watercol- or techniques. “If you try watercolor every day, surely after two months you’ll get very good at it. But every day, you must also draw,” he says. “If you try one week, then after one week you’ll try again, maybe you’ll forget what you’ve learned from the first week. Practice continuously, so you’ll get really good knowledge.”