Water moves about the earth and in the clouds and in us. It is elegant in its simplicity. It is awesome in its power. It is miraculous in its phasic fluidity. It is fickle in its use with wet on wet painting!
In my third summer of teacher training at Steiner College, I learned to further refine this traditional Waldorf artistic medium. When I was first introduced to it two years ago, I was irked by the water's stubborn refusal to yield to my desired brush strokes. Each time a dabbed my Filbert brush into a jar of pigment, I would utter a short prayer of mercy. I would gently apply the brush to paper, and immediately, the water would coax the pigment to form tiny hairs that would grow this way and that, moving to places I did not intend. I was baffled as to why it would not remain loyal!
Then I figured it out: water is not an extension of my will force, a tool like a chisel or a pair of knitting needles. I must regard it as an elemental being, not just an element. Water is alive. I must form the right relationship with it. I should not demand of it to bend to my will. I must understand its strengths and its limitations, its properties and its nature. Water's fluidity and sensitivity must be given space to be mischievous and impetuous, then water's elegance and lawfulness can be received as a gift. The artist forms a partnership with water.
While wet and wild, water invites the layering of a cloudy sky. As it begins to evaporate from the paper, foliage of trees and the contours of hills and mountains take form. Traveling less on the paper, the water then allows the more definitive forms of humans and castles to take shape. Playful and generous, water allows me to apply my favorite technique of lifting off the pigment. Counter to one's intuition, it is the removal of edges and planes by lifting away the pigment that reveals the three dimensional shape of faces, bodies, structures, and surfaces.
Every artist - and we are all - must find the right relationship with water. And like any other dynamic partnership, you must be forgiving when things don't always go as intended, be joyful in the triumphs, and be open to the possibilities.