I think we artists would be better served if we viewed our art career in a similar way an auto mechanic views their business. I’ve seen incredible mechanics who only had access to limited resources, old tools, and less than wonderful automobiles. I’ve also seen incredible mechanics who used the latest equipment, the most up to date tools, and worked on top of the line vehicles.
Each mechanic was wonderful, each were skilled, extremely intelligent, and great at what they did. One was not better than the other, the difference was not the quality of the mechanic, but the tools available to them, and their own journey. Each made the tools work for them. This leads me to my topic of cotton paper.
From the beginning of my journey I’ve been taught by amazing watercolor artists that you should only paint on 100% cotton paper. They have said that it is more challenging to paint watercolor on non cotton paper. They have said learning is easier on cotton paper, and I’m sure that is true, but this is where my analogy came in, I have rarely used cotton paper.
For me it was a question of budget. While I enjoy making art, I could never justify to myself the added expense. If you can that’s wonderful, and I encourage you. I also want to encourage those who cannot afford it that you can still achieve an enhanced skill level with the tools available to you.
For me this has helped in developing my style of watercolor. I tend to paint in the realism school using a mixture of detail and implied detail. I use less soft edges in watercolor than I do in acrylic. I also paint more vignettes in watercolor than I do with acrylic also.
While this is my preferred method of doing watercolor, it also plays to my strengths and downplays my weaknesses. I must admit I am impatient. The idea of waiting for large amounts of water to dry has never appealed to me. Second until my wife blessed me with a small, far less loud, heat gun, I couldn’t stand the noise of a hair dryer to dry my painting. Thirdly I’m a watercolor pan painter, though it’s not because I don’t appreciate tube watercolor. I like both the convenience of it, and not having to pour in pans and wait for it to dry.
All of this makes a good quality pulp paper, a synthetic sable brush, and my pan palette a perfect combination for me. This style isn’t for everyone, but it works well for me. I’m sharing this because there is an alternative to those who want to learn watercolor, just on a budget. It’s not that one method is better than the other, like the mechanic analogy both can achieve the goal of being a better artist.
Beyond pulp versus cotton paper, the message of this is you can learn not just art, but anything regardless of your resources. Don’t allow what you have to limit what you can do. If all you have is a pencil or a ballpoint pen, use it until you can add to your tools. A dear friend who I consider family is now a thriving doctor, but he faced many obstacles that would have detoured someone else. His faith, tenacity, practicality, and strength empowered him to achieve his goals, and to do far more than he ever imagined.
You can achieve your dreams through practicality, improvement, and perseverance. Don’t give up, use what you have, above all else learn as much as you can, and keep practicing. This won’t just make beautiful images on pulp or cotton paper, it will enhance your life also.