Kerrie Woodhouse

Whimsical words and watercolour

How to use your strengths (and each other's)

Kerrie Woodhouse

I used both ink and watercolour this month - they play so beautifully together. Of course, each is perfectly adequate on their own. But when they work together there is less to be expected of each one - the load is shared. There is a message in that for all of us, to be sure.


Actually it fits so well with a sketchbook practice. In my opinion anyway, a sketchbook is a license to free yourself from undue expectation and be more open to play than perfection. An ink drawing is a great way to capture a scene. So is a watercolour painting. But if you put them together they can compensate for one another. 


Watercolour is so good for a splash of loose but vibrant hues. It offers life and energy. People often think that watercolour is hard to control - it does seem to have a mind of its own. But if you let the pen join in, then inky lines can firm up any details that you feel are lost to the wilful nature of the paint. 


Ink on its own can sometimes feel a little stiff. A pen is a far more precise instrument. It is easy for it to lure you into tight little details. If you know that watercolour will come in and play its part then it is easier to loosen up with the pen. Easier to stop before it feels too finished and before the lines strangle the life from quick energetic sketch you began with.


Each medium has its strength. Ink gives bold strong lines, and fine, precise details. Watercolour is relaxed, loose and suggestive. Allowing each to offer its respective strength to the page means you have a good chance of capturing a lively but recognisable scene in rather short order.


One medium need not do everything. Nor are there rules about which one goes first. Start with ink, or with paint, do what the sketch wants. Bring back the pen after the paint is dry to reinforce some details. Flexibility and teamwork - that’s what its all about. 


There is no need to try and be a jack of all trades - this applies as much to art supplies as it does to people. Ask for help when you need it. Trying to do something that you do not enjoy or find a struggle makes no sense if there is someone around who can do it better, and faster than you and actually enjoy it.


Spend your time and energy on your strengths, not your weaknesses. Unless there is something new you really want to learn to do, you are probably wiser to step back - outsource or find someone to collaborate with.


If we don't ask for help, we are denying someone the opportunity of sharing their gift. Likewise trying to be all things to all people may come at the cost of time spent doing that special thing that only you can do.

Let’s work with our strengths, and each other’s.