Young artists are the future of watercolour, so the committee of Watercolour New Zealand has decided to use the Eleanor Fyle Training Fund to subsidise introductory lessons in watercolour painting for young people. One such course was held recently on the fourth of July, American Independence Day, in the new art room above Alfred Memelink Artspace in Petone.
Sixteen budding artists abandoned their PlayStations and congregated for two classes tutored by Alfred Memelink, with Watercolour New Zealand president John Toft acting as teacher aide.
Set out before each of the students was all the necessary equipment: an A4 sheet of watercolour paper, a set of brushes, a palette with a range of colours and a BIG jar of water. The American flag was raised on the gallery flagpole and a naughty corner was established in case there were any water fights.
“What’s so special about watercolour painting?” Alfred asked the students as they gathered round to watch his step-by-step demonstration. One of the kids blurted out “How come there’s no white on my palette?” They were amazed to learn that in watercolour you use the white of the paper instead.
The young artists were keen to tackle the subject, a painting of Island Bay Beach in summer. After a quick lesson in Drawing 101, which included instructions to leave plenty room for the sky the kids gathered round for the first step of the actual painting – a wet in wet sky. They had strict instructions to paint the blue part of the sky as rapidly as possible and leave PLENTY of white spaces for the clouds. The students did amazingly well, even under the beady eye of the teacher who hovered sternly over them, ready to pounce if
they started closing in too much of the white space or picked up a tiny brush instead of the biggest one. Alfred drummed into them the importance in watercolour of LEAVING WELL ENOUGH ALONE.
After the wet in wet sky came the island and the sea, painted wet on dry, and to finish off a few details - a boat if they wanted to include one and, of course, since it was an Alfred Memelink workshop, seagulls
The lesson took them step-by-step through the process of painting a simple subject, allowing some latitude for artistic licence, and introduced them to the basic techniques of painting wet in wet and wet on dry. After two hours, they had each completed their own watercolour masterpiece and were beaming with creative satisfaction. Feedback from both the students and their parents was overwhelmingly positive. “Why don’t they teach them this at school?” one parent wanted to know.