Watercolour Supplication

In 1997 our family moved from cosmopolitan Sydney to the mining town of Kalgoorlie (population 30,000) in inland Western Australia.  Nine and a half months later we moved on from Kalgoorlie to Perth – where we still live.  I was happy to find myself in the city of Perth, however two major moves within 12 months resulted in a wicked dose of transplant shock.  All my art ideas dried up.    I was floating in Art Purgatory.    While flailing around searching for a lifeline, I took up watercolours and simply went outside to paint – en plein air.  No cameras, no grids, no tracing; just the tools of own eyes and hands.

Here are a few watercolours from that period.  I see them as transitional works spanning the time when I was suffering from visual artist’s version of “writer’s block”.  It was necessary to return to direct observation of surroundings; rather like going back to basics.

View from Pier Street watercolour 1998

View from Pier Street

“View from Pier Street” was painted while I was perched on a concrete step at the bottom of an East Fremantle street. Beyond where I sat was Riverside Drive, Swan river and the banks of North Fremantle on the far shore.  I didn’t use watercolours in a classical way as I’ve never learned to use watercolour properly.  Instead I was sort of drawing with paint.

Fremantle-on-Canning watercolour 1999

watercolour 1999

“Fremantle-on-Canning” was painted from my parked car while Lucy was at kindergarten.  The good thing about using watercolours this way was that I could complete a painting in one session of 60 to 90 minutes.  I didn’t have the luxury of time to muck around.

Albany Morning watercolour 1999

Albany Morning

“Albany Morning” was painted while we were on holiday in a town about five hours drive south of Perth.  Albany is a quaint port town and has a slightly New Zealand feel about it.  I got up early to paint while the rest of the family slept.  It was a still, cold, frosty autumn morning.

Beyond Pier Street watercolour and pencil 1999

Beyond Pier Street
watercolour and pencil

“Beyond Pier Street” was a view from an upstairs window of our house looking over the port of Fremantle.  This was a line-and-watercolour sketch using coloured pencils in conjunction with watercolours.

Nelson watercolour 1999

watercolour 1999

I painted the Nelson watercolour while holidaying in New Zealand.  A policeman insisted I move my car while I was painting the first version of this watercolour.  He said I was parked facing the wrong direction and, “You wouldn’t park that way in your own country [Australia] so why think you can do it over here?!”  I couldn’t speak my mind back because I didn’t want to be given a parking fine.  After he ‘cautioned’ me, I repositioned the car and started again.  Some resident must have thought I was ‘casing the joint’ and called the police.   Danger: Artist at Work.

Paekakariki Sidelings watercolour 1999

Paekakariki Sidings
watercolour 1999

On that same holiday I painted beside disused railway tracks at a place called Paekakariki, north of Wellington.  It was a bit creepy working among the derelict carriages.  Train ghosts!

I found my watercolours to be rather hit and miss affairs; more to the point, they were more often miss than hit.  But at least they got me looking at the world again so they were an essential part of the art journey.  Through their use I worked my way out of Art Purgatory.   Later in 1999 I returned to my oils with a fresh sense of purpose.  In 2001 I found my way back to coloured pencils.   I eventually gave away all my oil paints but I still have my watercolour set – just in case I stumble back into the wilderness again.

Paekakariki Sidelings oil painting 1999

Paekakariki Sidings
oil painting 1999

When all else fails – the lifeline out of the void is practising what you learned in Art 101: Observe and draw.

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21 thoughts on “Watercolour Supplication

  1. Lissa Rachelle

    I think it’s a great idea to fool around with a different medium when the artistic well runs dry. I went through a bad drought a couple of years ago…unable to draw for months … so started doing zentangles and zentangle-inspired art. After months of not having drawn anything, I started drawing with my pencils again within a month of playing with ink 🙂

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      I expect all of us have to go through Art Purgatory sometimes, Lissa. I agree, picking up a different medium is a very good way to deal with it. One door closes, another opens.

  2. anna warren portfolio

    These are lovely paintings Julie, delicate but strong. I can see exactly what you mean about drawing with the paint. I have a bit of a horror of using watercolour ‘properly’ and I think this is a wonderful way to do it. Your colours are clear and fresh and your composition skills mean that these look more like carefully planned works than quick plein air sketches. The observation is wonderful. Even though you were in such a slump, your natural skills carried you forward. It was such a good idea to change medium, and gently bring you back into more planned pieces.

  3. WESTENRA, Mark (NDI)


    You Nelson renegade you! Parking the wrong way! You should’ve told that Policeman to come to India where cars are parked in all 4 directions everywhere!

    Mark Westenra (मार्क)

    First Secretary (Management) and Consul
    New Zealand High Commission, New Delhi, India
    T +91-11-4688-3215

    http://www.mfat.govt.nz | http://www.nzembassy.com/india | http://www.safetravel.govt.nz

    [Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: cid:image005.jpg@01CEB937.55A8D1B0] [Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: nzinc-india-email-sml]
    [6209_Email Signature_HIGH RES_OUT]

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      That policeman was a real jerk but at least that altercation didn’t cost me any money. Not like when New Zealand Quarantine found the apple in my hand luggage (which I’d bought at Sydney Airport and forgotten about) and made me pay a $400 fine on the spot. Now THAT was bad!!!

  4. Seatoun Knoll

    Your water colour paintings are great Julie – I love that style of painting. Hope you do some more one day! Also Grant got a ticket for parking the wrong way in Blair St and was not impressed.

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      That’s really funny, Rachel. Just read your comment out to Matt and we both laughed. As for the watercolours – who knows. I don’t think I really have the personality for water though. I’m too much of a control freak and with watercolour I feel out of control.

      1. Seatoun Knoll

        Its so hard for a control freak to give up the control. I know because I am and I don’t! But just do it anyway your watercolours are really magic. Just one and then sell a million prints online – that you should make losing control worthwhile.

  5. artistsblog

    Lovely post about your art expeditions. Mind you the parking inspectors here do fine you for being parked the wrong way, and for anything else that upsets them – pretty much everything. I love all the mediums, but have only just taken very baby steps in oils.
    I like what you said about a “Sense Of Purpose”. It gets you out of bed and up and doing. Highly recommended.

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Cindy, I’m sure you’re right – though I’ve never gotten into trouble in Australia for parking the wrong way. What I didn’t tell the policeman was that I’m actually a Kiwi! He was very rude to me when he thought I was an Aussie. I wonder if his attitude would have been nicer or even worse if I admitted to being a New Zealander.

  6. sherrytelle

    I love your blog Cousin! You have a way of telling a story that brings your audience right into your experience. I love your water colour sketches, I just watched a demo on pen and ink using water colour en plein air that found really exciting, this fellow carries a small ( 5″ x 7″ ish) sketch book with him as he travels the world and a very small watercolour pallet and he writes down where it was and the year and any other info he finds interesting, it is like having personal post cards of his journey, what a legacy to leave his family! He has over 20 little sketch pads chock full of them! It was very inspiring, and this blog just makes me want to run out and get a sketch book!

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Thank you, Cousin! I intended to do what that fellow does and used to pack the watercolours plus sketch pad but my good intentions only lasted a couple of years. I’m such a slacker! I went back to doing all my recording of trips with the ol’ camera. The reality was that when I was on holiday I didn’t really want to be doing art. It felt too much like work. Whereas taking photos didn’t feel like work, more like play.

  7. Robyn Varpins

    I love the looseness of your watercolour-hit-and-miss…. if expectations are low, then we can experiment ….and unexpected delight turns up


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