Tuesday, July 19, 2011


The meaning and purpose of art can be traced back to man’s earliest quest for survival. Thus the meaning, function and purpose of art in those days were quite different from what we would know of it today. Then, art only played a functional role. Early man learnt to fashion out tools, weapons and body coverings. Even the drawings done by the wizard artist were for magical purposes.

But as man developed further he even became superstitious, and thence emanated the ritual or religious purpose of art. But the most outstanding form of early-man’s art is the cave art: featuring drawings, paintings and etchings on the walls of caves. The purpose of these people for doing what they did have no doubt become different from what their legacies are for us today – hidden treasures of invaluable records. The artists were totally unbiased and true to their natural callings; responsive to their every social activities and events surrounding them. Art, be it as practised in the early times or as of today, would normally function in various ways. A piece of art work could perform social, domestic, religious or aesthetic functions.

Benin bronze head - an example of  traditional African art

But the question is – does African art perform different functions from European art for example? Are their roles supposed to be delimitated or specifically targeted towards a particular purpose? I would think that early-man art, and traditional art – being its immediate successor, could play the same roles be it in Africa, Europe, the Far East, the Americas or Oceania, etc.

Because of man’s level of development at this time, encumbered by superstition, animism crept into art. And also due to the level of interaction and non-commercialisation of man’s early art forms, there was maintained a strong level of seeming conservatism and therefore marked differences, and demarcations arose. And so one would want to ask – what is the noise all about African art? This is to say, looking at the concept, from the perspective in which the term is popularly viewed even in today’s modern world. I submit that there is African art, and there is also traditional art of Africa. So, if we set apart traditional African art, do we still have what is popularly touted as African art?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Watercolour Painting - Part 2

As you set out on another adventure of watercolour painting, we shall continue on this series . I would advise you however to allow your watercolours to live dangerously like I try to sometimes. You should also try to exploit some of the unique effects obtainable when water is used as an active part of the process.
Here is a description of some of the basic methods of working which I will also say are major rules. Also following these basic rules, it is first extremely useful to note some of the main functions of water as well as the techniques in the use of the watercolour medium.

Water is the vehicle as it were, on which the medium is based; it is the means by which colours are traditionally lightened. A pigment can be reduced in tone and intensity by progressively adding water to it. Water is also the means by which colours become transparent. The greater the amount of water added to a dilution the greater the ‘show through’ of underlying colours. Dilute colours laid down over one another will mix rather in the fashion that two pieces of coloured glass overlaid will produce a third colour.
It is possible to exploit this characteristic to achieve crystalline effects of great beauty, but to be successful great care must be taken to keep the colours pure and suitably dilute. This means that palettes, water and brushes should be kept as clean as possible. Watercolourists who lament the lack of luminosity in their paintings could usefully check the cleanliness of their palettes and the frequency with which they change their painting water.

Washes of flat, even colour can be achieved with watercolour but it is possible that in certain dilutions some colours will precipitate or separate out on the paper, resulting in a speckled texture. French ultramarine is prone to granulate. Under certain conditions other colours will granulate too, and these include: yellow ochre, vermilion, and burnt umber. Some other pigments will granulate only when laid over a previous wash. Granulation is not predictable in its outcome. Efforts to achieve it will often result in failure, yet it may occur when not wanted. A process of trial and error with various less than weak pigment dilutions will bring about a degree of control, but it is probably best to allow granulation to occur spontaneously.

In its pure form a wet-in-wet watercolour is produced on damp paper and the paint is not allowed to dry throughout the process. Painting by this method means that there are no hard edges or sharply defined forms. Wet-in-wet can be useful for certain subjects. For example, misty landscapes showing lakes or rivers in half- light have been successfully suggested by the soft merging colours of this technique. It is also possible to use wet- in-wet methods to create the effect of a cloudy sky. Colours can be laid down and allowed to bleed and water can be introduced into wet colour creating cloud-like forms. Creating a wet-in-wet sky requires a bold approach and a steady nerve. Failure is always a possibility, but so is outstanding success. Many, if not most watercolourists mix wet-in-wet techniques with wet on dry. Working in this way provides the best of both worlds.
Wet on Dry
This is a technique that requires you paint on a well stretched dry paper. You are able to achieve hard edges as well as high intensity or sharp contrasts in your painting. Thus the dry technique is the way to create the effect of a bright sunny day. However, as it has earlier been stated, both wet and dry can still be combined for maximum desired effects of moods, weather and aerial perspective, etc.

Morgan C. Nwanguma
Chiaroscuro artwold

All in Your Eyes