Hi, my name is Victor Doria and I’m from Lima, Peru. I’ve drawn since I have memory, and I guess I got the taste for drawing thanks to the influence of my parents as they are professional artists. But, it wasn’t until university, during my studies of architecture, that I developed the passion for watercolour painting.
There I joined a group of urban sketchers, and since then, I don’t go on a journey without taking a sketchbook and a pencil, marker or watercolours; and the fact is that open air is the best place to improve your skills in the use of this technique.
I have a special taste for depicting historical monuments, archaeological sites and rural landscapes, which are my favourites as I find the experience of painting on the countryside relaxing and gratifying, good for the soul, mind and body. And, as I said, good for your skills because every direction you watch can become a perfect theme for the next photograph or painting and it’s quiet enough to sit somewhere and start drafting.
Although I only practise during my free time, and that’s not as much as I’d wish, I like to paint topics taken from a story I read, hear or just something that came to my mind. For example, I’ve just started a series of paintings based on legends and folk tales from the Andes of Peru, so the photographs I’ve taken in my journeys are valuable references for backgrounds, characters, colours and atmospheres. In the first painting of this series (a boy playing a reed flute) the predominant colours I used were burnt sienna, sepia and some cadmium yellow for the lights, a bit of cadmium red in specific points and Prussian blue for shadows and greens.
In the second painting (a mother with her baby) I used only burnt sienna, Prussian blue and a bit of cadmium red in the child’s blanket. For the next paintings, I might try a different colour harmony. Meanwhile, colour theory and composition are subjects that I’m trying to learn, and the best way to learn is to observe and put it into practice.
When I’m painting outdoors, I use a 5B or 6B pencil for the initial sketch to define the scene roughly, almost without details. Other people prefer a hard graphite pencil for this, but in my case I like the initial trace to be seen under the layers of watercolour once the work is finished.
The first layer of colour is a quick wash of the background, blending two or three light tones and leaving the blank spaces where needed. In the second layer, I try to define shadows (In open air I prefer to use ultramarine blue) and highlight shapes and volumes. In the final layer, I do the detailed work, add some glaze by washing or to adjust some colours if it’s necessary.
Watercolour pencils are a good choice for the initial sketch also, as the lines blend partially when adding watercolour. For the final details, however, I prefer using these pencils just as a complement of watercolour paintings or in quick sketches while looking for the right colours or composition before the final work.
Sometimes, when I decide to add outlines, I use Chinese ink or watercolour and dip pens. I used to do this work with stylographic pens but I prefer dip pens thanks to the variety of lines one can get depending on the pressure applied or even a fine brush (#2 or #0).
Watercolour pans are perfect for sketching outdoors, however I bought a metal palette and empty pans some time ago (it’s easy and cheap to find them on Amazon or eBay). So now I prefer watercolour in tubes and fill the pans with the colours I really need in my palette: Cadmium Red, Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Yellow, Prussian Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna and Sepia, which are the colours I mostly use.
Although occasionally, I add Yellow Lemon, Yellow Ochre, Cobalt Blue, Pthalo Blue or Sap Green depending on the theme or the scene. My watercolors are from Grumbacher and Cotman (the academic line of Winsor & Newton) also the removable masking fluid from Winsor & Newton.
My brushes are 4 round generic synthetic ones (#02, #06, #08, #12), a Cotman flat synthetic brush #6, and 2 sable brushes from Raphael (#18, #22). I’ve tried water brushes but I prefer traditional ones because, in spite of water brushes being very practical for quick sketches, the continued water flux dilutes the colour too much, or maybe I didn’t manage to use them properly.
About the paper, I haven’t tried so many kinds so I usually use Montval 300gr cold pressed, and a sketchbook I made with 180g Canson paper for sketching in open air
A set of Albrecht Dürer watercolour pencils from Faber Castell are very useful for final details and drafts for their intense colours and softness.
The graphite pencils I use are from Faber Castell and Staedler (the Mars Lumograph are really good and the softer ones have a thicker line compared with other brands)
Inspiration & Reference
Watching the artwork and videos of watercolourists in action is an enriching experience as they are a great reference to solve some doubts and problems I have while painting in open air or at home.
Observing and analysing the masterpieces helps to understand more about composition, likewise to improve our control of technique, use of colour, light and contrast; so, the next are some of the artists whose work inspires me:
- Rembrandt, for his inputs into composition, the technique of chiaroscuro and the dramatic atmospheres he gets on his scenes.
- John Singer Sargent and Joaquin Sorolla are the masters at “catching light”, both in oil and watercolour.
- The landscapes in watercolour of James Fletcher Watson
- Peruvians Indigenista movement’s artists such as Jose Sabogal, Enrique Camino Brent and Vinatea Reynoso, for their own rendering of the rural themes.
- On the side of illustration, I admire John Bauer’s artworks, which depicts scenes of Nordic myths and folk tales, for his use of color and contrast to create atmospheres full of magic and mystery.
- The Golden Age of Illustration’s artists, mainly Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, and Harry Rountree’s cartoons.
- The illustrated albums of Jeremie Almanza
- The Celtic faeries of Jean Baptiste Monge
- In the comic area, I’m fascinated with the work of Sergio Toppi (comic and illustrations) and Jeffrey Jones (comic and paintings)
- Animated films are really inspiring also, especially the Cartoon Saloon’s films for the design of the scenes, characters and Studio Ghibli’s.
I remember one of the first books that initially inspired me to learn more about watercolour, it came to me just as a happy coincidence. It was one about the chronicles of a trip by a region of Spain: “Castilla y Leon, Crónicas del verano”. To be honest, I’ve never read it, but what actually caught my attention were the illustrations: watercolours and ink drawings of a painter that signed as “Castilviejo”.
I still have that book and I check it from time to time to delight myself with the pictures. And the fact is that when I find something inspiring, it reminds me also of the fact that starting a sketch or a painting is always a happy adventure, a new experience to enjoy and an opportunity to learn.