GUEST DOODLEWASH: Becoming A Watercolor Artist

Doodlewash - Watercolor by Bill Jackson of Lesser Bird of Paradise

Hello, I am Bill Jackson (follow me on InstagramTumblr and Twitter!). I’m originally from the Gates County region of North Carolina, but also grew up in Boston, Massachusetts and Waterbury, Connecticut.

Doodlewash - Watercolor by Bill Jackson of Riverside Park StairwayAs a very young child, I remember stating that when I grew up I wanted to be an archaeologist, a botanist, an artist, or a movie star. Well true movie stars are rare. But to this day, I am still interested in ancient history, gardening and painting.

I received a John Gnagy art kit when I was ten years old and have been working at drawing and painting ever since. After an introduction to Fine Arts and graphic design at Paier Art College in Connecticut, I decided I wanted to go into fashion. So I landed in New York at the height of the disco era as a fashion design student at Parson’s School of Design.

Doodlewash - Watercolor by Bill Jackson of Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

Alas, I soon discovered that I had no aptitude for draping and drafting patterns. However textile design was required as well as illustration. I had a variety of great drawing teachers and developed something of a knack for drawing and composition. Turned out my career would take a different course.

Doodlewash - Watercolor by Bill Jackson of Bird of ParadiseI have worked in textiles most of my adult life. Parson’s drawing classes were great in that each teacher had a different point of view. One teacher was all about conveying movement. Another was fixed on creating a “beautiful page,” even if there was only a single pencil line. We were encouraged to be conscious of the page edges.

I will never forget the importance of creating strong contrast to achieve maximum dimension in a drawing or painting… due to the slogan “when in doubt go darker.” Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. But it is funny how all these years later I still try to follow this advice in my own paintings.

In my first year of art school we were obliged to work in acrylics, watercolor, and oil. My mom HATED the smell of the oil paint and turpentine and banished me and my easel to the basement while oil painting. My recent preference for watercolor grew out of the old tradition of textile designs being painted with gouache. I stayed with gouache until about six years ago when I started branching out from textiles. It was then I transitioned to transparent watercolor.

Doodlewash - Watercolor by Bill Jackson of Wilson's Bird of Paradise and OrchidI love the way water carries the pigment. Being able to control the flow by tilting the paper or spraying with water, the puddling, the way colors bleed together to create effects I could not have planned. Just not the same with other mediums. And there are no paint fumes. My mom would be happy about that. Also…my cat has white fur. The occasional, inevitable “accidents” are far less traumatic with watercolor.

The obvious challenge in watercolor painting is to allow the “white” of the paper to create the light and highlights within the image. Some artists are masters of maintaining whites without using liquid mask. Unfortunately, I am not among them. I try to avoid using masking fluid because it can sometimes make hard edges which are difficult to soften. But if I want a white flower to be surrounded by a deep velvety blue violet wash, I will not hesitate to use the fluid.

Doodlewash - Watercolor by Bill Jackson of King Bird Of ParadiseThese days, I vacillate between “fine art” and painting for textiles. I also create images for Home Decor. You can see samples at Art Licensing.com. For these images, I combine hand painted motifs with digital patterning techniques I picked up over my years in the textile industry. When time allows, I like to paint in a series.

Last year, I painted a series of tigers in surreal situations; swimming in the Bosphorus; strolling through Riverside park. I took a special trip to the Bronx Zoo to take tiger photos. Tigers are not especially cooperative or patient with having their pictures taken. But I DID manage to get two useable photos; one of which was used in my Riverside Drive Tiger painting.

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I am fortunate to have access to the Metropolitan Museum so paintings by some of my favorite artists are available for me to view.

Doodlewash - Watercolor by Bill Jackson of Moonlit PeonySargent, Eakins, Gerome, Rubens etc. In the Asian Wing there is a sculpture I have been entranced by. It is a bodhisattva which embodies compassion. I took many photos and eventually did a painting; placing it in an imagined garden setting. This is my Moonlit Peony painting.

Doodlewash - Watercolor by Bill Jackson of Lotus BlossomAs much as I enjoy viewing the work of other artists, I am always most inspired by nature. Flowers and birds are my favorite subjects. I take lots of pictures at the Brooklyn and New York Botanical Gardens… and any other gardens I can get to. Lotus and water lily turn up repeatedly in my work. Lotus flowers in particular are appealing to me for their symbolic meanings in various cultures. I am struck by the fact that these stunning blooms grow from the muck and mud to tower over the water and reach for the sky.

Doodlewash - Watercolor by Bill Jackson of Apple GemsI am lately becoming a bird watcher. There is a wooded area in Central Park which is great for spotting different species as they migrate. One of my buddies has a place in the mountains and there is a constant show of all manner of birds to keep us entertained and provide me with inspiration. The painting “Apple Gems” was inspired by one of his old apple trees laden with fruit last year. A recent spotting of a “rose breasted grosbeak” (shown earlier in the post) compelled me to do a sketch, which I managed to work into a new design.

Check out my Tumblr for images of my work AND some of the stuff which inspires me!

Bill Jackson
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Profile photo of Charlie O'Shields
Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!
Published in Featured Artists
20 Comments
  1. winctop 11 months ago

    Awesome stuff right there. Reblogged 🙂

  2. Sue Dreamwalker 11 months ago

    Wonderful arwork Bill, Loved the Tiger 🙂 and thank you for sharing him Charlie.. 🙂

    • Bill Jackson 11 months ago

      Thank you for appreciating the tiger and many thanks to Charlie

      • Sue Dreamwalker 11 months ago

        🙂 you are most welcome.. And Charlie is featuring some wonderful artists Thank you Charlie.. 🙂

  3. M. L. Kappa 11 months ago

    Very interesting tips, Bill, and lovely work!

  4. Phil Cooper 11 months ago

    Absolutely stunning work Bill !

    • Bill Jackson 11 months ago

      Thank you Phil. Just took new pics for inspiration

  5. memadtwo 11 months ago

    Beautiful birds! (K)

    • Bill Jackson 11 months ago

      Thanks! Just took some new bird photos I hope to use soon.

  6. Teri C 11 months ago

    Beautiful paintings. Thanks for sharing them.

  7. Arsty Birdy 11 months ago

    Very nice!

  8. Sharon Mann 11 months ago

    Joyful and magnificent Bill, thank you for sharing. Thank you Charlie.

  9. MAGNY TJELTA 11 months ago

    Love reading the story and the work is very inspiring, beautiful and very Nice!

  10. woodcanvasartist 11 months ago

    Wow…great stuff Bill! I started with water color and moved to acrylic, but still love water color.

    • Bill Jackson 11 months ago

      Thank you much. I have yet to master acrylic myself. The drying time is something I need to adjust to.
      For time being I am STILL learning watercolor!

  11. artandmoondreams 11 months ago

    Fantastic and beautiful paintings. Great feature post, thank you for sharing.

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