Carolyn wins an ‘Oscar’ of the Watercolour world!!!

At Auckland’s Royal Easter Show, Carolyn won the coveted Raye Hannam Memorial trophy for the Best Watercolour Painting, across all categories.  This is the biggest Watercolour prize awarded in New Zealand

It was thrilling to receive the news that I had won the top watercolour prize, the Raye Hannam Memorial trophy for best watercolour , across all categories in the Auckland Easter show.

But what it ultimately meant to me was validation.

I’ve been painting full time with watercolour for twelve years, and over that time I’ve worked at painting all subjects-portraits, (human and animal,) still life and landscapes including detailed landscapes that might have trees, horses, lakes and mountains within the landscape. This might be a reasonable enough composition with oil or acrylic, but with watercolour it takes a lot of planning, practice and confidence to venture into such intricate paintings.

I’ve done the hard yards painting complex watercolours and found myself spending 40 hours plus on a painting, and using smaller and smaller brushes, the detail getting down to blades of grass!!

After about 15,000 hours of ‘practice,’ over those twelve years I felt I had finally ‘mastered’ watercolour-but then it occurred to me, after chasing that goal for so long, it’s not a medium that wants to be mastered/controlled, at least not all the time. To continue on that track I may as well have switched to oils or acrylics, but I love watercolour, I’m addicted to it!!

So last year I literally went back to the drawing board and threw out all that I’ve learnt and started over. I changed everything. This was harder to do than I could have imagined.

Instead of making a detailed drawing that I usually invest a lot of time in, I would free hand draw suggestive images, or have no drawing at all. Loose drawings, (or no drawing) makes for quite a different outcome, and a very pleasing one!

I reinvested any money I’ve made with my watercolour sales and bought new paints, switching to another brand that I absolutely love, and buying a good mixture of transparents, opaques, grainy and glittery.

I bought some new brushes that are big and thirsty.

I bought new paper, a new weight for me, purposely choosing a mixture of hot pressed, cold pressed and rough.

I spent more time thinking about how I could frame my work with the painting in mind, choosing interesting mat boards and frames, or floating my work over a complimentary backing.

My techniques are looser and bolder with a focus on movement, light and texture, using new tools and concepts that I’ve developed.

And my subject matter?   Well I’m still trying to paint any subject without limitation, and sometimes subjects I’ve painted before, but with a new look, a fresh style, keeping my colours clean and interesting and my main subjects looser but detailed in areas if I chose. I am painting with a wonderful new confidence.

‘Tui Sunset’ is an example of the work I now create. After such a long journey I feel this award has validated the investment of time into developing my new style.