Watercolour is possibly the oldest medium of art. Prehistoric cave paintings in Europe were painted with water-soluble pigments, and Egyptian manuscripts utilised the medium in creating illustrations. Despite these ancient roots, watercolour as a definitive medium only became ubiquitous and flourished during the Renaissance.

The popularity of watercolour has shifted many times throughout history. In its heyday, artists used it on its own to complete paintings or as part of preparatory sketches for other painting mediums. The ability to paint in watercolour eventually became a sign of a good education and was normalised among the elite and aristocratic classes.

Young Hare by Albrecht Dürer, 1502. Using early watercolours, Dürer and other Renaissance artists typically drew animal and botanical illustrations.

On the flip side, it wasn’t quite accepted in 18th century Europe where artists preferred the more ‘refined’ mediums. The fact that it became readily available to the elite classes meant that it wasn’t exclusive to artists anymore, and this popularity drew derision from some artists.

Even today, there are still different opinions regarding watercolour – with many seeing it as elementary and amateurish while others praise it for its unique aesthetics.

In this post, we’ll tackle the intricacies of the watercolour and explain how art made with the medium provides a unique and delicate touch to your room that other art styles can’t provide.

What Makes Watercolour Unique?

The medium is well-known for two unique characteristics – transparency and fluidity.

Watercolour’s transparency gives it a unique finished look that almost looks like it glows. This luminosity is due to the light being able to pass through the paint, which accentuates the white of the paper. The result is a finished painting that seems to radiate with an ethereal colour.

While there are semi-opaque and fully opaque watercolours available, the medium itself stands out when the paints are transparent.

Watercolour’s fluidity is determined by how much water is mixed with the pigments and affects how intense or subtle the colours will be. Since the paint is water-soluble, it also moves with the water and gives the finished painting a more natural feel to it. This gives the watercolour artist better control of the medium.

Why Choose A Watercolour Print?

A watercolour print or painting may not be your first choice as a decorative element in your room. Indeed, many homeowners are often hesitant to feature these pieces due to the persistent stigma and stereotype that watercolour is an ‘amateurish’ medium.

What most homeowners are unaware of is that watercolour is the perfect medium for certain art styles and movements. There is something just natural about a misty seascape or the rolling clouds in the sky carefully painted with subtle watery movements of watercolour. The medium allows artists to properly compose impressionism pieces – the thin, yet visible brush strokes and true-to-life lighting exemplified by vibrant aquarelle.   

Ethereal Aesthetics

Watercolour prints and paintings offer a delicate finishing touch to your room thanks to its dreamy and almost ethereal aesthetics. Even though the medium is naturally bright and luminous, it has a subtle feel to it that exudes an elegant and more accommodating atmosphere. It’s quite unlike other painting mediums that have very striking and overpowering colours.

Consider the above. This is a watercolour print with a predominantly warm and bright colour palette. While your attention is immediately drawn to the darker coloured feathers, the piece itself radiates with a light glow. These lighter tones, however, don’t overpower their contrasting dark shades. Instead, they accentuate them in a perfect contrast and are more subtle thanks to the medium.

This is what we mean when we describe watercolour as delicate. Because the medium is water-soluble, colours mix better but stand out enough that they don’t lose their identity. The result is a piece with a more subdued tone and atmosphere and is naturally easier to find a place for it in your home

While a watercolour print can easily become a focal point in your room, you can also use it as an accentuating piece – a decorative add-on that will enhance your established aesthetics, drawing attention to it, but not so much that it takes away from the room’s existing and carefully crafted aesthetics.