A long lost 17th century A. Boogert manuscript that was recently discovered in a French archive might have provided me a more positive initial water colour painting experience. As it turned out it was a little less than ideal so and more a trial by fire. What I remember were the deadline generated all-nighters at art college spent trying to come to grips with it. Having to get a handle on water colours might have been easier with a learning guide like Boogert’s glorious colour manual. Certainly it wouldn’t have hurt.

My experience with the medium starts with a trip to the art supply store and a quick session of value shopping for brushes, paper and paint. Days later after having spent countless hours experimenting with my purchases I was beginning to understand that this was going to be seriously hard. I realized if I wanted a snow balls chance of getting anything looking good I’d have to find another gear.

Two nights later in the Luxo lamp starkness that was 3am I was face to face with the reality every novice carpenter stares at when confronted with poor results and that is to blame his tools. I went with that. The reason those red sable brushes and that 200lb cold press paper and that fancy paint in the lead tubes cost so much I told myself is that they work. I had now accepted the need to have my credit limit raised before my next supply run.

The next day and in what seems like an out of body experience I see myself putting brushes into my basket that I was sure based on price along must come with the keys to the store. This re-wires my sense of commitment and I began to feel totally comfortable with the price of the paper I thought initially was hideously expensive. Better tools I repeated to myself. Better tools.

While trying to navigate those waters I  also am having to figure out the best way to stretch paper. Comparatively the choices of soak time, butcher’s tape and the type of board seemed pretty straight forward but I quickly confirm that while not on the order of complexity of picking paper and paint that indeed it’s generally best to paint on a nice flat surface as it keeps the puddles to a minimum…

Eventually I get my tools sorted and begin to build potential colour palettes for each painting and my understanding of water colour painting. In the hours that followed I learned the next dark secret of the art. Once you have quality brushes, paint and paper the mysterious process of water colour painting all seems to hinge on one key element – water. Understanding the subtleties of the water, the amount of pigment in the water, the amount on the brush, the right brush, the right amount of water on the paper. Water was what it was all about. Eventually starring at a big snarling deadline I took a deep breath and after  transferring the pencil layout to the stretched paper I dove in and applied the base wash.

What I came to understand through my experience with water colour is despite the obvious challenges and difficulties, you do gradually learn the to love the medium as your techniques come together. How to gradually build the image in layers with just the right amount of paint in just the right concentration, loaded in the precise amount on the ideal brush all combined with perfectly stretched and wetted paper was fantastic. How to get just the right amount of light reflecting off the paper and back through the pigment to subtly render a scene was pure bliss.

Experiencing water colour painting the way I did back in art school is not a salable user experience. But consider if I had a guide book equivalent to the Traité des couleurs servant à la peinture à l’eau by A. Boogert at hand. Very likely I’d be sharing a different brand experience story with you. I’d surely have spend much less time and it’s safe to say I would have have a much better time at least initially. Water colour painting is a complex medium and it was a brand experience that didn’t give up it’s joy easily.

So when you are thinking about how to build your brand pick your tools carefully. Think hard about how your target customer would experience your products and services. You may not need to do a 700 plus page manuscript but you need to make sure that the customer voice has an important seat at the table as you work through the ideation, refinement and the execution of your offer. In the end that’s the only way to ensure that your painting has any chance of being an experience masterpiece.

Image: Aix-en-Provence, Bibliothèque municipale/Bibliothèque Méjanes, MS 1389 (1228)


Follow Ted Blanchard on Twitter. Ted Blanchard is a Senior Creative Producer, Art Director and Design Practitioner. www.tedblanchard.ca