The story of watercolor dates as far back as when the first man learned to paint and interpret his surroundings. Yet as old as it is, watercolor paintings do not sell as much as oils and acrylics. This is because watercolors are developed only lately. Cezanne used it, Eugène Delacroix, François Marius Granet, Henri-Joseph Harpignies did excellent works with it and a whole bunch of masters dabbled with it. But for centuries, the issue of the watercolor basically is that it cannot hold its colors for long. It fades overtime fast, and so very few serious artists used the vehicle. Not anymore
The real development of modern watercolor painting as far as its preparation and commercial viability is concerned is a little more than a hundred years old. Too recent compared to most visual art mediums, resulting to the partiality of masters to use oils and acrylics in their works. Hence, watercolor paintings seldom succeed commercially. But watercolor is a very wonderful medium to work on let alone the most portable, very easy to maintain and always non-toxic. For centuries it remained in the background, never as popular but the demand has always been there.
Previous to the 1800's, artists using the medium by large, buys their pigments from the local apothecary and mixed their own colors. The 18th to the 19th century saw a rise in market in printing books where the usual vehicle of illustrators is watercolor. Consequently, there was also an increase in watercolor demand as it became fashionable during that period to use the medium particularly in the upper classes of society. And so manufacturers taking notice bring the production of watercolor to a different more commercially viable level.
Then, majority of the binder that is used in watercolors are plant carbohydrates. Likewise, the pigment is drawn to the paper through the paper's cellular components where it stays. This leaves the pigment exposed like pigments stranded in a sand paper, leaving powdery pigments to scatter when very dry thereby fading it fast. Today though Arabic gum is used as the principal binder together with improvements done to improve its light fastness.
The light fastness of watercolors are measured by its numerical rating and is printed at the packaging for identification. In fact, if an artist uses watercolors today with high light fastness rating and conduct the work in archival paper, the pigments will stick, the transparent brilliance that only watercolors could provide will remain, and the artwork will last longer than those done in either oil or acrylic.
Applications have also changed. While paintings utilize brush (including watercolor) as its primary tool, modern implements include the use of sponges, tissue papers, plastics, crayons, sprayers and other organic and non organic material to create a final artwork that is most possible with watercolor paintings.
Concepts have also changed as it relates to the use of the watercolor. The injunction that white and black paints are not to be used, instead only primary colors that are mixed either in the palette or directly into the painting is already of no relevance to modern watercolor painting concepts.
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