Mick McAndrews, an instructor for April’s Plein Air Convention & Expo (PACE), wants people to remember a crucial aspect of painting in watercolor en plein air.
Have fun.
“I enjoy sharing information with people who have the same passion for watercolor and making art as I do,” says McAndrews. “It’s a fun activity. I know there is a whole technical aspect to it, but underneath, it is about having a good time. That has to come along with the more technical stuff we talk about.”

“Alaska,” by Mick McAndrews, 2016, watercolor, 11 x 15 in.

McAndrews will be painting a demo at PACE, and he plans on doing a straightforward landscape. “I want to explore the fundamentals of a good landscape painting,” he says. “I’ve done plenty of demos for art groups and societies, and I teach workshops, so demos are something I’m familiar with. I hope to have time to talk before, during, and after the demo, with some time for a Q&A.”

“Pier Pressure,” by Mick Andrews, 2016, watercolor, 15 x 11 in.

You can bet that another topic of conversation will be the mercurial personality of the medium. “Watercolor is really exciting for me because of its spontaneity,” says the artist. “Many think it is the most difficult medium, but that comes from the idea that you can’t control it. You can’t put it on a surface and have it stay where you put it. It’s true that watercolor has a mind of its own. It misbehaves. It becomes a partnership between the medium and the artistry and technique of the artist.
“I love the surprises that watercolor brings to your piece. Every painting is a combination of successes and failures. Some watercolors you love, some areas you wish would have turned out differently. That’s part of the reason you want to come back to it day after day. It is a challenge, but I embrace that. There are people who really want to control what is going to happen on the surface. With watercolor, it’s not going to be a straight path. You must have a willingness to embrace happy accidents when they occur.”

“You Don’t Say,” by Mick Andrews, 2014, watercolor, 15 x 22 in. Demo painting

Watercolor blooms, bleeds, runs, mixes colors in surprising ways, but it isn’t a free-for-all. “You have to have a good understanding of the pigments,” McAndrews says. “It’s important to understand the difference between staining and not-staining colors, granulation, color mixing. I have a good understanding of them, but I like to fall back on the idea that value does all the work and color gets all the credit. But truthfully, the super technical aspects are not the key to successful painting. I do 80 percent of the work before I ever dip the brush in the pigment. It’s joyous and fun because I’ve done all the work: planning, composing, making value decisions. You almost have to make a lot of decisions before you start painting.”

“Harbormaster’s Boat,” by Mick Andrews, 2015, watercolor, 15 x 22 in.

McAndrews says he is looking forward to seeing San Diego and experiencing his first Plein Air Convention. “I am expecting that it will be a much larger and grander experience than a plein air competition but similar,” says McAndrews. “I look forward to sharing ideas and getting to know painters. It will be a good chance to talk about what we do and exchange ideas.”

“Pop’s Fishing Hole,” by Mick McAndrews, 2016, watercolor, 14 x 26 in. Studio piece

If you missed out on this year’s event, don’t make the same mistake twice. Check out the website for PACE 2017, in San Diego, California. It’s filling up fast already.


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