Answers to common questions about my watercolorsWhich of your paintings are still available?
You can see a catalog of recent work here. Paintings shown without red dots are currently available.
How can I get updates about your newest work?
The best way to hear about new work is to click the "Like" button on my Facebook artist page (which is here).
So are these really original watercolors?
Yes, my images are unique watercolors, painted by hand onto stretched hot-press watercolor paper. I use a lot of drybrush technique -- a misnomer, since it really involves a wet paintbrush on dry paper. The backgrounds and shadows are usually dense washes of staining pigments (delivered with a wet brush onto wet paper). These are quite standard watercolor techniques, and when you look very closely you can see the drying lines, paint blooms, and subtle granulations characteristic of the medium, but on a small scale. From a few steps further back my paintings look uniquely different than traditional watercolors.
What is it that makes your paintings look different than traditional watercolors?
Consider this detail view of one my smaller paintings:
Through (detail view), 2007, watercolor on Arches hot press paper
Most watercolor artists use textured paper and sedimentary colors. The relatively large pigment particles of these types of colors settle into each crevice of the paper texture to produce a characteristic granulation pattern -- this is a classic watercolor effect. But my preference is to use hot-press watercolor paper, which has a very smooth surface, and staining colors, the fine-grained pigments of which tend not to produce such noticeable textures, as you can see above. Staining pigments also allow for much sharper contrasts than you normally see in watercolor paintings. The use of a black pigment (iron oxide) in watercolor is also a little unusual. Because of these differences, people are often surprised when seeing my work for the first time to learn that they are in fact watercolors.
Why are the edges of your paintings so sharp and crisp?
The borders of each painting are masked with drafting tape at the beginning of the process. This produces a sharp edge when the tape is removed, although occasionally there is a slight seepage, which adds a little extra handmade character.
Embrace on the drawing board, with the basic watercolor tools and materials. Drafting tape along the edges ensures a crisp border.
Why do you sign your work backwards?
I wrote backwards all the time when I was younger... As a left-hander it just felt more natural. When I started incorporating text into my paintings years ago, I began signing the work using my homegrown backward script so that the signature wouldn’t compete with the text as a visual element to be read. Each painting is also signed on the reverse.
Don't watercolor paintings inevitably fade over time?
Not mine. It's true that watercolors in previous centuries were often painted with colors made from vegetable dyes and other materials that were prone to fading. Some artist still use these "old master" colors out of respect for tradition. But I use only the most permanent modern pigments such as phthalocyanines, quinacridones, and benzimidazolone. These have the very best light-fastness ratings and should last for many centuries. My watercolors are at least as archival as oil paintings. You should still keep them out of direct sunlight, which can damage any artwork.
How should I care for an original watercolor painting?
My paintings can be enjoyed by many generations if you observe a few simple precautions. Keep them under glass, and hang them (and any other artworks) away from direct sunlight, moisture, and smoke or other atmospheric pollutants. Severe fluctuations in temperature and humidity can also be detrimental to any artwork. Select your hanging location with care to ensure the longevity of your collection.
Do you paint from photos?
Mainly yes. Many of my subjects are insects, which are not cooperative when it comes to standing still for long periods. I am also interested in the documentary character of photographic images, even when the images are obviously fictional. My images are narrative, and the story seems more believable when the images have some photographic qualities.
Do you use opaque pigments?
As a rule, no. The white you see in the highlights and reflections is nearly always the white of the unpainted paper. The greatest clarity in watercolor is achieved by the use of transparent pigments and by letting the white of the paper show through.
Tilt (detail view), watercolor, 2010. The pure white you see in this and other watercolors is just the unpainted paper
Where do you get your subjects?
A surprising number of them fly in the open door of my studio. Some of the native butterflies and moths I raised from caterpillars in my studio. All of my living subjects are released unharmed after a photo session. The pinned insects I collected way back when I was in high school.
What kind of paints/brushes/paper do you use?
Many people are surprised to learn that I use just six colors: phthalocyanine blue, phthalocyanine green, quinacridone magenta, benzimidazolone yellow, Payne's gray, and lunar black. I prefer Winsor & Newton or Daniel Smith paints, in tube form, and stretched Arches hot-press watercolor paper. I have only one small sable brush for details -- more often I use large squirrel quills and cheap student brushes. You can see a demonstration of my painting methods on my blog, if you are curious to learn more about the nuts and bolts of the process.
How long does it take you to complete a painting?
I normally spend anywhere from a few days (for the smallest work) to six weeks completing a watercolor. Occasionally, a complex or difficult subject will take longer, sometimes months.
Are you the same Paul Pitsker I knew way back when?
Do you sell prints of your work?
Why are there no prices on your website?
Art galleries prefer not to have prices posted online, but all your questions can be answered easily via email or phone. If you have any questions about available artworks, please feel free to contact me, or please contact any of the galleries that represent my work (below).
Can I avoid paying a gallery commission by buying a painting directly from you?
No, sorry -- even a studio sale would be handled by a gallery. I am very pleased to have a great relationship with some outstanding dealers, and they would be happy to answer your questions about available work:
Or please feel free to contact me directly with any questions at all. Thanks for your interest.
Tilt, 2010, watercolor, 25 x 18 in.
Flutes, 2009, watercolor, 25 x 18 in.
Miss, 2007, watercolor, 25 x 18 in.
Pressing, 2007, watercolor, 25 x 18 in.
After, 2007, watercolor, 25 x 18 in.
Twist, 2007, watercolor, 25 x 18 in.