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28 February 2020

The Colour of Water

Six Equator designers recently sat down for a watercolour workshop led by Creative Director Martin Orme. This is how they got on…

Equipped with paint sets, paper, tools and even a how-to guide produced in-house by the workshop’s leader Martin Orme, members of our design team sat down to get creative and expand their skills sets in the medium of watercolour.


The six Equator employees who participated – Alex, Heather, Jack, Lejla and Inge - had all shown an interest in developing their watercolour knowledge and skills and were chosen for this first cohort because illustration was part of their development plan.


As designers used to facing creative challenges, they were all very keen to learn and to get stuck into the three-hour workshop. Their watercolour workshop essentials included a guide to the history, materials and applications of the medium, in addition to watercolour paint sets, hot-pressed, cold-pressed and rough paper, and an array of tools like a natural sponge, masking fluid and a spray diffuser so that they could experiment with creating various affects.


In the workshop, Martin outlined the materials and offered his own views on their use. He also shared examples across genres and usage, both from a fine art and a commercial perspective. The participants had been asked to bring examples that they found appealing or intriguing to open up a wider inclusive discussion.


“Beginning with simple mark making, we then moved on to using bleach, salt crystals and masking fluid as means of introducing special effects, textures and negative highlights,” said Martin. “We worked with watercolours in semi dried ‘pans’ but also liquid watercolours in order to explore the merits of each.


“We then each created a watercolour of a strawberry, which on the surface sounds quite easy, but avoiding the addition of white body colour, the challenge was to render the form with all its indentations, highlights, etc. People found different techniques to achieve their strawberries and it became a learning experience in itself to compare and contrast.”


Ahead of the session the designers had received a packaging brief to create a tea caddy using watercolours. This would help them to begin aligning their new skills with Equator’s business.


“The resulting tea caddies really showed the potential of watercolour. They demonstrate how we can adapt the medium to really suit our style, our individuality.


“I was surprised by the range of subject matters and I loved how the designers created and integrated their own brands to showcase their illustrations.” added Martin, who notes that Heather has submitted designs for a wine bottle in which she has used watercolours with salt crystals. Alex and Jack have also done ingredient illustrations using techniques covered in the workshop.


Heather said: “The workshop certainly helped me get to grips with the basics. I really enjoyed learning about the materials and hearing about people’s personal experiences working in watercolour. It was nice to have an open discussion about a subject matter, which we don’t always get to use at the same time as one another.


“I found experimenting with the materials to be very interesting, as well as understanding how to start a painting from the early stages, and time ran away with us building detail into our illustrations so that it became late on in the workshop to begin our tea caddy exploration. I’m looking forward to coming back together to see everyone’s techniques and how all the tea caddies are coming together.”


Inge, who also enjoyed the team building aspect of the workshop, said: “The watercolour workshop has already has come in handy when working on a new project. Even though I’ve dabbled with the medium in the past, being shown the differences in the materials and what to look out for is invaluable and gives me the know-how to make the right decisions from the start. We were given the opportunity to test our newfound skills, and also see other designers’ interpretations. I only wish it had gone on longer, and I am definitely up for part two.”


“It’s a medium I haven’t used in years and didn’t really have much understanding of,” said Alex. “I found the course very informative and learned some techniques that hopefully I will get the opportunity to use in a live job.”


Martin is now planning a second watercolour workshop, which would be double the length of this first offering, and he has already experienced a high level of interest from members of the Equator team. His aim is to build on this offering, and expand the course based on the feedback he received from the first session. He is also considering a workshop on visualisation and black and white ink illustration techniques.