Ewa Ludviczak - Interview
An interview with the watercolor artist Ewa Ludviczak
Hello Ewa, could you please tell my readers little more about yourself?
Hello, my name is Ewa Ludwiczak and I’m a Polish born professional watercolour painter and illustrator living and working in Berlin, Germany.
When did you tried out watercolors for the first time and what makes you fall in love with that medium?
I’ve used watercolours for the first time after graduating art school. I’ve found an old watercolour box by accident at my friend’s place. Most of the colours had already been completely dry and I’ve done a portait sketch using only one colour. I was amazed at how much I enjoyed painting it. In the past I’d used to study mostly classical pencil and ink drawing and had sometimes painted in acrylics but I’d never thought I would become a painter. When using watercolour for the first time, I noticed that I really prefer it’s thinner texture to acrylics and oils. At first I didn’t have access to a proper paintbox but since this first experience had been so enjoyable, I later invested in some more colours and started using them for my illustrations without really knowing how to do it properly.
You have a unique style, how do you found your way? What inspired you to go to that direction?
Thank you! As I said, when I first started I didn’t know anything about how other artists used watercolor. When the teacher at my art school taught other students watercolor, he mainly used the wet in wet technique that wasn’t really appealing to me so I was never interested in trying it. I felt like I wouldn’t be able to control what I’m doing if I did everything wet in wet.
When I did my first little portrait sketch I used a more direct approach using the mid and dark values first. It made more sense to me, because I based it on how I would DRAW a portrait in pencil. Later on I’ve discovered the Spanish illustrator called Leonardo Rodriguez. He was a huge inspiration to me but I was never able to paint like him. After that I tried learning from some watercolor tutorials but most of the instructors ignored drawing altogether and concentrated mainly on painting and having fun which didn’t appeal to me at all. Finally I’ve come across a book by Charles Reid and it was a revelation! He is an extremely skilled artist and uses a very similar approach to mine so it was immediately understandable to me. This way I could actually start learning about painting and work on my colours and values without completely changing my way of painting. It took me a very long time to figure things out and I definitely still have a lot to learn but Mr. Reid’s books and instructional videos gave me more than any art school could ever do.
Your paintings remind me about the Secession. Do you have some favorite artists from that period and which of them inspires you most?
That’s a huge compliment, especially as most people tend to see me only as a Charles Reid follower. Thank you!
I’ve always been in love with the Secession, even before I started studying art. No painter ever has inspired me more than Gustav Klimt. I love to say that Klimt is the god of art and Egon Schiele is the devil. I love their work tremendously.
Klimt’s paintings have this overwhelming sacred, religious atmosphere. His women are beautifully sensual and have so much personality and emotion. Schiele on the other hand wins my heart with his aggressive pencil lines and brush strokes, expressive poses and faces. His portraits and figures have so much power. I think I’ve learnt more about human form from Schiele’s drawings than from any anatomy book. It’s as if he digs into the paper and carves the form so perfectly with just a few lines.
I love it how the colours in Klimt’s paintings are so saturated and „clean“ and the use of gold adds that iconic, religious feeling whereas Schiele’s palette is so much darker, „dirty“ and gloomy.
I also adore Alfons Mucha. His drawings are excellent, poetic and organic. I just love his lines and his women. The Slav Epic is a majestic masterpiece and is very close to my heart.
The Secession inspires me very much because of the beauty of the line and the symbolism and atmosphere of its paintings.
When comes to art tools, could you please tell us, what paints, papers and brushes do you prefer most?
I use a brass watercolour palette. I use Winsor & Newton and Schmincke tube paints. My favourite kind of paper is hot pressed. At the moment I really enjoy painting on Hahnemühle Britannia hp paper but I also love Arches, Fabriano and Lana. I don’t like extra white papers and prefer the ivory ones. The yellower, the better! My favourite brushes are Da Vinci Maestro and Escoda Grafilo.
How many colors do you have on your palette and which are they?
I have 16 colours in my palette: Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Red, Perm. Alizarin Crimson, Quinacridone Violet, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Lemon, Yellow Ochre, Hooker’s Green, Raw Sienna, Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, French Ultramarine, Ivory Black.
Could you explain in few steps your process of making a painting?
I paint mainly from photographs so firstly I decide on which one I’d like to paint. Secondly I do the single line drawing with a mechanical pencil and draw the background in using my imagination. Then, either I do a first wash for local colour or just skip that step for quicker sketches and go straight to the shadow shapes. For more complex paintings I wait for the first wash to dry and then place my shadow shapes on top of it.
I noticed you use fountain pens when sketching human figures. Why do you prefer fountain pens instead of nib pen or anything else ink related? Could you tell people what to look when they are willing to buy a fountain pen for sketching? Is the pen nib of any importance?
I personally love vintage fountain pens and my favorite type of nib is needlepoint flex as it gives me the most control over my lines. I used to work a lot with dip pens in the past but fountain pens are just so much practical. If someone is interested in learning how to sketch with a fountain pen I would suggest starting with a cheap one like a lamy safari, artpen by rotring or Waterman Hemisphere. It’s better to figure out what you are into before buying a more expensive pen. Also you have to clean your pen regularly and use a fountain pen ink. Everyone is always after a waterproof fountain pen ink, but I don’t recommend that at all. It can clog your pen and makes it very difficult to clean. If anyone is more advanced and interested in buying a nice vintage flex fountain pen, I highly recommend Greg Minuskin who sells fantastic pens.
Do you do plain air paintings or you work mostly in the studio?
I very rarely paint landscapes and get very distracted outside so I mainly work indoors. I don’t really have a studio… just a table and an easel in a quiet corner by the window.
What do you think about the brass palettes, how do you find them?
I absolutely love brass palettes. I paint every day and have had metal palettes before but they got rusty very quickly and after several months I’ve had trouble opening them, the paint peeled off from the mixing space and some of my paints were covered in mold. I haven’t had any problems at all with my brass palette. It looks lovely and is very sturdy. I would recommend investing in one wholeheartedly to anyone who paints very often.
What would you advice the beginners in watercolor painting?
This is funny because I very often hear instructors and artists say that „everyone can paint“ or that „you shouldn’t pressure yourself and have fun“. I really don’t understand how on earth are you supposed to learn anything if you are not serious about it. For me the most important thing is to learn how to draw, especially if you are into figurative art. Values are more important than colour so if you learn how to draw it will be easier for you to make an interesting painting. You have to stay focused and draw and paint every day. There is more to art than just having fun. Any painting is a series of important decisions and sometimes going with your gut and being a bit spontaneous. On days when you are not able to draw and paint, still think about it and observe your surroundings. Find painters that inspire you and really study their work. I highly recommend Charles Reid’s books and dvds but again it’s also important to really study them and read or watch them several times. I think it’s a good thing to be self critical and maybe a little bit obsessed because that’s what keeps me going.
Thank you very much Ewa for participating in my interview series with watercolor artists around the world.
- La petite palette -