Victory in watercolour is often a tantalising brushstroke away… Looking back into history at the Masters’ successes inspires me, encourages me, to be triumphant as well! With sensitive, economical and finely tuned brushstrokes, B.E. Minns created glorious watercolour paintings that are as stunning today as they were 100 years ago.
Brushstrokes of a Master Watercolorist
Brushstrokes are nearly like fingerprints I’ve discovered. No two people ever use the brush or palette knife quite the same. We all have slight variations in our art language, dialect, tone, inflection and mood. Same as we do in our voices. And just like with our voices, it is how we express that hidden artist within.
B.E. Minns developed his voice, his brushstrokes, over decades of constant use. Let me tell you his story. Or rather, shall I say, I’ll share snippets of the B. E. Minns story of watercolour triumph.
History of BE Minns
Benjamin Edwin Minns was born in Dungog, Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia in 1863 to 17 year old Irish born Bridget Murray. Bridget later married George Minns, a farmer in the Hunter Valley in 1869.
In due time, Benjamin was sent off to Sydney to study law. And as it happens, of course he met ‘an artist.’ The now well known, Charles Conder.
The pathway of law went by the wayside and Art became his passion, studying with other well known artists of the day including Julian Ashton.
He married, then traveled over to England in 1895 pursuing his art career successfully. 1915 they returned by ship, but the perils of travel by ship had disaster nipping at his heels.
Fire broke out on board and destroyed all of B. E. Minns paintings. This is a devastating blow for an artist, one that could conceivably break one’s spirit.
But, no. Minns rallied and painted more. He settled in Gordon, a lovely bush enclave in the northern suburbs of Sydney. I’ve frequently gone painting outdoors in the parks and bushland there and it truly is a tranquil bit of heaven.
Minns had a love of painting and sketching outdoors, that is beautifully evident in his paintings. He often went to Taronga Zoo to sketch the harbour and surrounds from there. Perhaps, growing up in the beautiful Hunter Valley countryside, was what nurtured this lasting love of the land.
Minns, a brilliant and sensitive master of watercolour, was indeed criticised for his soft edges in his paintings.
Referred to as ‘being lax on his edges’.….. odd, because for me when I first saw his paintings at AGNSW – it was those gorgeous Soft Edges that drew me in like a magnet!
Even so critiqued, Minns went on to be a founder of the prestigious Australian Watercolour Institute and became its first President.
Minns started off life headed in one direction. Destiny had a different plan and kept changing and altering until he was firmly entrenched in his calling. Apparently it was not as a farmer nor a lawyer!
What might hold me back from mindful, sensitive, economical, listening Brushstrokes?
(or, what keeps me from creating triumphant brushstrokes)
- peer pressure
- what is trendy at the moment
- decades of ingrained conditioning of what art is supposed to look like
- the compulsion to replicate
- fear of expressing my authentic hidden artist
Solutions: What I can do about it!
- ask myself: WHAT Is The Purpose of my creating? WHY am I really painting?
2. trends are nothing more than a flash in the pan, do what will stand the test of time
3. ask myself: Are those rules, Are those Authorities ALWAYS 100% right, all the time, for everyone?!!
4. ask myself: WHY do I want/need to replicate? Should I not use my Camera for that purpose?
5. ask myself: WHAT is there to really Fear? What is the worst that can happen? And, honour and respect, and love that hidden artist ….. it is a better artist than the critical, fearful one.
If you happen to be in Sydney, do visit the Art Gallery of New South Wales and ask to see any of B.E. Minns paintings they have available. In person, close up they are magnificent.
I love his Female Aboriginal 1895. I find it timeless, brilliant and poignant. Minns has perfectly portrayed the woman with exquisite sensitivity and depth. And as she looks so intently into what the future holds – the raw emotion Minns conveys, fills my heart.
Looking closely at Minns’ paintings you can see –
soft edges. drips. runs. simplicity. balance. wabi sabi. tones. evocative. heart. feeling.
All the attributes I wish for in my own work. Yes, the Triumphant Brushstrokes of a Master.
B.E. Minns is an inspiration and a great encourager of all artists, to be triumphant in our brushstrokes!