Watercolour of Helderberg

Stephen Quirke

I have been working in watercolour since 1985.  I paint out in the field and I paint in my studio.

Watercolour is such a versatile medium.  Therefore I have enjoyed painting different topics.  Landscapes, Seascapes, People, Technology – even the dishes in the sink after I have done my wash-up.  Everything becomes intriguing when I render what I see in watercolour.  I just find it so interesting.

Watercolour of tools

My offer

I create Fine Watercolor Art.  Milton Glaser tells us the term “fine” comes from Metallurgy.  Metals are refined (usually by fire – a solemn thought) to improve their quality.  In  watercolour this means developing skill to observe, design and apply line and colour.  It means sitting down to paint when it feels easy and when it feels like a slog.  The quality of the surface of each painting is important to me.  As I work I want to “create the very best watercolour in the history of the world” (Warren Louw).  And when I feel stuck I lean on: “A thing worth doing is worth doing badly” (Stuart Briscoe) to get moving.

The subject may be mundane.  But render in watercolour and – it becomes intriguing.   This fascinates me.

photo of an artist

The Materials I use

I use the best materials.  You can still see the watercolours of JMW Turner which he created 200 years ago.  And the materials available for watercolour today are far far superior to the best he had available.

I predominately use Arches® Aquarelle paper. The Arches mill, established in 1492 created the paper for the Nuremberg Chronicle illustrated by Albrecht Dürer in 1493, the “Description de l’Egypte”commissioned by Napoleon in 1807 and created paper specifically for the painter Ingres in 1869.  Most painters in the modern era favoured this brand.  ARCHES® obtained Living Heritage Company Approval in 2017.  The paper is 100% cotton and gelatine-sized to the core using a unique cylinder mould process.  The result is an acid-free paper with natural permanent whiteness, meeting an archival standard in accordance with ISO 9706:1994

I also use Winsor&Newton Professional Watercolour  Winsor&Newton, was established in 1832 to offer a regular source of reliable colours. They offer the widest and most balanced choice of pigments with the greatest possible permanence.  Winsor&Newton, were granted Royal Warrant in 1841 and remain by Appointment to HRH the Prince of Wales today.

watercolour of clarence drive
watercolour of Pretoria

So what (do you get)?  Art communicates with us at a level beyond thought.  When you buy one of my fine art watercolours you purchase a recollection of what moved in you when you were first arrested by the painting.  You also buy an heirloom.  With appropriate care this watercolour may communicate with generations.

I also offer limited editions of  giclée prints of my work.  Giclée printing of my watercolours is done on 100% cotton Hahnemuhle watercolour paper.

Crisp details, brighter, long-lasting colour and archival paper provides you with an enduring reproduction of my work.  Click here for a more detailed note on giclée printing.  

The SJQ Watercolour stamps

I stamp certificates for original work as well as giclée prints with two stamps:

Emboss Stamp – A whisper from God

Ecclesiastes 11:6:  Sow your seed in the morning and at evening let not your hands be idle – for you do not know which will succeed.  Whether this or that or whether both will do equally well.

For decades I consulted with teams, by day,  to define, plan and execute strategy. And I painted in watercolour in the evening.  One day I applied my strategy process to SJQWatercolour.  The first question to define my purpose was “what is your passion?”  It dawned on me:  Watercolour!   A deep, irrational yet enduring desire to paint in watercolour.  Years later I heard a sermon on Ecclesiastes 11:6 and decided to embrace watercolour as a worthy enterprise, a gift from God.  I decided to stop ‘observing the wind’ and start sowing.  I resolved to take the risks and trust God with the outcome.  This work flows out of this intent.

watercolour portrait

Ink stamp – The Creator and an unlikely hero

The two characters in red appear in the middle of the first sentence in the bible (in Hebrew).  Alef and Tav:  The first and the last (in Greek Alpha and Omega).  It is a name for God.

The letters in black are the name of the first person in scripture of whom God said “I have filled him with my Spirit…”.  It was Bezalel – the Artist in charge of building the tabernacle during the Exodus.

‘Bezalel’ means ‘In the shadow of God’.

Exodus 31: 1-5  The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.

(If there had been watercolour then I am sure it would have been on the list  (o:  )

man in a wheelbarrow

A short history

Wherever I go I see watercolours. I work out composition, colours and painting process. When I sit down to paint, the universe recedes. My world becomes the line, the colour, the water in my brush, and the next swatch of watercolour.

The gift eluded me for 30 years. An early memory is sitting on a mountain-side, watching my dad paint a watercolour. I remember him putting in the lines in the fields below. Later, in my digs as a student I recall a small watercolour in one of the rooms that seemed to beckon. Once I took a sketch book and paints to Cape Point where I sat in the sun and created two little paintings. This taste of sitting on site persisted, hidden away below the pressure of studying for a science degree. But imagination, the facility that registers information under the radar, is a powerful drive.

I completed a masters in materials science and went to work in Swakopmund, Namibia. One Saturday, in the town my eye was arrested by a painting of a fish-eagle lifting a fish out of the water. Each curved pinion feather deftly rendered in one skilled stroke.   I took classes with the artist.  I still remember riding my bicycle through the dark, misty streets of Swakop after each lesson. I felt like I was beginning The Adventure. I was enthralled.

So began an exhilarating and frustrating journey. So much hard, joyful work! So many insights. A whole new way to see the world. And still a mountain of skill to climb. I have held solo exhibitions in Somerset West and Namibia.

I am married to Aura and have three children in different stages of leaving the home.

In my other life I still prime leaders and to clarify, plan and execute strategy. You can read about that on my website: StrategyWorks.

Stephen