Learning a new set of skills can be daunting, scary and hard. A big problem for adults coming back to art after many years is high expectations – too high expectations. If you haven’t done any drawing since you were 7, you are likely to be picking up where you left off.
Unless you’ve been able to continue your drawing, development is unlikely – you know what it’s like if you haven’t played piano for years (I can’t play my flute anymore, it’s very old and needs maintenance [as do I!] but obviously I haven’t practiced for a long time and my embouchure not up to scratch). Maybe you haven’t played golf for a few years only to return and find your swing is off.
Your drawing, painting and creative muscles needs constant attention – regular and frequent SMALL STEPS and exercise. Remember the steps it took for you to learn how to write your name – the dotted letter diagrams we followed? Learning to draw and paint is a similar process, incremental baby steps are required.
Many people tell me they can’t draw, I am a firm believer that we are all born creative, however, some of us get the chance (or make the chance) to pursue creative endeavours or maybe your creativity is pursued in a different way. I’m referring to my super creative engineering husband, among many, one of his skills is creating solutions for his clients.
More than talent, desire and perseverance are keys to learning and developing a skill in drawing. Few people do not have the ability to learn to draw, if you can sew or knit, play golf, write a letter, you can learn to draw.
More important skills are patience and observation along with key tools - time and focus.
Time to relax and enjoy the process of creating without the pressure of having to make something. As soon as the artist decides to create a masterpiece – today is the day – it’s all over. Too much pressure makes us focus on all the wrong emotions and decisions, performance anxiety (I’ve only got today to do this), we’re too focussed on the result instead of enjoying the moment and focussing on what the paint is doing on the paper.
Whether you want to be a professional artist or you just enjoy the process of creating, it’s important to exercise your creative muscle regularly and frequently – just like a body builder or marathon runner the more you practice the more you can flex your muscles.
Poetry in watercolour is made in the freedom of the here and now.
ciao bei pittori!!
Watercolour is often viewed as if it occupies its own little vacuum.
I remember a well-known artist friend collecting his paintings after a show:
“I’m here to collect my paintings”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m here to collect my paintings”
“Oh you mean your watercolours”
As if watercolours are not paintings and are separate, not even a category – not art, nor paintings – urk!
However, oddly enough, painted with a brush (in most cases!).
It’s a common weird nonsensical bit of claptrap. Mamma mia!!
Sometimes it feels like watercolour painters are set up for this. A popular art show I used to enter had a “professional” category for Oils/Acrylics. Does this make me not a professional? For a while I entered the professional category just to state my case and annoy them, really it’s just ignorance (mine or theirs??). I was particularly miffed to discover that my well-known watercolour artist Uncle started that show in 1954 (or thereabouts)!! Instead of being hailed the Queen (lol), my bags packed and cast into the snow!!
My point is, no matter your medium (pastel, music, poetry, blogging, sculpture, watercolour or oils) art is art and all need the same kind of thought and emotive language – darkness brings the light, grey accentuates chromatic colour, dominance emphasises an accent, indications are mysterious.
All art forms follow a set of guidelines (rules to be broken). Visual art is no different, we follow design principles created to help novice (and not-so novice) artists use pictorial or visual language to tell a story via visual impact.
In particular, today, I’m talking about colour charging. My 2 ideas for you today are:
The watercolour painter has to be patient (I’ll just leave now!) and focussed and wait for the water-to-paint-to-brush-to-paper ratio to be just right. Mostly novice watercolour painters are taught to “let it dry” which is the biggest mistake ever. I say this because this damp time is the fun-zone of watercolour and you are missing out my friend! Boo!!
Partly the issue lies in our process and planning and partly our lack of brush miles and then sometimes our courage flies out the window. But this FUN-ZONE is where the magic happens, what you and I have to do is be present and pay attention to what we’re doing and what’s happening on the paper. This level of focus is where you’ll learn the poetry of watercolour – choose your focal point and play with it.
How fun would it be to paint a lemon with a dab of orange, a bigger dab of a cooler yellow and a master stoke of cool pink for a shadow?
ciao belli pitturi!!
edited from original post 011214 WP
The superbly cool thing about watercolour is, once you've done all your research and preparatory drawings, design etc and you're hitting paper with water ... it's all on ... right now!!
The difficult thing about watercolour is that once you're hitting the paper with water, it's all on ... very scary ... right now!!
ooohhh ... what to do?
here are 7 things i'm thinking while i'm painting ...
Watercolour painting demands your complete attention, keep focussed while you are painting and stay in the zone.
edited from my original post 070115
It’s really hard to create a painting about a subject I have no interest in, having said that, I can make myself want to paint a particular subject simply by working through a research process and getting to know and appreciate the subject.
Imagine what it would be like for me to be told Country & Western theme ... ?**$#@!!**^??
Guess what? You can get fired up about any subject too!!
While I was still working in the corporate world but dabbling in watercolour painting, I was thrilled that my tutor would supply the subject matter. It meant one less thing for me to worry about, all I had to do was turn up every week and she'd have an amazing array of cool stuff she had pulled together for us. Barbara was a tremendous creative facilitator.
Another upside to this was that I learned to accept what was in front me, whether I liked it or not, this was no time to be fussing and complaining, I had 3 hours of painting time in front me, better get to it quick!
In writing this post I realise too, part of my inspiration for a subject came from our group discussion about the subject and everyone's ideas. Some of my best painting experiences have been painting in a group.
The more research I do about a particular subject the more passionate and determined I become to paint it. I fall in love with the subject ... it could be something as simple (?) as a brick wall or the way the light falls on a glass and the shapes and colours it creates. The intricacies of a subject become fascinating, although I don’t paint a lot of detail (this must have been written a while back!), I go through a process of studying the detail and deciding what I will leave out, what to include and which details describe my message best for that piece of art.
Typically my research might include a small sketch or two on site as well as a bigger more formed sketch I call a plein air painting. When I’m in my studio, if I’m painting from my imagination, I create lots of doodles and lots of composition thumbnails. I’m reluctant to paint scenes from a photo preferring to paint en plein air, not always possible and although I’m wary, I’m very happy with a lot of them.
For me, there is a driving force to create and always has been. Among other creative endeavours, I’ve always drawn and painted. It seems stronger now than ever and I think this may be, in part, because I work as a professional artist creating and painting most days - total immersion is good!
My brain is more switched on to looking for subject matter and planning my next work – everywhere I see a painting waiting to be painted. The more I look for subjects the sooner they appear - the more I paint the more ideas I get.
I know many creatives and many of them never finish a work. The same work is done and re-done and done again because it’s never right. There’s always something out of place, a comma, an invisible brush mark, a chord that seems not right – not perfect = imperfect! We do it again and hope it will be better next time.
And so now, this work gets put aside in the hope (read dread) the next one will be better.
What people don’t realise is, there’s no such thing as mistakes. What happens is, we get a different result from what we expect, we don’t know what to do with it.
This is often the result with watercolour, we have a vision and an eye on our goal – but something happens or we return from a cup of tea to find our painting looks different from just 10 minutes ago.
We’ve become so results driven we’re forgotten to enjoy the process, play to our medium’s strengths and just have fun playing with the paint. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t attempt specific subjects, what I’m saying is have fun along the way. Explore your paint and ask yourself “What would happen if …?” or tell yourself “I’m just going to have a play with this and see what happens!” - my favourite way to start new work! It banishes fears and performance anxiety and sets up an easier happy attitude!!
happy painting dear friends!!
I'm still in my self-imposed "lockdown" with my continuing knee problem, It's a lot better but not better enough .. thwarted by my feeble attempts to "keep calm and carry on".
Something that’s really bugging me is my studio clear-out/tidy up/re-shuffle/reorganise started before Christmas. It was a good idea at the time but now I have 2 piles on the floor that are attempting to morph into 3 and I can’t get down there to do much about it. It’s making me crazy! PLUS while I’m nursing my poor wee ginocchio Dennis has now gone back to work, Amy’s back to work and there’s no-one here to entertain me!! YIKES!!
So now I find myself in this temporary situation of cabin fever - I'm desperate to get out and paint/sketch, so I've made myself a new plan for my coming escapades. in a feeble attempt to get back to normal, i went for a walk with Amy and the dog. I trailed far behind them, it was so nice to be out and hearing the birds and children playing, families and their picnics but, I have to say, I paid for it the next day ... mamma mia!!
It reminded me how dependent I am on my walking, it's my chief thinking time, my meditation and quiet time that allows my thoughts and ideas to run and play out. Another purpose for me is exploration, this is when I see things that inspire me, a fleeting light, shapes interlocking and overlapping, colours or some other interesting and diverting sights.
To get out of the house, I've been for a few outings in the car (bicycle is a no-go atm) to scope out some sketching locations but of course, even here in Auckland it's almost impossible to park close enough. So I've decided to go to cafes again, they have to be in the right place, scenic and comfy.
There are so many ways to enjoy sketching out, for me, its a totally absorbing experience. Although I love my little value thumbnail sketches, I learn a lot about a scene using this process, I feel the need to change things up a little, expand my sketching and bring more of it into my life. So!! I bought a new sketchbook and made a sketch kit that's always with me.
My new sketchbook has a soft cover, so a little lighter than a hard cover but I found an old light but rigid clipboard. My backpack is pretty old, so old it doesn't have a smart phone size pocket - urk! It has a great "book" pocket but without an easy small pocket, pretty much everything falls to the bottom. In my bag I also have a wee first-aid kit, a small professional pan-set, tramper's collapsible water cup, pencil case and a few other weird sketch tools to fun things up a bit!
In my pencil case, I have my standard soft pencils, a sharpener and eraser, tombow value brushpens, general’s sketching pencil, small view finder, calligraphy sketch pen, pastel and watercolour pencil, travel brush, small flat brush, water spritzer.
To protect pencil tips and brush points, I always place them in the case in the same direction and then “up” in my bag.
In Sketch class last week, Mary said “I can’t see enough detail, I’m too far away”. I agree, I need to see exactly what goes on, this helps me to build my story. Go for a walk to understand the lay of the land, what makes this place tick? How do those elements look close up? Always have your camera charged and set to hi-resolution and use a view finder to isolate your scene and cut out the overwhelming and extraneous, then you can just focus on what you want today.
PaintBox Tips, secrets, random thoughts,
There is no ONE WAY to paint a watercolour - Amanda Brett
Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working - Pablo Picasso
There are no mistakes in watercolour, just some extra surprises!!