In a way I admire artists who pump out their work prolifically. On the other hand, I don’t admire this “skill”. The problem is lack of development. You’d think there would be a high rate of creative development but this seems rarely the case. The artist has to be so focussed on output that development is the last concern.
The artist must “art” everyday but they must also work on their art, just like working on your business as well as working in it – subject, style, technique, design, composition etc.
A dear friend had the most amazing success in her painting career until one morning she woke and realised she was bored. She had a huge following all making demands which left my friend with no time for fooling around/experimenting/exploring. She had become a machine.
When this happens we are so far behind the 8 ball we have a huge drop-off of income until we find the new thing and push it beyond the experimentation stage – this can take years.
Daily “arting” should also include an element of experimentation – “what if?” what if I tried a new subject?, what if I changed up my process?, what if I improved my skill?, what if I tried a new palette?, what if I tried a different medium/materials?, what if … what if … what if …
Reflection and evaluation must also be included in our daily process. Without an element of curiosity in our practice, our work might stagnate and the way forward might not show itself immediately.
I thought I would tell you one of my dirty little art secrets …
I use scrap paper to sketch on.
All these beautiful sketch books I’ve acquired over the years and I still prefer a scrap of paper!!
When I first started coming to Italy I decided I needed a more methodical approach, 4 months of painting immersion and thinking time! Somehow I've ended up with a couple of softcover sketch and notebooks, maybe that's what I could get at the time - never again!! Most often I like to sketch/write with my book on my knee, if I'm standing, a hardcover book is essential. let's hope the lesson is learned!!
You just reminded me, Dad used to staple books for me and apparently, one day as he was finishing a new one for me, guests arrived and I announced to them "my Daddy's a bookmaker!" Mum just about had a kanipshin!!
I've changed my MO to compensate for my knee (which is a lot better btw!) and the heat. But I have to say that because of this blasted ginocchio problem my fitness is right out the window. I've done a few paintings on location but now I'm painting in my studio. My usual practice al momento is to have my colazione out and sketch while I’m partaking – not necessarily what’s in front of me but whatever’s on my mind or an idea I’m fooling about with.
I brought my usual A5 moleskin sketchbook to Italy and as usual I also brought a wad of Zeta paper folded up and jammed in my work bag. I’m amazed that this year, I’ve done more sketching (in and out) than ever before. I’m so pleased because it’s been a hard trip with bugs, knees and heat and all!!
The funny thing about the scrap of paper is that, when I had my business, I would walk into my client’s office with my PDA (I was on top of the technology game back then) but I would fish around in my bag for a scrap of paper to write my notes on. It got to a point where I would walk in and my client would automatically rummage in their waste bin and hand me a scrunched-up envelope! I tried so hard to up my game with the flashy PDA but back then they were very limited and nothing more than a piece of paper in disguise! Note to self, don’t upgrade until everyone else has tested them first and the upgrade model has been released!
It’s a bit of a shame to use scrap or loose paper. It’s harder to record and archive the action, that said, I can lay my hands on any sketch or working quite quickly, I know it will be in the nasty pile. However, a sketchbook is an easier, more methodical approach to record keeping ie dates and evidence that “this is my original work". If you don't want to show people the rough stuff, have 2 sketchbooks, 1 for the workings and nasty stuff and another for more developed work to show people.
I promise to be more organised with less rubbish bin fossicking!! Magari!!
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 artist? 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!!
PaintBox Tips, secrets, random thoughts,
Poetry in watercolour is made in the freedom of the here and now. Amanda Brett
Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working - Pablo Picasso
There are no mistakes in watercolour, just some extra surprises!!
What my readers and viewers have to say
Your emails are so informative! I must confess I've watched a couple of your demos from beginning to end, and it makes me want to watercolor!!! I've only ever painted with oil or acrylics and haven't know how to begin with WC. Your content is excellent!
Thank you for your tips. They inspired me to practise and I realised I haven’t been loading the brush properly. I learnt about adding more paint, and not water, to washes. In today’s tips I like the idea of painting with purpose. Your tips are very helpful. I very much appreciate receiving them. Elizabeth
Hi Amanda I enjoyed your post and generous tips. Looked up Dan Burt I begin to see that you can colour any subject to give it pizazz so long as the tone and form is correct Certainly adding value now to my attempts Thanks heaps Annie
Yes very wise words. Agree with not fussing and agree with comments about good quality paint. Well written and inspirational as always. Cheers Janet xxxx
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