Beginning Watercolor

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In my last blog, I mentioned that I was expanding my creative horizons.  For those who don't know much about watercolor, many painters claim it to be one of the most difficult of painting mediums.  Why then did I choose that as my entry into the painting world?  After all, it's full of frustrations from having to paint light to dark, paper drying too quickly or not quickly enough, and not being able to hide mistakes because the paint itself is transparent and the paper is delicate (so it's easy to overwork a piece).

Here are my three reasons:

First, there isn't a lot of control in watercolor.  Water is going to do what it wants to do, regardless of what you try to do to stop it.  That lack of control appealed to me, a perfectionist, because I knew that painting this way would force me to let go and work with what is happening rather than try to force it to do something else. 

Second, watercolor requires a bit of speed, especially in a dry climate (like Eastern Washington).  The wonderfully soft effects that you can get with watercolor only work while a certain amount of water remains on/in the paper.  As it dries, the lines get harder, the effects sharper.  This means you don't have a lot of time to think, or in my case, overthink what you're doing.  After doing this for a few months, I've found that the less I think about what I'm doing, the more pleased I am with the finished piece.

Third, the delicate nature of the watercolor paper means it's easy for the paper to get overworked and the fibers to start to pull away.  This ties into the previous two reasons.  Because there is always that fear of overworking, I find myself working with my mistakes instead of trying to hide them and I don't think about things too much while doing them.  I know I only get so many strokes of the brush over the same area before I ruin the paper.

And a bonus fourth?  Watercolor painting is something I can do with my daughter.  We spend a lot of time together since I work from home, and she sometimes has difficulty understanding why I can't play all day while I'm home.  After all, Daddy plays with her when he is home.  Painting together is a way for us to spend some valuable time together, to encourage each other, and I get some work done in the process. 

Those very reasons why watercolor is so frustrating are the same reasons why I find it so freeing.  Instead of giving in to those frustrations, let loose.  Get wild and crazy and see what happens.  Those ugly paintings, those overworked sections, those blobs of muddy color may not seem like much more that a source of endless frustration, but by allowing ourselves to make those mistakes, we are learning about watercolor and our own creative process.

So learn to love the things that frustrate you about your own creative pursuits.  While they may seem like obstacles on your path to success, in reality they are necessary stepping stones to get there.

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