Well intentioned friends warned me, “Watercolor is so unforgiving. Do oils. You can push them around all day!”

“Cure for perfectionism” is how my teacher described it.

The fact that there was a teacher involved tells you I ignored the warnings.

Everything I knew about painting with watercolors I’d learned on YouTube. I figured it was time for an upgrade.  A rank beginner, I enrolled in a two-day workshop, invested in a lengthy list of supplies and headed off to class, my precious 3 sheets of  over-sized, 140# cold press Arches watercolor paper flapping in the wind beside me.

Two days later, I have (1) had a  lot of fun, (2) shown some improvement (with plenty of room for more) and, mostly, (3) gained an even greater appreciation for the form — not necessarily for the reasons one might think.

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Painting the Negative Spaces

Less Is More. Watercolors don’t benefit from being over-worked. The less you fuss, the better. I think this is an excellent life strategy.

There Are No Rules, Only Consequences.  This was my teacher’s line and I loved it: she showed us all the ways we could really play with the medium — and then deal with the consequences. Having “consequences” dressed with a positive, playful mantle alone was worth the price of admission.

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Dark Pear, Mystery Pear

Watercolors Are A Metaphor For Life. This is one of those activities in which things will go wrong — it’s a question of when, not if.  The art and artistry are all about making the most of what comes at you. I appreciate that – and love that I can use an art form to practice what I consider an essential life skill.

Colors! Fabulous Colors! Gone are the anemic ghosts of my youth. Real watercolors are bold and beautiful and vibrant. I gained a particular appreciation for good materials (paper, brushes, pigments) this week and will never look back. Even when we worked in “black and white” (our own mix of gray, created from our limited palette), the hues were lovely.

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A Pair of Pears

Process Over Product. This was another line from my teacher. She cautioned us not to worry about looks, just to learn from the how. (For me, it may have to be about process over product for a long time. But that’s okay. Probably better that way.)

I Look At Things Differently. “No rules” notwithstanding, there are some basic techniques for painting with watercolors and I find myself looking at objects and scenes around me thinking, “How would I paint that?” Watercolors help me see my world through new eyes. What more could I ask?

Pushing oils will have to wait. First, I think I might want to learn how to draw

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13 thoughts on “Life Lessons from Pigment and Paper

  1. I am so enjoying the life-bits that are coming through all of your posts. As you say in the last part of this post it is wonderful to come at life from a different angle, an introspective and vibrant new way to experience that which is all around us. Photography, and sewing (oddly enough,) have done that for me on occasion.

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    1. Yes! My dad likes to say “if you change your point of view, you’ll see something new”. It’s a great reminder of the importance of cultivating multiple perspectives.

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  2. GREAT post! I have been painting again for the first time in 45 years, using acrylic while watching Bob Ross use oils. He has completely changed the way I look at the world and color. It’s a lovely way to age…

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  3. Lynn, these are beautiful, as are your descriptions of the process. I started painting and drawing when Vidal was young because he was seeing things that I could not. Now I’ve fallen away from it, and your post makes me realize I need to change that.

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  4. Love the first one especially. I don’t have the time now to do watercolours on a regular base but in the future I’d love to combine it with drip art. I like how you’re forced with water colours to pull out of yourself. It takes more focus than when you draw and you can erase things.

    Often people/children tell me och I can’t draw or I can’t paint which I don’t understand. Each line is a work of art in itself and as perfect as it is. My niche is not realism. I never developed myself enough to try and pursue that but whatever I do now I feel I have a home in.

    Keep drawing! Much love from Holland ❤

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    1. I played wtih watercolor for the first time a year ago, after my surgery because I needed things to keep me still. I loved that it helped me look around me and think “how would I paint that?” – it gave me a way to see differently.

      I’m not sure watercolor is my perfect medium, but I do love working with the paints. That I love it is is far more important than that I am good at it. Which, for me, is an accomplishment!

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