People ask me that all the time [like they think I have a choice] ;)
But don’t worry I’ve asked myself the same thing many times over the years and still can’t come up with a decent answer why [well certainly not a short one anyway!]
I mean… it’s not like I’ve never wanted to quit.
I have. And I did once… for a whole year.
During my year of self-imposed watercolour exile I painted only in acrylic and oils with the occasional charcoal tossed in. But I never got over that empty aching feeling whenever I picked up a brush!
Where was the water… where was the love?
Something about watercolour keeps me coming back like a moth to the flame *sigh*
Because watercolour has a special magic that no other medium has...a certain je ne sais quoi... you know what it is but you just can’t pronounce it! ;)
I think it has something to do with the fluidity… the expectation of the unexpected… and the excitement in the impossibility of the challenge.
I guess what it comes down to is this… watercolor is the quintessential challenge.
When Marilyn Monroe once famously said
“If you can’t handle me at my worst then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best”
I think she was talking about watercolor ;)
It sure has earned a solid enough reputation for being difficult.
But I reckon watercolor is just clever and brilliant and challenging and rewarding all rolled into one.
And just because it comes across all bright and sassy when it’s wet doesn’t mean it can’t be flat and downright ugly when it’s dry… and I might take a moment to reflect on that.
Florida artist Jean Grastorf once described it like this “every watercolor painting goes through the ugly stage”
The ugly stage is when the painting starts to look flat and uninteresting… tired and overworked… [unlike the artist I hasten to add… who never looks flat and uninteresting tired or overworked and is almost always endlessly fascinating]… but I digress ;)
Jean is most definitely right.
The ugly stage is downright awful.
When you’re at the ugly stage you could easily be tempted to toss the baby out with the paint water and start all over again.
Because starting over will surely fix everything won’t it?
Well… um… no… maybe not.
Not if you do the same silly thing over again.
And you know that’s a possibility don’t you?
And that at least some of the magic will be lost in the do-over.
So the way I see it… around about the ugly stage you have a decision to make.
Here are the choices.
- You can stick it behind the door and pretend it never happened
- You can put it under the garden hose and see if that might help
- You can set fire to it out in the backyard under the clothesline
Or then there's this… my personal favourite and a gutsy choice!
- You can put on some heavy metal pour yourself a Molotov cocktail and go back in there and paint like there’s no tomorrow [which incidentally there won’t be if you drink that cocktail so please… don’t] ;)
Before you know it you’ll be breathing life back into that thing in some sort of miracle “save” which is so totally typical of watercolour!
I don’t know why that is [so please don’t ask]
In a perfect world watercolour loves to be concise.
You gotta’ go in there make your mark and get out quick.
But sometimes PERSISTENCE pays off as well… and it might just be the richer experience to stay and push through.
Very often a perfectly good watercolour turns up on the easel the morning after the night before… totally... as if by magic ;)
“Some people dream in technicolour… I dream in watercolour”
In a nutshell?
- Watercolor makes you trust the wretched process more than any other medium.
- You have to learn to submit [to the paint… to the water… and to the chemistry of both]
- You have to allow what will be to simply be [a bit like life really...]
- You have to be ready to go with the flow.
- You have to get out of the way and let it do its thing even when it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do.
WATERCOLOUR is wonderful… [most of the time anyway]
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