To me a really good watercolor painting is created by an artist who understands working from light to dark, creating edges without always using lines, and celebrating the nature of working with water as a medium. Watercolorists get the job done with an economy of strokes and definition. I believe this process lends itself to a trained observer who can process the image in advance and deliver a seemingly quick and immediate response to the forms and contrast in the subject. Watercolor looks like it should be easy, but that isn’t always so. Successful watercolor paintings are a culmination of practiced techniques in both seeing and painting. Making a mistake in watercolor isn’t always correctable. Having control of the medium without overworking it and tightening up takes time.
Having said this, I will have to allow myself many more paintings and a lot more time. As with my collages, I think simpler compositions may help in my quest for this controlled spontaneity I long for. The landscape attempts of late may give way to some still life subjects. Because I dislike working from my photographs, I may have to drag the supplies outside and work in ‘plein air,’ or on location. My kitchen has an abundance of fruits and vegetables that would allow me to work directly from observation. As a teacher I would suggest to my students that this was the best way to work in any realistic vein. Maybe it is time for me to take a little of my own advice.
Today’s painting was done from a photo taken where my nephew launched his kayak for the first time. He built the kayak himself and initially the launch was to take place on one of the Finger Lakes. When we arrived at the lake site the winds were causing some choppy water and he decided to move to the inlet, which is location for my painting. A painting of my nephew in his beautiful kayak may be the subject of a future attempt.
It was a sunny, autumn afternoon and the water wasn’t as blue as I have painted it. I felt there was already enough murky brown in the painting, so I left the blue tones that were meant to be the lighter layers. A little overworked, and not exactly what I was hoping for, this painting motivates me to keep trying. Two friends, Debby and Lew, who happen to be the most accomplished painters I know, are inspiration for anyone trying to learn how to do a watercolor. Their work exemplifies what I someday hope to achieve. For now, I remind myself that this is a process and the journey is more important than each individual product along the way. Now it is time to show up in the kitchen to create a little dinner. Eggplant Parmigiana is on the menu for tonight. Hopefully it will be better than my painting.