In contemplating the beginning of making a new painting and facing the clean, blank watercolor paper, even if I have completed 100’s of paintings before, I still have a sense of resistance. What if I ruin this new piece, ruin the fresh paper by making a huge mess, after hours of investing time into the piece. What if it’s the worst painting I’ve ever done?
I’ve painted many examples that I’m proud of and that have given me confidence to keep honing my skills.
But that’s just it really, the process of honing my skills never stops, no matter how long I’ve been painting. So what if I make a mistake, so what if I invest hours into a painting and realize it’s not working? This is also part of honing the skills drill, and there’s always something to be learned from the experience.
Today I opened two new watercolor pad blocks of paper. One is hot pressed, smooth and sleek; while the other is cold pressed, with a slight texture, both are extremely pristine, clean and white.
Since painting on hot pressed paper is new to me, it seemed that it would definitely invite disaster if I didn’t experiment first.
How liberating- taking one sheet of 14” x 20” paper from each of the new pads, and devoting large swathes of water, than color to crisscross the clean paper. I had no expectations, and applied large broad strokes of the brush that was loaded with ultramarine blue, than yellow ochre and last a brilliant red. The hot pressed smooth surface almost resisted grabbing the color, as it sat on the surface of the paper and sucked the color away from the edges of the brushstroke and into the dense center of the pool of paint. On the other sheet, the cold pressed was more predictable and familiar to me; it was like an old friend, witnessing the colors nestle into the dimpled recesses of the pristine page. I felt a sense of comfort in this exercise, giving myself permission with what could be called deliberate mistakes, lifting a burden of expectations to get it right the first time.
I remember a time when it would seem like wasting paper, or paints or my precious time to experiment and play at making mistakes. Maybe that was a day when the fear of the unknown really seemed real to me, and I put more pressure on myself to get it right, which of course meant that my work was more monitored and guarded.
So now I give myself permission to be unlabored and fresh, to infuse lightness of approach to the painting. If this means making some mistakes and starting over, so what? Painting is like unwrapping a gift, and seeing what’s inside, not judging or expecting, but being open to the process and the surprises that wait to be discovered!