Watercolor on Arches
“Fear corrupts–perhaps the fear of loss.” – John Steinbeck
You know, it is almost humorous the way that we would rather stick with a bad painting that we have created than risk improving it. Moving into the improvement zone is really scary. Often, we look at what we have done and we say, “Welllllllll, hmph! I guess it is ok.” Or we might even say, “Ugh! That’s terrible!” Either way, we would rather leave it there — in its less than glorious state than try to fix it.
No doubt, we reason with ourselves that if we try to fix it, we might ruin it. “Ruin what?” A terrible painting–that’s no loss. My bad paintings land in the compost pile anyway; what do your do with yours? I don’t recommend that you frame your disappointments and hang them. A framed, bad painting will scream at you every time that you walk into the room, “You are a terrible painter.” None of us need that. We need just the opposite–something screaming, “You can be a great painter.”
Go beyond your ok toward your great. Understand why your painting is not what you want and then fix it–even if that means tossing it and starting all over–and all over–and all over, until you get it right. And you can do that, you can get it right.
Why not take your painting a few more steps and try to make it that great painting? It may not work–but it MAY! Think about it, if you don’t fix your painting, you have nothing anyway. If you try to fix it and fail, you have lost exactly that–NOTHING! On the other hand, if you try to fix your painting and SUCCEED, you really have something.
While we are painting, we are often swallowed within a protective bubble–that while it may be protective, it isolates and freezes us. If we stay in that bubble, we are safe–but be honest, the bubble [even if it is safe] is a step or two removed from immersion. To become a very good painter, you have to stay out of that bubble that prevents you from getting down and getting dirty with your painting. Don’t just paint a sort of good painting–enter the bubble–and freeze.
Especially in watercolor, you will lose many, many paintings when you push them beyond their frozen states of mediocrity. Yet, again, who wants to be a mediocre painter. I am happy to compost 100 bad paintings, when I know that eventually I can slug on through the abyss and finally produce something worth saving. I challenge you to do the same.
To be a good watercolorist, you must overcome your fear. Fear prevents you from painting freely, it inhibits freshness and looseness–it prevents you from attaining the lyrical, poetic quality that is essential to good watercolor.
“The secret of joy in work is contained in one word–excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it.” – Pearl S. Buck