Monday, September 26, 2011

Books, A Difficult Start, and A Passion for Watercolor

I love books in general, but art books rank high on my list these days.  Though I've had some of the books you see for a while, in the absence of time and opportunity to travel away from home to take art workshops lately, I've added a few more to my shelves as a way of making sure there is plenty of creative stimulation available for art practice.  
Why do I travel away from home to take workshops, you might ask?  Because, along with the opportunity to learn from a talented instructor, I get the advantage of a vacation-like atmosphere that is nurturing, focused on something I love, and that takes me completely away from my day-to-day responsibilities.  It is similar to the renewing affect of vacations in general, but with the added benefit of time solely devoted to watercolor play and the extra stimulation of a talented instructor and creative community energy.  In fact, a special book and travel to an out-of-state watercolor workshop set the stage for my journey into watercolor after serious beginner discouragement.

I came into the world loving art and drawing, but watercolor was not a medium I was exposed to at a young age.  I just admired it greatly.  Obviously the desire to create art was re-kindling in me in 1999.  My time and energies had been caught up in volunteer writing for professional projects in the years preceding.  But as I freed myself from those responsibilities, my urge to return to art strengthened and I signed up for a local "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" workshop.  
I was nervous early in those class sessions, as though I had lost all confidence in my drawing ability and needed someone to tell me I could still draw after so many years of neglect. Above and below, you see portraits that I sketched in class.  They were drawn from photos turned upside down, a maneuver that encourages the artist's brain to stop thinking in symbols (drawing what you think should be there) and to see the linear and spacial relationships more clearly.  This was heartening and amazing, both to see my own drawings, and the others produced by people who had never attempted to draw.  
Encouraged, I ventured into my first watercolor class, a weekly three hour class of "multi-level students, from beginners to advanced" held at a local art supply store.  I was the only beginner in the class.  The other students had taken from this instructor previously, had wonderful things to say about her, and had sophisticated projects already underway.  I don't think the instructor was prepared for a person at the very basic beginner level like me, one who had not quite grasped how one was supposed to arrange tube paints in the palette and mix them with water.
Above, four value studies varying placement of dark and light values.  A bit of a mess.

The class turned out to be a disaster for me, though in hindsight, I'm glad I had this experience. Perhaps because she had run out of suggestions for what I should do next, in the last hour of one of my classes mid-way through the course, I was instructed to create the value studies you see above, varying the placement of dark and light with each repetition. Without any introduction to values and how they are used, I not only failed to understand the point of this exercise, I felt like the child who'd been sent to the corner to do busy work.  Needless to say, this was not fun. I came away from the experience so bored and bewildered that I did not finish the classes. I closed my palette, concluded I couldn't do watercolor, and didn't open my palette again for another year.

It is this type of experience, technique before play, that often leads people to believe that watercolor is such a difficult medium. It's not. It's delightful, fun and easy to love!

Next: Reviving my watercolor passion--A Book, A Teacher, and Intuitive Learning

For more on upside-down drawing, visit:  The Practice of Seeing

Watch for book reviews of some of the books you see above along with more demonstrations to help you (and me) play with watercolor!

7 comments:

  1. I have so admired your work and found this refreshing to see that you to had to start somewhere, as I did. I would so love to have you do a blog for me; even repeating this one would be nice.

    Please contact me if you're interested!

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  2. Looking forward to your reviews and demonstrations. I am just learning watercolor, and really enjoy "seeing" it done. Thanks

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  3. A wonderful sharing Vickie. Thank you.

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  4. Vickie, I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this post.. I read it twice.
    you are certainly an inspiration to anyone who wants to give up watercolor.. your work is outstanding. I'd worked in other mediums, but that darn watercolor bug was always in my ear.. my early attempts were a disaster! I had no clue and I had no one to look to ( no internet then) except for books and more books, I still have them, and wouldn't part with them for anything.. I'm getting there, but still struggle with a lot of it.. still struggle to get that looseness that I want without it looking like an amateur. I've been 'at it' for over 20 years, LOL ! but still loving every minute of it even those big bad mistakes..
    My dream is an art vacation/workshop that you speak of. I have that on my 'bucket list' Thanks Vickie for your wonderful post. hugs, BJ

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  5. Barbra, thank you for this comment. I will be posting the second part of this story sometime today and I'm glad to know that in writing it, others have found it encouraging. Keep painting! Every time you paint, you are learning!

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  6. I've just posted a comment on your Fun with fall leaves- enjoying movement and now started to read other posts. How encouraging for me to know you started as a mere novice just like me not knowing how paint reacted to different methods. The only painting I had ever done was painting walls in my house. I also gave up after my introduction course feeling I would never grasp what I was supposed be doing. I restarted 2yrs later, after reading some simplified techniques. I'm so pleased I've found you.

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  7. Hi Barbara! Thank you so much for your comments. I think our mutual experience with intitial discouragement is common. I hear so many artists comment on how hard it is to paint with watercolor and they gave it up to paint with other media. So glad you kept trying and glad you found my blog!

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Welcome! I am glad to hear your comments, questions and feedback! Vickie

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