Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Overcoming Fear of Paint

Someone once said that to stretch your limits, it's a good practice to do one thing each day that makes you a bit afraid. That's why I take Kathy Collins' watercolor classes.

Small Roses. 4" X 5" Arches cold pressed paper.
In Kathy's classes, we use paint straight from the tube with a dab of water here and there. If you're a watercolor painter, you may understand how doing this could strike fear in a person's heart. My first watercolor teacher gave me the more typical instruction, which involved putting my paint in the little spots for it on the palette and letting it get good and dry before trying to paint. The result, in case you don't already know, is pallid. You must work and work on that hard little gob of paint to get any color from it. This type of teaching may be why you see so many weak-looking paintings. If you look at some of mine, you'll certainly see the effect.

I subsequently took classes from Tom Hoffman, who got me painting much more boldly, but Kathy Collins has turned that up another full notch, at least, with her "straight from the tube" approach.
Kathy's Tuesday morning summer classes started today, and we did flowers. Taking a deep, stabilizing breath to calm my inner quaking, I used a damp 1-1/2 inch flat brush to paint around the top side of the flowers with prussian blue, alizerin crimson, and yellow ocher straight from the tube. Then I added a small amount of water to the paint around the rest of the flowers. A clean, damp brush softened a few edges.

Roses in Blue. 11" X 15" Arches cold pressed paper.
Plants on Acid. Or Fireworks. Can't decide. 11" X 15" Arches cold pressed paper. I got carried away and painted the petals I'd intended to leave white, so I painted on top of that part with really thick alizerin crimson to create some of them. Oh well.
Rose in a Glass. 4" X 5" Arches cold pressed paper. There were a few minutes left to paint, so I did this small one and the one at the beginning of this post.
Kathy, of course, is much more adept at this method, and her paintings are really fabulous. But, as they say, practice makes perfect, so I'll be doing a lot more of these in the future.

1/31/12 Update: I just read this interview with Piet Lap (well worth the read, by the way), and I am apparently not alone. Here's an excerpt: Q: Could you accent something most important to master the watercolor? 
A: You can't master it, watercolouring. You will always start 'tabula rasa',with a frightening empty sheet of paper.


Bad Jones Rising said...

I have taken a couple f workshops here and there. Besides a bit of art college I am self taught. What do you think about e-courses? I am debating on if they are worth the money, time, etc. Nice paintings.

Megan Seagren said...

I haven't taken any e-course, Bad, so I can't really say much about that. I like to watch online videos to get new ideas, but to me, there's just nothing like a real in-person class. For one thing, you can ask questions and get feedback. Also, I find the critique sessions invaluable. Seeing other people's work and talking about it really opens up my eyes and mind.