For years I’ve used acrylic paints. Not the artsy tube acrylics, the regular ol’ craft acrylics. They are really the only paint I’ve used for nearly 20 years.
I did try watercolors once before, way back in 1975 . . . in my one and only art class. The teacher didn’t like my effort. I still remember that painting because I worked really hard on it, unlike the other mediums of charcoal, pastels, oils in that class. I did a painting of a bank of beautiful trees outside my apartment that were changing from summer greens to autumn’s rich golds and oranges. But he didn’t like it because it looked like . . . well . . . it looked like trees. He wanted an impressionistic style. Or something. After that I stayed away from watercolors. Shoot, I stayed away from all art after that class!
Recently though, I’ve been drawn towards the watercolor look. I like the softness of it. It’s more . . . I dunno, more painterly than what I’ve been doing before. Achieving a watercolor effect was easy enough – just thin the acrylics with floating medium. Although for the Peony painting above, I think I gave 4 or 5 ways to dilute the paint.
A while back, while shopping in Walmart, I grabbed a set of tube watercolors and threw them in the cart. I thought it was time for me to grow up, be a big girl, and jump into the deep end of the painting pool and try some different mediums.
My goal with watercolors was to paint quicker. I don’t know what I was thinking. I guess when I looked at some other artists’ watercolors I (mistakenly) thought I could do the same and it wouldn’t take as long as with acrylics.
That’s not quite what happened though. What happened is, I squeezed out a couple colors of watercolor paint, dipped my brush into the water and then the paint, realized I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and threw the tubes into a box and stashed on the top shelf of the cabinet.
If it’s not broken, why fix it, right?
Oh, but art is a funny thing. Especially if it’s your livelihood as well as your passion. You walk a fine line between what your head tells you and what your heart inspires you to do.
Last week I got out the stepstool and brought down that box from the top cabinet. I sketched some vegetables and started playing, not know the difference between Crimson Red and Brilliant Red.
Mixing the various shades and hues was/is the tip of the iceberg. There are so many differences between watercolors and acrylics.
But there are some similarities too.
However, just when I think I’ve got something figured out – like a particular shading or something – it won’t work on the next veggie.
You know, it’s so weird that I started with a veggie collection because, for the most part, I can’t stand them. I hardly eat any vegetables save for corn. For greens, I eat salad. Being the youngest of 5 kids, Mom didn’t fight me on it and always assumed I’d grow out of it (I think she was just plumb worn out). Ha! I didn’t.
There is so much to discover and learn about watercolors! How much water should be on the brush? Do I blend the colors on the palette or the paper? Is it better to paint a lot of layers or try to saturate the color with less layers?
I’ll tell you my favorite thing about watercolors though – how you can leave paint on the palette, come back hours or even days later and add a little water and Poof! you can continue painting! Absolutely love that, being the paint miser that I am.
I think it was when I finished the red bell pepper that it hit me . . . watercolors weren’t faster. At ALL!
But maybe it’s because I’m a newbie. And maybe it’s because I don’t know how to highlight yet. Or maybe it’s because I’m just taking too darn long.
Or maybe . . . maybe it’s because I’m still trying to get my paintings to look realistic. Yep, that’s it.
And that’s okay, except that’s not what I originally intended to do. I wanted that softer, painterly look.
So I put the veggies away and started on a project for a blog I contribute to each month.
Since I had messed around with the veggies for so long, I was already behind schedule for this project. After sketching the camper I debated between acrylics and my newfound loves.
I went with the watercolors, knowing there would be any shading or highlighting.
But I needed something else for the project, which is a printable for Father’s Day. I didn’t want to paint a background or stuff around the camper but it needed . . . something.
I knocked out this watercolor banner in less than 15 minutes.
I stood back and looked at it, then sat down and just giggled.
I know it’s just a simple banner with no shading or highlighting or details but that’s just it – it’s simple! It’s soft and painterly, and exactly what I’d been wanting to do with watercolors.
A little Photoshop magic and it was the perfect touch for the camper. And so much more. It’s also a reminder to keep it simple.
Even today, I started painting some watercolor fruit and before I knew it, I was back to my old ways of fine tuning and detailing instead of keeping them soft and easy.
Oh, I know I’m new at watercolors and it will take some time before I’m comfortable with them. But it’s so much more than just a new paint medium. It’s a new technique – AND – a new approach to painting. Every day there’s a new discovery to uncover.
I might still be wading in the kiddie pool, but boy-oh-boy am I ever having fun.
What’s your favorite medium? Or do you have a variety? Do you paint with oils? Acrylics? Watercolors? Anything else?