I’ll be teaching a series of watercolour classes on January 17th, and one thing about teaching watercolour is that it forces me to learn to articulate how I paint. It’s hard to do sometimes, when my hands have been guided by my eyes & heart, to verbalize those techniques, and I stutter and stumble and use goofy words to describe it. I teach best by demonstration.
This afternoon I was warming up with this splash of poppies and this sentence came to me; one I’ll be using in my next class: Water creates movement.
The more water, the more movement. I love adding a stroke of wet, wet water to my paper surface and see the pigment chase the flow, mingling and coming alive. A dry brush may give control, but a wet brush is just so much more exciting!
Something I am often asked about in regards to my watercolour painting, is how I paint leaves. Because flowers and fauna are my favourite subjects to paint, I’ve spent a lot of time studying the beautiful organic lines and shapes of plants, and certainly different techniques suit different kinds of leaves, so I’ve prepared a video showing three techniques I’ve used in the past for painting leaves, focusing mainly on my favourite “negative space” vein technique, while sharing two others that can be useful.
After prepping the materials for my watercolour class which starts Tuesday night I started to get a little nervous. It’s always a little scary starting a teaching session – who am I to think I know enough about watercolour to teach? Painting on my own is scary enough; I never get through a painting without freezing in panic at least once, certain that my next brushstroke will ruin the whole thing. It makes me feel a lot better to know that I am not the only painter who feels this way – Mike Bailey has blogged about the same thing, and he’s president of the National Watercolor Society! I highly recommend his post on Breaching Fear.
Anyhow, I am excited because I videotaped my supply list! I bought a little video camera last week and tried it out yesterday. I really want to post some watercolour tutorial videos – you get to enjoy free lessons on what I had to learn the hard way, through trial and error.
Once upon a time, I was an aspiring watercolour painter with one workshop under my belt. What brought me from inexperience was time and – dare I say it – experience. I sat on my couch nearly every evening, painting board on my lap, television on in the background, and painted. In two years, I saw a lot of growth, and through that time, I created over 70 paintings suitable for framing, which were displayed in my first solo exhibition. Looking back at the work I created then, I’ve grown further, and my style has changed and strengthened and yet I still feel uncertain. What does the future hold for my painting? Will I be able to continue to paint work I’m passionate about and proud of? Will people understand and connect with what I do?
What it comes down to in the end is love. I love watercolour. And today I strapped on cross country skis and joined my children in skiing into a beautiful apricot-violet sunset, and in my mind I mixed pigments and swirled colours, imagining just how I would paint that incredible scene. It’s not something that goes away, loving to paint.
I hope my students feel the same way as they begin their own watercolour journey on Tuesday night. I will tell them, right off: “If you love it enough, you will keep doing it. And as you keep doing it, you will become better.”
That’s what happened to me, after all.
Here’s a link to download a printable supply list of the materials I consider essential for watercolor painting.