July 9, 2015: Since I wrote this post I’ve seen my career grow so much! I’m painting every day and reaching a new level with my watercolour skills & expression. And I started teaching online! I encourage you to check out my online watercolour courses and grow your own skills. 

Painting got really exciting for me last year. I went from feeling rusty and needing to recapture my skills to a confident enthusiasm that’s made me willing to tackle any subject that inspires.

What sparked this change? Good counsel. I needed to own a few “rules” for painting. Here’s what I’m keeping foremost in my mind when I paint these days.

“Party Line” watercolour, SOLD

  1. Paint for the love of it. Painting to satisfy someone else’s expectations is just stifling.
  2. There is no “backwards” in creativity.I never need to feel like I’ve lost ground after a creative dry spell. Life’s experiences, other creative pursuits, imagination are all continually offering contributions to the artist’s life that bear fruit in painting.

    “Violets” watercolour (private collection)

  3. Be confident. I look at my children for an example. They draw furiously without doubting their ability. I’ve also felt this in other areas of my life. While competing in a triathlon last year, I could be proud of what I was doing, not because I was in the top two-thirds of competitors (ha!) but because I knew I was competing at the very peak of what I was capable. There is no shame in creating your best work.
  4. Be experimental.I learned that when I started painting “for fun” this year, I was more willing to take a risk and try a wild new colour or leave a few things “unsaid” in my paintings. I have a whole bag of new tricks that I’ve played with this year.

    “Fragrant” watercolour

  5. Expression trumps technique. Some of the dullest paintings I have seen are technically flawless. When I am painting, I keep asking myself, “What am I trying to say?” My paintings are more genuine as a result.
  6. Never waste paper.This is a backwards way of stating that paper is never wasted when you are painting. Every painting is a learning experience, whether it ends up under glass or in the garbage.

    “Blue Beckoning” watercolour, SOLD

  7. Be willing to start over. I put a lot of me and often a lot of time into a painting, and it can be heartbreaking when it’s not working. Often I find myself with a painting with a bunch of great elements, but there’s one area that is not up to par, and not fixable. I have never regretted starting over, and most of the time that second painting turns out far better than the first ever could.
  8. You have the answer. This goes back to that confidence thing. Look at your painting. Who painted it? You did. Who knows what it’s about? You do. Whose voice is speaking through that image? Yours is. Stand with your work and be proud of it! It’s yours, and nobody can take that away. (And I can say that even though I received a rejection from a gallery show yesterday.)

“Flower Girls” watercolour

What has helped you to paint more confidently? What are your goals for seeing a bolder you this year?