Watercolors: Learning a New Medium in the Open
A while back, I was showing my work to a friend, expressing that I don’t know where my black and white doodles and notes were headed next. “Have you ever tried color?” they asked. I couldn’t remember the last time I tried using color, and if I could it was an awful attempt. So I decided, what the hell, let’s introduce some color. I’ve followed the work of Wendy Macnaughton for quite awhile and it would be a lie to say that I’m not influenced by her or her style of writing and drawing. It seemed clear that I would grab watercolors.
I posed a question to Twitter along the lines of: since I’m obviously a beginner, should I grab cheap Crayola watercolors or pay an extra $10-15 and get something a bit better. The response was in favor of not being so cheap. I received my watercolors and opened them up, scared of them, not knowing where to start. I let them sit on my desk for awhile to acclimate.
Finally, I had a little more time to sit down at my desk. More so, I had a thought to create something. Of course, I grabbed some white paper and a black pen. For the past few years, I’ve been using black and white, pen and paper exclusively when I make things. It’s always felt right and raw enough in some way. But this time with my paints staring at me, I decided to test the waters (pun intended) and apply them to the ink and paper doodle I made.
I quickly made the mistake of too much paint. I opened up my browser and searched examples and realized I needed to not be afraid of water. I also made the mistake of starting with the dark colors, to which I remembered all too late an art teacher in high school advising to start with the “lights” at first. Needless to say, the first piece was trashed.
But I’ve been playing with the watercolors ever since, and I’m obsessed. Last night, I was showing my work to a friend to build up the courage to show it publicly (F you, impostor syndrome!). And she asked me very seriously, “Julia, when did you learn to watercolor?”
I felt silly, and I replied, “I haven’t.”
Honestly, I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve just been enjoying playing around and sort of honest about learning this new medium out in the open (based on Austin Kleon’s latest book). But in the search for what I’m supposed to be creating plus the consistency of making something small every day, a new medium was exactly what I needed.
In conversation before he left, Pavlos mentioned to me as I was sort of feeling down about the silly doodles I make, “I think you’re one thought away from it. You’re one thought away from something bigger.”
Sometimes you just need the reminder that your best friend believes in you. Or you just need them to leave for 3 months for work, so you have too much time to sit and make art. Let’s go with the first one.
For the first time I’m making art that kind of makes sense. And so far everyone I’ve shown it to has been impacted by it some way. I can’t wait to start sharing some actual pieces from this mini-amateur collection I’m working on.