Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Todays Paintings.

I tried to keep busy today and immersed myself with my painting. It's not so bad when it's miserable outside, I don't feel guilty about not enjoying the sunny weather.

I dislike this love hate struggle I have with my art, but I suppose it's all part of the game in the end. I've been thinking about it again today and have thought about something which could be quite important and something which I feel I should address.

Crooked Tree. Watercolour 7 x 5 inches.
I am an impulsive painter and need to paint when the mood takes me. Fortunately, it's fairly often but I'm not the sort who could plan ahead and arrange to paint at a certain time on a certain day. If the urge is not there then there's no point trying to force it. My main problem (I think) is that I have this need to finish a painting in the one session. I need to break this habit and force myself to complete paintings over a period of time. I think this all stems from having disasters in my earlier watercolour painting experience and it feels a lot worse to lose a painting which has been painted over a number of  days rather than one which has taken just a few hours.

New River in Flood. Watercolour 7 x 5 inches.
That's the problem with watercolour, you can just about rescue a cock-up if you are really lucky but mostly it just needs to be thrown in the bin. I need to work on this.
However these are two paintings from today, both from the same session.


  1. John, I hear your voice regarding your struggle, loud and clear! By the way, these are both lovely pieces and I particularly like the light in the first one and the tree. For me, painting is more about the journey than the finished outcome. I just love to paint and create art…a good painting is the icing on the cake. I learnt long ago to let go of the outcome and enjoy the journey. Here’s a story I tell often (to any one who will listen…LOL….)… My husband, who sculpts out of clay, spends many months on one piece, using a subtractive method of ‘sculpting out’ rather than ‘adding on’. Because his pieces are of non-uniform thickness, drying out time of wet clay at each stage of work is crucial, and firing time in the kiln is also problematic because of the variance of thickness, possible air pockets etc. This makes life difficult and can cause problems like cracks. One time a few years ago, he had spent months creating several sculptures, had them firing for several days, and when we opened the kiln everything was in bits. I was devastated (mostly because I had been in charge of the firing...ramping up, ramping down etc)…but also because months of work was destroyed. He was quiet for some time, then said that for him the enjoyment was in the process of creating, an end product a mere bonus! That got me thinking about my own art and the way I handled disappointing paintings…and my attitude changed for me as a painter that day. Once you begin to love the process more than the outcome, you begin to look at the way you work and what it means to you differently. I know you don’t feel like it at the moment, but the discipline of setting aside time for painting on a regular basis, I believe, will help you focus and make you feel better about yourself and your art at the same time. Even if you sit there for the entire session and can’t paint (because you don’t want to conform)…at least mess round with some colour charts, play with new techniques etc. Take the pressure off by allowing yourself the time to just play and enjoy.

  2. What a story Maggie, and such a valuable lesson as well!

    John, I love to paint too, but as I'm only just beginning my journey of learning I sometimes find the challenge of the larger projects too daunting and off-putting. And just as Maggie said about allowing yourself time to play, sometimes I do just that. Last night I must have painted close to 100 thumbnail size terracotta flowerpots and chimneys, just exploring the many different pigments I have. I had great fun doing it and I learned so much - I went to bed last night feeling a huge sense of achievement. (and I can now "knock out" assorted terracotta flowerpots and chimneys like a pro now, with just a mere flick of the brush!) Next session I'm going to build on what I learned last night and apply it to autumn foliage, and who knows where it will take me? I'll tell you - More fun and enjoyment, and an even deeper understanding of the medium that I love so much.

    I'll tackle those bigger projects eventually, but on my terms, and when I'm ready to.

  3. Oh No! I've just written Maggie and Ian a nice long reply and it's gone. Sorry, I'll try again later. I hate it when that happens.

  4. @Samantha, thankyou.

    @Maggie, thank you for such a comprehensive response to my original post. You shouldn't spend so much time on my posts, you should be painting. However, thankyou. Yes that story rings bells but I'm pleased to say it hasn't happened to me to that degree and for some time.

    I understand what you say about enjoying the journey and I fully agree. The journey can be the most important and enjoyable time in an artworks life but there comes a time when I've made that journey so many times, I just want to get to the destination now and have the bonus of being able to give the results of the journey to someone else for their enjoyment. I guess I'm saying I want the bonus now, irrespective of how I get there but the main bonus for me is giving it to someone who will love it and enjoy it more than me. Hope that makes sense. I'm thinking I need to be less analytical and critical and try to get my original enthusiasm back. I'm working on it. Again.

    Sorry for the delayed reply. I did reply earlier but the whole thing went belly up and I lost the reply to both Ian and yourself.

    @Ian, Thanks for your reply. I hope you are not put off with all this talk of inner battles with the watercolour art. Some people struggle, yet some sail through with no problems. I'm a struggler and I believe it's mostly psychological. I wish you luck with your journey and hope it runs smoothly. I tried to follow your blog/site yesterday and I don't know if it was succesful. I'll check again in a mo and see.

    Thanks again all. It is much appreciated.

  5. I'm completely with Maggie. At first I wondered if your ironic loss of the big reply was somehow intentional!

    The fun IS the process, but at the same time you're right in that the watercolour medium in particular can hamper that, wetness is wetness and like you said mistakes are hard to correct and can become frustrating rather than inspiring.

    I'm very disciplined and DO make myself work no matter how I "feel" and it works fine; I can look back years and I can't tell any difference between the work I did happily and the work I slogged, I can't tell at all, and I get a lot done as a result, which itself is a positive.

    If you really just want the destination then perhaps you could take up photography or photoshop? I can but try to persuade you that psychological research indicates that attainment of anything causes unhappiness and that it really IS the journey that gives the (psychological!) rewards.

  6. Thanks Mark, I take your words on board. I know your pretty good where words of psychology are involved.

    No it wasn't an intentional deletion of my previous post to Maggie. It was a complete accident. I know what happened now and could have kicked myself. I'd spent ages writing a reply to both Maggie and Ian. Won't be doing that again. I hate having to re-write.


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