Playing with Paint

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Today I felt like just playing about with trying to get some practice in wet on wet colour mixing – it creates very abstract results, but although in one sense all you do is splosh on some water and then splosh on some watercolour paint on top, in another sense I actually found it much harder to get looking ‘right’ than I’d thought – once let loose on the page free-flowing watercolour paint seems to have a mind of its own!

If it’s too wet, or if you re-touch or work it too much afterwards with the brush, you seem to get a muddy mix of brown instead of a lovely melting-rainbow effect. But if it’s too dry, you don’t achieve the soft-edged colour blending I like so much… aarrgghh…! I’m not sure that this particular technique is quite for me – I can tend to be a bit of a control freak about things, and this whole deliberately going-with-the-flow exercise simply felt too uncontrolled for my liking.

But it also may be that it’s a technique that proves very useful once I know how to do it properly, and with confidence. And to be able to do it properly, I need to practice, and practice, and then practice some more. So painting-wise for now I think I’ll keep on experimenting with whatever I feel like trying my hand at whenever the mood takes me – because if I’m going to paint just for fun, first and foremost I need to be having fun… 🙂

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Liquid Rainbows…

Liquid Rainbows…

A colour-wash of memories tint my brain

A million shades I’d love to recreate

I hold too tight, imagination reined

Convince myself I’m too old, it’s too late

‘Not good enough’, spits out its bitter pill

Expecting me to swallow down dream’s death

I challenge habit’s thinking – time stands still –

Anticipation waits with bated breath…

Yet once I start to paint, I find my flow

My brush an inked extension of my hand

My eyes begin to sparkle with warm glow

As liquid rainbows blend, soft strokes expand

Released in coloured undulating swirl

I sense my creativity unfurl…

Daily Prompt: Unfurl

Base Layer: Watercolour Flower Take II

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If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again…

Much happier with the feel of this one so far – I took my time and have kept my touch lighter but more controlled, and already the flower looks altogether more delicate and three-dimensional than in my previous attempt.

Letting it dry thoroughly now before adding any detail, but I think I’ll probably keep it reasonably minimalist all the way through… 🙂

Back to Basics

I think I got so excited at the idea of actually putting paint to paper again the other day I pretty much just took a deep breath, threw caution to the wind and plunged straight in at the deep end without really thinking through what I was doing. I suppose it was a necessary leap of faith for me to prove to myself I could still do it, and it was definitely a success in the sense that I didn’t drown, even if things didn’t all go swimmingly on my first attempt. It’s fair to say that the painted flower representation I ended up with was not at all the image I had envisaged emerging from the paper.

But nevertheless I learned a lot – or perhaps I should say remembered a lot – from completing that one little trial-and-error flower painting. I had forgotten how unforgiving watercolour paint can be if you don’t use it correctly. How important it is to get the particular balance of water and pigment just right for whatever specific technique you are using at any given point, and just how crucial your timing has to be when blending your paint. You either have to work each small section immediately before it starts to dry, or let it dry out completely before adding another layer on top .

I can see in my first little flower painting I was way too enthusiastic with the initial amount of pigment I used, and way too impatient to wait for what I had already put on the paper to dry thoroughly before adding even more paint. My unintentionally heavy-handed and rushed approach meant that what I ended up with was far too solid-looking, with flat muddy colours and absolutely no luminosity whatsoever. So while I’m pleased with it in the sense that I actually painted something after all these years, at the same time I feel frustrated and disappointed at how many basic mistakes I made.

So today I’m going back to basics and starting again with the same flower shape and the same brush on the same size paper, but this time I’m going to apply far less paint and far more patience, and see just how much I can improve on my initial attempt.

Watch this space for watercolour dog-rose take two…! 🙂

Inspiration, Interpretation, Imagination…

Hmmm… I know so far I’ve only done one simple flower colour study so it’s very early days, but I’ve been reflecting ever since on how it felt this afternoon to be painting again after all these years. Physically I absolutely loved the feel of the brush in my hand, the steady flow of the paint, and the diluting wash of the water, however clumsy and awkward my technique may have been to begin with. I know that technically, patience and practice and perseverance (as with everything else in life) will help me improve in time.

But emotionally I can sense I’m still too tied up in how I feel something ‘should’ look when put to paper, as if the only criteria that mattered for judgement was to reproduce a near-photographic representation of my subject matter for scathing critique under extreme scrutiny. As if true-to-life matters more than true-to-me. Of course, if the purpose of my painting was indeed to achieve that level of accuracy (for example if I were painting someone’s portrait for them) I suppose then it really would matter?

But I think I simply want my subject matter to provide the baby-steps beginnings of my own creativity, be a spring-board point of inspiration that I can choose to interpret in my own way, letting my imagination decide what to do and where to run with it. After all I’m not 17 any more, I don’t have a set syllabus or class curriculum to follow, or for that matter a teacher or parent to please. Rather, I have the absolute freedom to please myself. I can be as abstract and off-beat and making-it-up-as-I-go-along as I want.

So why do I struggle so much with recognising and accepting that artistically creative adult reality? Maybe the question I need to be asking myself is – who am I actually painting for? Because maybe that’s partly what has been blocking me for all these years, maybe at heart I’m still that insecure little girl always yearning for approval from others, trying desperately to feel good enough but all the while knowing I will never be enough for some people no matter what I do…  🙂

Flower Power

As I’ve already drawn (and coloured in) a couple of single flower heads recently, I thought I might try the same approach for my first water colour painting in three and a half decades.

So I chose a relatively uncomplicated image of a dog-rose from my photographic archive, sketched a simple basic outline in pencil, and tentatively began to paint… and I did it! I’ve painted a flower!

first-touch

Predictably, it was both a better and worse experience than I expected. I decided to paint wet on dry, because although wet paint on wet paper gives a beautifully transparent and minimalist ethereal feel, it’s also far less controllable and I figured I’d need all the control I can get until I’m more confident with what I’m doing.

But I’d forgotten just how quickly watercolour paint evaporates on a dry page – if you don’t have the paper wet enough to start with, it’s really hard to blend your colours together afterwards when you want them to, and you can end up with too many hard rather than soft edges.

first-colour

Oh well, never mind – I’ll remember for next time! Anyway, once I’d started I just kept going as best I could, and although my brush handled really nicely and smoothly I felt more of a bulky bull in a china shop crashing around bewildered rather than the lithe ballerina dancing delicately across the paper of my artistic dreams.

After a while I found myself getting a bit frustrated with my unintentional heavy-handedness and ended up overworking it all a bit too much, which is disappointing – I think I prefer how it looked at the half-way mark. Still, overall I’ve enjoyed the experience, and I know my finished flower isn’t great texturally but at least it does actually look like a flower. Onwards and upwards! 🙂

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In for a penny, in for a pound…

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In for a penny, in for a pound! Well, nearer £20 actually, all in all, but it’s a good investment for my creative/ artistic future – I now have new watercolour paints, a couple of new brushes and some watercolour paper, and I’m determined one way or another to make a start of some sort today…

Partly what holds me back is the emotional insecurity of uncertainty – what if I’ve completely lost my touch? What if I’ve forgotten altogether how to paint? What if my imagination fails me and I look at the blank page in front of me and don’t know where the hell to start? What if I do make a start, then mess it all up? What if I fail…?

But logically I know that whatever I’ve forgotten, I’ll remember eventually. I know inevitably I’m going to be really rusty, and clumsy, and my painting is likely to be clunky and heavy-handed rather than loose and flowing to begin with. Thirty-six years is a long time in which not to have lifted a paintbrush – and I have to remember that whatever skill I may have had while I was at school developed only after a lot of practice…

I know as usual I expect far too much of myself, but I also know that if I don’t just strike while the iron’s hot and give it a go, I’ll be forever wondering what might have been if only I’d found the courage to try… 🙂

Daily Prompt: Prickle

old-water-colour-paints

These are my old watercolour paints from school – well, what’s survived of them, anyway! I haven’t actually done any watercolour painting since 20th May 1981, and the reason I can be so confident about the date is because that was the day I sat my Higher Art practical exam, just before I left school… I found the old exam paper with my paints 🙂

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I never intended to give up painting altogether, because although I wasn’t ever great at it I really enjoyed it, but after leaving school I worked for a while, then got married and had a baby – actually three babies, one after the other – and somehow there never seemed to be time to paint. I carried on tentatively drawing (mainly simple pencil sketches) for a while, then that too dwindled away to nothing.

Over the years I have occasionally picked up my drawing pencil every now and again, but never my paintbrush. In fact, although I still have my paints I have no idea where my brushes even went, or my watercolour paper for that matter? There were more tubes of paint initially, but sadly after close inspection these nine were all that were salvagable – mind you after 36 years of total neglect it should probably be more surprising to me that any are still usable!

Recently I’ve been feeling the stirrings of creative curiosity again though – that prickling sensation of anticipation that comes with a renewed desire to have another go, just to see how it feels after so long to wield a wet paintbrush on heavy paper, feel the flowing undulations of diluted colour spreading out and tinting the pristine page beneath. I think that’s why I like using watercolours so much – there’s a delicate softness of touch to it, a gentle fluidity that resonates with me emotionally.

My mum was an art teacher before she got married, and she always used to paint with oil paints, and my eldest daughter moved on from the bright acrylics of her teens to the pastels she uses now. But my favourite medium was always watercolour paints – whatever else I experimented with along the way I always came back to watercolours. And now here I am at 53, itching to pick up where I left off 36 years ago.

The thing is, starting painting again requires an initial outlay – fresh paints, and replacement brushes and paper. Nothing too fancy, I don’t need to equip an entire studio, just get the bare minimum to give it a try. But if I’m actually going to do this then I need to commit to starting somewhere, so I guess there’s no harm in picking up a few basic supplies, and taking it from there – how exciting…! 🙂

Daily Prompt: Prickle   

 

Today’s Flower Drawing

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I decided to try to draw a different flower image today, again using coloured pencils, but I took a slightly different tack from yesterday’s attempt. I still started out with a simple line drawing outline, but then I shaded in the whole flower, to give a kind of colour base to build up layer by layer as a complete picture instead of trying to colour it in section by section as I did yesterday…

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I found the whole exercise a bit easier today, I’m still feeling decidedly rusty when it comes to drawing but it all flowed a bit better doing it this way and I think the overall result is a bit more balanced, so that’s an improvement 🙂

PS I seem to have something on my lens, as there’s a little smudge on the bottom left-hand corner of each image, but I’ve only just noticed  it…

PPS I hope it is the lens, and not the sensor?

Drawing not Doodling

Having gone from enjoying colouring-in pre-printed drawings recently to colouring-in my own doodle design the other day, I decided to go one step further today and try to draw and colour a real flower from a real photograph taken by me. I did temporarily study art at school a long time ago, and although my work was never brilliant it was certainly passable.

However, I was 17 when I left school, and I’m now 53, so safe to say I expect my skills to be more than a little rusty nowadays. I’ve done a couple of basic pencil-sketch drawings since, but even that was several years ago. I do like a challenge though, and I’m a big girl now so surely I can cope with being even less brilliant than I used to be at school when I was drawing all the time.

So I chose my flower image from my archive, kept it in front of me on screen, and picked up my drawing pad…

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I started tentatively with an outline – I remembered as soon as I started that drawing what you see in front of you instead of what you know isn’t easy – but in the end I did it without too much re-drawing…

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Colouring-in can be a bit tricky too – it’s pink rose, but as well as pink I’m seeing red and orange and pale purple on screen…

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OK, I think I’ve had enough for today – I can see I’ve not put in enough shading in the right places to make it look three dimensional enough – it’s a bit ‘flat’ – and my colours are a bit off, but you know what? I’m reasonably pleased with my first attempt at a ‘real’ drawing in years. My drawing skills might not shine yet but perhaps I can detect a little shimmer of potential for the future, if I keep going with it.

After all, everyone has to start somewhere… 🙂

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DailyPrompt: Shimmer