EVOLUTIONARY TREE – Watercolor Painting

Evolutionary Tree, watercolor by Woody HansenEvolutionary Treee – Original watercolor by Woody Hansen, 15″ x 22″


Have you ever heard the saying, “An unaimed arrow never misses its mark?” This simple proverb can be  a valuable asset when it comes to creativity. Applied to art, the saying opens the door of possibility by not limiting one’s options, and lessens the pressure to succeed. In short, an unaimed arrow reduces the chance of failure, or at best totally eliminates  failure, while encouraging experimentation.

Of course there are those who scoff at such an “evolutionary” approach, and they have their place. However, if one’s goal is creativity, translation not transcription, there can be few better approaches than that of an unaimed “arrow. Evolutionary Tree, is an example of how the arrow premise can be extremely  helpful to a painter.

The painting begins outdoors, during a Free Friday session. I intend to avoid subject matter, using nothing as a preliminary guide (sketch, drawing), just the desire to freely apply paint to paper for the sake of the paint alone. The work begins with no preconceived opinion what so ever; an attempt to allow the evolutionary process to seek its own level.

Although I am painting in a scenic area, amid rocks, trees, and water, on this day I am not interested in painting the obvious. So, I begin with a single, large brush, one color, and no more than five, rather rapid brush strokes of various sizes (see below). Unfortunately, there remains no original image of Evolutionary Tree’s first stage. But, read on …


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Preliminary Sketch

The above re-creation illustrates an approximation of the painting’s initial stage. The reader must take my word the overall composition, unlike the above photo, is–at the time–quite good. I seem to like it so much  I seriously consider framing the painting as a nonobjective watercolor. Luckily, a better decision eventually prevails.


However, Evolutionary Tree, as yet unnamed, finds its way into a stack of unfinished paintings, where it remains for several weeks, months, often reviewed but essentially ignored. All this simply due to a state of indecision and immobilization on my part.

In time,  original infatuation and indecision fade. Evolutionary Tree is selected as a candidate for experimentation. As work continues, the painting, thus far of a nonobjective approach,  begins to suggest subject matter. A decision is made to “listen” to the painting, allowing it to take me on a bit of a creative ride into the unknown.

Fortunately, the work eventually evolves into it present, subjective state. To the painting I say, “Thanks for the splendid suggestion, and special thanks for the great ride. It was a lot of fun!.”

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