WATERCOLOR ADVICE: “Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” – Salviador Dali
The above quote reminds me of a couple who were discussing their newly purchased watercolor, which had just been hung. The guy was annoyed at his wife’s indifference to what he felt was a poor job. “The problem is that I’m a perfectionist and you’re not,” he finally said to her. “Exactly!” she replied. “That’s why you married me and I married you!”
Splish, Splash, begins outdoors on a cool, sunny Friday at the American River Parkway,a few yards east of the Watt Avenue boat ramp. Nice as the morning is, it’s one of those times we’re faced with the question, “What shall I paint?”
I elect to begin a non-objective approach without a value plan, or preliminary sketch,or idea of any kind. The chosen watercolor technique is wet-on-dry, i.e., wet paint applied to dry, 140 pound, Arches cold press watercolor paper.
A three-inch, flat watercolor brush, loaded with clear water is stroked across a nearly vertical support. The water drips down the surface of the paper, each drip following its own unique path of least resistance. The goal is to create a loosely applied, light value underpainting in the three primary hues, red, yellow, and blue. Each of the several watercolor strokes is randomly applied with only minimal thought as to the end result.
Next, the three-inch brush is saturated with a couple of medium value, red hues. This will be a dominate shape that will eventually become an interesting focal point. Finally, I step back about eight feet and with a flicking motion of the wrist, fling paint drops in the direction of the watercolor paper. Gravity is encouraged to take over as the colors run and blend one into the other, watercolor doing what it does at its juiciest best. So, timeout for Connor to play in the nearby river.
Back at the watercolor easel, fresh eyes imagine the red shape as a truncated tree trunk, or perhaps some mangled, metal auto parts, etc. Then too, there is a three-inch broken blue, rectangle at the top of the painting suggesting a horizon line which in turn could be turned into a backdrop for the river. At this stage, it’s similar to an ink block test where almost anything goes.
The non-objective approach goes out the window in favor of the suggestion of a possible American or Sacramento river landscape. At this stage this work is heavily weighted to the left. Then I notice a trash can about fifteen yards ahead and to my right. If I add two cans that will give me a Steel-yard composition. All that remains is to tie things together, and a rather appealing, though imperfect watercolor is created. Mission accomplished.