Daily Practice and Failing Gloriously

5:54 PM

I recently received a comment from someone who said, "I've never seen you post a failure on your blog. All your work looks wonderful." Well, let's correct that today, shall we?! The painting above is what I call a glorious failure - it has a few redeeming qualities, but for the most part it's a fairly bad watercolor. However, the glorious part comes with what it has to teach me.


I am trying to increase my knowledge and ability to paint wet-into-wet with watercolor. Let the watercolor be free to do its own thing. And those darn artists in those books and magazines make it look so easy. Falling off a log easy. I'm here to tell you, it's not! You have to know when the paper is wet enough, too wet, and/or too dry. You have to know the same thing about your pigments. It is also necessary to know which pigments are going to work well on the paper and play nice with others. And those that will sit like a proverbial bump  - inert and uninteresting.

This is not a successful painting in that I will turn it over and use the back for another painting. It is a successful painting in that I am getting more comfortable with turning loose, I can see improvements, and best of all, I'm finally beginning to get the hang of it! It's going to take a lot more practice before I've got a winner (by my standards) on my hands and that's okay too.

I think sometimes that it is a tragedy that we cannot remember the challenge and struggle of learning to roll over, push up, sit up, pull up, scoot, scoot backwards, stand up, step forward, walk while hanging on, walk while not hanging on, and finally running and then riding a bike. We forget how many times we fell down before we got the hang of whichever stage we were at. Art, like learning most things in life, is no different. 

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6 Creative Thought(s)

  1. ...I see what you mean about the water making the pigment spread, but I still LOVE the watercolor!! To me, it looks like you wanted it to happen...a free-form, colorful painting. I did water into water on a bunny many years ago. I need to look for that painting!

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  2. I like this piece, you have included some of my favourite colours! :-) It looks bright and fresh and at this time of year (here in Ottawa Canada anyway) this sort of image is much needed! Thanks.

    I couldn't agree more with the notion that we all need to cut ourselves some slack. We have to be willing to experiment and we all need the freedom to goof something up. I heard a painter once lecture on this topic and he made a point of fairly shouting at us, "It's only paper!" His point was that painters often don't become as good as they could be because they are afraid of making mistakes and wasting materials. Of course practice is never a waste! I see this all of the time with my beginner students. They are so scared to mess up that special art paper...I don't quite shout at them but I do try to get the same message across. :-)

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  3. Hi Laure, I know it's been awhile. Hey I don't call them failures. It is how we learn by doing and experimenting. If I were you I would play with it some more adding values and see what comes of it.

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  4. Thanks to all of you for your kind comments!

    Kelly, find that bunny! Would LOVE to see him!

    Teresa, I've heard a similar lecture. And it is only paper. I think part of the problem comes from older people on restricted budgets begin to learn they don't want to "waste the good stuff" not realizing they're only hurting their own progress.

    Toni! Welcome back! You're probably right not to call them failures as they're really not. But what do you call them?

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  5. I don't think it's a failure at all. And it carries your "signature" look - which I think is a good thing because it means you've developed/found your own particular style.

    I have a watercolor book titled "How to Make a Watercolor Paint Itself". It's by a prominent, well-respected watercolorist.... who obviously knows a lot that I don't because I've never been able to make a painting in ANY medium paint itself!!

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  6. My "signature" look? Would you please describe as I am intrigued.

    I have seen the book you mention, but being skeptical of any painting painting itself, have never read it. Perhaps I should.

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