Saturday, June 23, 2012

Watercolor Musings: Benefits for New Painters - Ink & Watercolor

Watercolor Musings: Benefits for New Painters - Ink & Watercolor: Old Oak, Paso Robles  All the images in this post were published in "Work Small, Learn Big!" published in 2003 by International...

Benefits for New Painters - Ink & Watercolor

Old Oak, Paso Robles

 All the images in this post were published in "Work Small, Learn Big!" published in 2003 by International Artist. The work was done on 9x12 handmade watercolor paper, drawn with a rollerball pen, medium point and painted with watercolors. 

The Courtyard, Orange

A number of years ago I was privileged to be asked to write a chapter for International Artists’ Magazines book, “Work Small, Learn Big!” I was one of 17 artists from English speaking countries to do so. It turned out to be a fascinating collection of all sorts of  methods using these basic tools. After teaching this technique to many students throughout the years, I’ve noticed several exciting benefits to beginners.

Vine Street Victorians, Paso Robles
Coffee Corner, Orange
It keeps you focused. By working quickly, you’ll be more inclined to concentrate on big shapes and really, truly observe the environment.

It makes you practice drawing. Starting with pen, not pencil, is a huge boost. Unable to second guess yourself once the pen touches the paper, you’ll keep drawing even though corrections need to be made along the way.

It helps you get over perfectionism. When the waterolor is added, some of the drawing lines are blurred so “making it perfect” is no longer a concern.

 It encourages you to work outdoors. There is relative anonymity in this approach. With a chair or stool placed against a wall, you become somewhat invisible to passersby, removing the likelihood of over-the-shoulder viewers. 
It keeps you on task. Demanding that the work be completed in a defined time frame is a sure defense against procrastination.

It builds confidence quickly. The more you do the better you get, period. And that leads to more work which, in turn, gets better and better.

It reduces your stress level. It’s the kind of fun that takes complete concerntration. You can’t worry about anything when you’re so happily engaged in painting.

It keeps you young by engaging the mind and body and teaching you to see the world differently. And the decision making that must be done as you work exercises the brain. I’ve always thought that Ponce de Leon, that seeker of the fountain of youth, had it half right. Not only water is necessary, but so in paint!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Watercolor Musings: Who gets the "Creative Gene?"

Watercolor Musings: Who gets the "Creative Gene?": Santa Barbara Mission in pencil and paint. I suspect my affinity for watercolor has lots to do with my love of drawing. I began drawing at...

Who gets the "Creative Gene?"

Santa Barbara Mission in pencil and paint. I suspect my affinity for watercolor has lots to do with my love of drawing. I began drawing at a very young age and it has always been a source of enjoyment and comfort for me. Because of that, I've drawn constantly on any paper available at the time. All that practice, even though I did not consider it such, has built my skills as a result.   

I find it interesting to hear people profess their lack of artistic ability so readily. When I ask how many classes they have taken, almost always I hear, “None” or “Not since childhood.” When a talented pianist signed up for a beginning watercolor class with me I found out on the first day that she had practiced for 2 weeks prior so she wouldn’t look ignorant. I asked her if she’d done that with piano lessons and of course she shook her head. Somehow it is believed that “Talent,” with a capital “T” is the reason some can paint, or draw or create. Furthermore you should be able to do all of it well with no training at all.

This is easily observed in the elementary classroom. The children somehow assign the title of “artist” to one of their peers and then back away as if they should not excel themselves. The assigned artist accepts the title happily. On the day I demonstrated for my sister’s 2nd grade classroom, I watched the interaction of the children when I gave them an assignment. When I complimented others than the chosen artist, they were tickled but the boy who considered himself the only artist in the room got a grumpy face. Sadly, the community at large believes that at birth some are given the “creative gene” while others are not and that’s the end of it.

Sorry…wrong! Drawing and painting and design proficiency are gained the way all other disciplines are…by work and repetition and tenacity. Are some more inclined to do art? Probably. Just as some are more inclined in other areas it is true here. That interest and inclination or encouragement lead to practice that is completely enjoyable. And practice leads to competency. Simple as that.

I knew this internally and then stumbled upon an article published in Fortune on Geoffrey Colvin wrote about, “What It Takes To Be Great.” I have read portions to countless classes and watched their self-inflicted boundaries expand.

The article can still be accessed on the Internet by typing in the title and author’s name. It explains the scientific study behind the conclusion that targeted natural gifts don’t exist. Nobody is great without work. It is a fascinating article well worth the time it takes to read. And it is encouraging to those of us who will never be “great” but want to expand our horizons with the time we have.

I always think of Dwight Strong, my friend who began painting at 69 years and became such a wonderful painter that when he died in his mid-80s, he left a huge body of work. And this work was collected by some of the artists whose workshops he had taken. He was single-minded and focused on his goal. One time he told me that he had taken 50 workshops. When I exclaimed over the number he told me, “Judy, I don’t have any time to waste!” I am fortunate to own several of his paintings.