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The culminating activity at my recent Ann Lindsay watercolor workshop at Omega was to pick out a photograph (from a magazine or one of our own) and paint it. This one struck me:

2015-08-14 12.13.49

I really like the shadows in the mountain, the distinct trees (to put my trees practice to work!), and the reflection looks almost more vivid than the non-reflection.

The most daunting moment in painting for me is this moment. The blank paper.2015-08-13 14.38.16

I started with a rough sketch of the photograph. I decided to paint several versions at the same time, to try different variations and to allow myself to paint continuously, letting paint dry while I moved on to another version. I felt quite proud of my efficiency.

Unfinished Mountain #1:2015-08-14 12.14.36

Unfinished Mountain #2:
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Unfinished Mountain #3:2015-08-014

Hmmm… What emerged were two paintings that looked quite similar to each other and a third that was shaping up to look the same (except with a portrait orientation).

A note about my efficient use of time: by alternating between paintings, I ended up painting the same thing three times. If I’d completed each painting before moving on to the next, I would have had a chance to see what I liked and didn’t like and try something new on the next painting.

So, what did I like and not like about these paintings? I liked the skies and the trees and the overall composition. But something about them didn’t sit right with me.

I started out the day eager to bring together all that I’d learned. But the day ended in frustration. As I stepped back and looked at my handiwork, I experienced the familiar disappointment when a painting doesn’t turn out as you imagined it might. While I couldn’t quite pinpoint the specific problem, in general each of these paintings looked really flat, with no depth or dimension. I hadn’t yet painted in the reflections in the water, and given my less-than-enthusiastic feelings, I doubted that I would finish the paintings.

I’m very familiar with this mood swing in painting. It goes like this (from the perspective of my internal gremlin voice):

  1. I got my latte, my paints, and a free day! I can’t wait to dig in! Today I’m going to create a masterpiece! Wheeee!!!
  2. Look at this subject matter. Isn’t it beautiful? I can just imagine how this is going to turn out. Let’s dig in!
  3. Hmmm… This isn’t quite turning out as I imagined. But I’ve got my latte and paints!
  4. Right. The day is almost over, and this is shaping up to look like a mudblob.
  5. I feel like cutting off my ear.
  6. Painting sucks. My latte is gone and in its place is this big disappointment.

There’s a life lesson in there somewhere. I think it has something to do with attachment… At some point I’m going to blog on this: “As in watercolor, so in life.”

But all was not lost. The next day in class I was to discover a few secrets for creating depth and dimension. Stay tuned for Part 2 of my mountain study!