Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Water color painting of horses in 5 stages

Five steps or stages of my latest watercolor painting “exile”:

"Exile" watercolor on paper

The creation or "head-scratching" stage :

This is for me the most important stage if I want to create a detailed painting or have a lot of control over the outcome. It is the only time I allow myself to think and plan the subject, composition, values, focal point and color palette. Sometimes, I never get to the second stage and start over with a new idea. Definitely the most time consuming and frustrating part of the process but necessary and, in the end, worthwhile to hang in there...(Munching on my favorite cookies helps me through this stage). 

Wet-in-wet or "merry-go-around" stage:

The aim here is to cover as much paper as quickly as possible, carefully saving the whites. This is the most exciting stage where I am still full of confidence. The challenge is to make these first layers not too dark or too light because this is just the under painting. I royally splatter water and mix and pour paint like a happy worry free kid. The world looks bright and pretty too me....

Form and texture or "sprinkle some fairy dust" stage:

The paper is still moist but not completely wet as in the first stage. Now it is time to add form and texture by adding colors in the middle value. Nothing really stands out yet except the lightest value which is the white of the paper.  In this stage I still feel confident because it is still about building tones and shapes. I wildly keep moving my brush around the whole painting like a fairy moving her wand. At the end of this stage I become a little more skeptical and a frown might be showing on my forehead...

Detail or "danger zone" stage:

Now I am treading carefully and continue building on the shapes by adding more color to create the darker values and depth. At this stage the focal area gets the most love. The painting is still moist, yet no longer wet. My confidence sneaks away and doubts creep in.  My trust issues are starting to show. This is probably the stage where artists seem mad…..where they start staring out of the window or through you. Maybe they just abandon the painting at this stage all together. I have a blank stare and a big question mark is hovering above my head. What now? How to proceed? The paint is drying and I have to remind myself that thinking is only allowed in the first stage. This stage is all about diving in and letting go. It is about trusting that the painting will come to life or end up as one big muddy blob. Since I can't trust my thinking or feelings at this stage, I just move on to the last stage when I feel that I should spend another hour on the painting. This decision is protecting myself from overworking the painting and from hating myself and the painting afterwards....

Final touches or "the-next-time-better" stage:

When the painting is completely dry I either breath a sigh of relief or comfort myself with the words "next time better" making notes about what I want to avoid the next time. But I will not fix any thing to satisfy my perfectionistic silly ego. Instead, I am using only a maximum of 10 minutes (yes, I do set a timer to control myself) to add the final touches and dark accents. Then I let it go and consider it finished.  Consider this phase like the exclamation mark or period after a sentence. No more long winded paragraphs or sentences.  In the past I would fuss over a painting until the paper and my head would rip in two. By moving on I protect myself from crazy behavior and I happily look forward to starting the next “better” painting.  I throw out the empty cookie bag and look back on a fun time with my brushes, paint, paper and soul, craving for more...

The original painting is no longer available but prints, greeting cards and iPhone case can be purchased at  Fine Art America. Their commissions seem to be meant to starve us so I need a lot of buyers to buy one bag of cookies...!

Or visit me at my Facebook cave or leave comments below. They are an artist's mental and emotional food. So, thanks for nourishing my soul!