Daring watercolor #1

Well, I am off to the races! Literally because I had a big day of cleaning my house, crazy running to get things done in order to get in my art room to get started on my May Challenge. Why the rush? Our electricity provider is planning to turn off the power for four hours starting this afternoon to replace a pole.

I figured that since I am “on the line” and not having much time to plan or think but paint and react, I thought I would use it for an experiment. Even as I write this I have just under an hour for the planned outage. I know that sometimes they shut off the power before the allotted time. I have been on the wire all day, no worries because it has kept me on my toes, plus it is a good work-out.

This is my plein air painting that I decided to paint a watercolor from. It is a pastel that I painted last September when the fall colors were just starting. I wasn’t exactly happy with it but hey, here it is:


I purposely used this situation to see how not planning a painting will affect the experience and the end product. I decided not to draw out any sketches whatsoever, not even drawing on my watercolor paper. No planning whatsoever! Daring….I know! crazy perhaps. I wanted to illustrate to myself some issues that I have already in regards to my approach to watercolor. I hardly ever plan a painting, no sketches, nothing! I will draw out my sketch on the paper but since I was on a time limit, I decided not to even do that.

My first wash is top left, second layer and then final third is the finished painting as you see here. I made myself not to judge what I was doing, how they turned out. I simply went into it with no ideas, no feelings and no expectations. I did enjoy the process though, the pressure of producing something decent was nonexistent. This is pretty crazy for me because I am so darn hard on myself and fret and fume while I paint in watercolor.


This is another experiment…..5 timed minutes. No drawing, just grab a brush and Go! I wet the entire paper first for this timed painting. It was fun not to feel invested in the outcome.


Timed experiment #2, once again 5 minutes but on dry paper.

My thoughts on this are….hurry….they are going to pull my juice! Now I am feeling the stress!

  • Have fun, it is only painting, not a test!
  • Having put aside the fact that this painting day might be a bust anyway I wasn’t going to put such importance on my failures, that fact alone helped me to stop pressuring myself.
  • I do need to plan some things! Sketching out my painting is important.
  • I need to experiment more, it won’t kill me to have some failures under my belt, it is learning.
  • Painting fast and carefree is fun and good for me!
  • Putting up these paintings and not caring about how they will be judged is such a freeing experience!
  • My not so great paintings doesn’t mean that people won’t like me! I can make a few wrong turns now and then in trying to express myself. I am human after all.






31 thoughts on “Daring watercolor #1

    1. I just read that you do acrylics….The first painting on here is a pastel and my watercolors are below. To me they are horrendous! lol But I am on a mission to get better in watercolor. It is difficult and today I took it to the extreme. Not enough time and no planning whatsoever. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hi Margaret,
    I love that you blogged about this process… that’s many of my painting experiences. Isn’t getting things wrong that way to learn to get them right? I actually really love your watercolor version (third image far right), its got more blues and oranges and has generally a cooler tone to it. It feels lighter… really beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you! and you are so correct, I really like that one “Isn’t getting things wrong that way to learn to get them right? Oh, I need to go back and edit and explain the line-up. The one that you like is the last and finished painting. The other two are first layer and second layer. 🙂


      1. Hi Margaret,
        You explained the lineup clearly (I think the way I said it made it confusing)… but I did realize that they were all stages of the same painting, I was just trying to refer to the finished product… beautiful!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my gosh Margaret, I adore your philosophy! I am totally with you on painting quick and daily as that way you don’t get precious about it, just becomes about the doing, and that is so freeing! I have so many of the same thoughts around watercolour as you, and like you it’s something I return to again and again. You’ve motivated me to get them out later this week when I get the chance!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Actually I have to give the credit to John (Brushes with Watercolor) he suggested to give myself a time limit. I have heard of this but never tried it. Plus thanks to PG&E (our electricity provider) they pushed me to a time limit as well! I think they cancelled because it never went off….lol Oh, another thing I have noticed, my plunging in and decided this is it, that I will become better at watercolor, has given me a whole different outlook on it. I pulled out about 50 of my watercolor paintings and been oohing, awwwing and hmmm could be better. Anyway, you get the idea, this whole process has given me a new way of looking at my paintings and watercolor in general. Are you going to post what you come up with? I would love to see your progress. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Margaret, I agree with Vicki – you have a wonderful attitude and this IMO will bode very well for you when painting with any medium! So great to not be attached to the end result with watercolor, because it often gives us something very different, anyhow. May as well make friends with the process! Wonderful beginning, and so glad to see you enjoying yourself! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I was enjoying myself there is some catharsis in just saying “let’s roll and I don’t care about the end result”! you have no idea how that is the total opposite of me in general. This is something that I have been working towards for a very long time and now it feels like it is sinking in! Finally! And yes, I have been making friends in the process, I absolutely love it! I was determined that with my blog I was going to be as vulnerable as I can get without getting naked…..lol! I feel part of the stuck in the mud feeling that a lot of us artists get into is that we have this preconceived notion that we have to be perfect (whatever that really is) and to impress, to be a real artist (again, whatever that is as well!). So freeing! yes, I am a bit excited….lol

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I think watercolour does require planning, but also sometimes, like you’ve demonstrated, you just need to have a go to see how it turns out. Then start again employing what you’ve learnt and build on it.
    The wet 5 minutes sketch looks a great start with loose washes. That could be developed by building up certain areas and taking out as well – I always have a stiff scrubbing brush to hand to get back to white paper.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You let the power failure motivate you, way to go!

    While you are not planning the watercolor, when you add drawing remember that you can also not-plan the drawing. You can make the pencil drawing that indicates the large forms of your motif in as free a way as the watercolor application. The timed session is great. Really cuts through the hesitations!

    Purpose of working fast is to force yourself to think visually rather than to analyze everything. It gets you reacting to what you see, using the visual cortex. Sometimes the first answer is the right one. In any case, it’s good to begin in different ways. Be analytical sometimes, instinctive other times.

    But when you are being analytical, what should you analyze? Some suggestions would be whether a color is darker or lighter than you’ve put it, whether it is warmer or cooler, whether it goes here or “there.” Note that each of these particular things are ones that you analyze AFTER the application — this is especially the problem/challenge of watercolor because the paint looks darker when wet than after it dries.

    In response to the tonal change of watercolor when it dries, sometimes artists will be timid — not wanting to make the color too dark (bright,bold, etc) on the first go. And in a carefully planned elaborate picture that reluctance is understandable. But if you are ever to get an instinct for these things you must take chances. Anyway, there’s different ways of using the medium.

    Winslow Homer exaggerated colors in his watercolors and punched up the whole effect. His exaggeration is “finessed” exaggeration. It looks so amazingly naturalistic because everything is exaggerated in just the right way. So boldness can mean different things — fast unplanned application of paint, fast instinctive drawing with pencil before hand, exaggerated application of color — use really saturated paint some of the time and see what happens when the brush is really loaded and the color is rich.

    Also, I’m remembering a quote by the not-a-landscape-painter who, nonetheless made some beautiful landscapes (though not in watercolor) — Edgar Degas said, “Et même, avec une soupe aux herbes et trois vieux pinceaux piqués dedans, est-ce qu’il n’y a pas de quoi faire tous les paysages du monde ? ” translated: “with a vegetable soup and three old paint brushes stuck into it, couldn’t one paint all the landscapes in the world?”

    To learn landscape doesn’t mean that everything has to be landscape. On a rainy day, to have nature leisurely at your disposal, get a head of broccoli and a basin of water, some blue cloths, some green and yellow ones, and create a still life that lets you examine reflections and a very green thing that is organic and tree-like and hill-like and so forth. And you can paint all the time! Artist boot camp, just like the Marine Corps!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love all what you have to point out! Funny I discovered a few things that you wrote just today and it finally sunk in. I’ll be posting all about it soon, hopefully today. Thank you! And also for the suggestion that not all landscape is landscape…broccoli or anything organic, that works for me!

      Liked by 1 person

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