Daring Watercolor #2

A nice spot to paint, don’t you think?

What is totally cool about stepping out to plein air paint with another medium is that all the areas that I have painted before in pastel feels fresh and new with watercolor. This particular spot I have never been able to take my pastels because it is close to a mile from the road. Too far to pack in heavy painting equipment, with watercolor everything fits in my backpack.

What was even nicer is that I used the river for my water source, so in actuality my painting of the river has the river in it, what an awesome feeling.

Here we go, I am cheap so I re-use watercolor disasters and paint on the other side of them. I always use artist quality paper and paints; in this case, Arches 140# and Daniel Smith paints, my favorite.

My scene located at the Hang Ten Mine



These two little paintings are approximately 5 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches and the first layer. I simultaneously painted two….work on one for about 15 minutes, go to the other and eventually when one is almost dry or that perfect window of opportunity is open, I would dash in a color.

My close to complete paintings. I decided to leave them alone because they were really just “warm-ups”. I was raring and ready to go to a larger painting (11 x 7 inches).

My scene #2

I totally got into this experience, I had a great attitude and none of that poor me, I just wanna paint in watercolors, why isn’t it doing what I WANT! I’ll put a list at the bottom of this post what I learned from this experience.

My first layer (or two in dabs)
My finished painting
A close-up of my favorite area

I loved this session, I was so excited I felt like a little kid again, I didn’t count on that happening. I was planning on having a difficult time because after all, it is watercolor and based on my atrocious paintings from Daring Watercolor #1 post, I was expecting the same. I think that I misjudged watercolor and I misjudged myself, ha!

My thoughts are as follows:

  • Attitude is everything (well, almost). I decided to give up berating myself today. A person cannot work under such conditions. An invisible person standing over you with a whip in hand.
  • I gave myself permission to simply learn, you can’t beat up a student, there are moral and legal laws against that! As long as we are always learning, we are students, just at different levels.
  • Don’t try to control (obsessive and unrelenting) watercolor, you can guide it to do what you want but allow watercolor to do its thing. It can be viewed as though you are in a “partnership” with the medium. It is an adventure, be a serendipitous partner.
  • Don’t worry about depicting exactly what you see because frustration is just around the corner if you follow every nook and cranny. This is especially true while painting en plein air and especially with an adventuresome medium such as watercolor.
  • Alternate light and dark, cool and warm for bringing excitement into the painting.
  • Wait for the painting to show you the focus or motif of interest. Ultimately it is a sense of feeling, emotion or atmosphere that is the focus. Follow the lead of the painting.
  • Find the attitude and slowing down to the point that when you paint you are in that item you are painting, such as a rock or tree. You allow yourself to feel the subject to the point that you are simply “building” your painting, therefore you bring it to life.  Watercolor is fantastic for this, even more so than soft pastel, what an amazing discovery for me!
  • Take breaks often, step away in order to keep your eyes fresh.
  • Don’t fight the experience or worry that it won’t happen. Find your way into the experience, relax, it will happen…hopefully. If it doesn’t, no loss. Maybe next time, there will always be a next time.

34 thoughts on “Daring Watercolor #2

  1. wonderful!! love your close up, of your Favorite area – it is so spot on!
    what a marvellous post and great information. very useful.
    you have the kind of attitude, that makes it impossible not to learn, and Leap Ahead at whatever you set your hand to Margaret. 🙂 cheers, Debi

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You are off to a great start. Sounds so nice. And to see it all recorded here is really special. Each session, something new. Based on the dimensions, I think that your detail appears on my computer screen close to actual size. Isn’t that amazing! Wonders of the internet.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love your composition and the blues and greens you chose, Margaret! I think you captured whitewater wonderfully. What a gorgeous area you live in! I totally loved your recap of what you learned as well. Boy, can’t we all relate, especially when dealing with watercolor. Your attitude is wonderful & you’re doing great!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you Laura! funny I could have gone in and try harder at the white water but there is never enough time with plein air. I would like to work on doing more detailed studio work with water and see if I can learn how to really depict it. Yes, attitude is everything. Believe me I had had quite a few “brat attacks” in regards to my art. Enough of that, moving on!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Watercolor painting does have a way of making me slow down too! 😃 I like that you worked on 2 practice pieces in the beginning- good idea! And your completed larger painting is fantastic! I also believe that attitude can make a difference in one’s art. I enjoyed reading about what you learned today – so glad you felt more at peace with your results. 😊

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  5. I’ve just spent a very pleasant hour catching up on your previous posts – what an adventure, and what wonderful photographs, stories and painting you have shared! Good luck with your water colour challenge, and I admire your attitude and honesty towards this learning curve. Can’t wait to read more…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I hope to emulate you by spicing up my stories with better writing:) Taking watercolor on is a big deal, I have been avoiding it for so long. Learning requires stepping out of the comfort zone, not exactly my forte I am surprised that I am having a blast! 🙂


  6. That’s such good advice Margaret, so useful. What I love is your joy at painting really comes through! How beautiful is it when we have those sessions where we’re all zen and in the flow and it all just comes together! And it shows in your beautiful paintings too.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wonderful post. The scenery around you is so awe-inspiring. How fortunate you are to have the ability to capture it through art. And using the river for water…loved the idea of the river becoming part of the painting in that way. I’m going to re-read your thoughts about attitude and painting many times over. Excellent words of advice for artists of all ages and stages. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had read that using “clean” water is a must with watercolor but I initially didn’t want to pack in more weight and then I thought why should I with all this rushing water right there? I remember watching a video of a Norwegian artist who used water out of a murky puddle and said it added to the organic look to his paintings. After watching that video it helped me to loosen up my ideas and what I have read about the rules of watercolor. I think that I am on a roll. Thank you for your comments and I am so glad that what I have written resounds in you. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Rules can be helpful…or harmful, I think. I try to see “rules” more as guidelines or suggestions. To me, there’s something so natural about using water from the river, or from a murky puddle. Art is meant to express a creative spirit, and isn’t using what nature gives us one of the most genuine forms of that spirit? It seems so to me. Meanwhile, I’m having fun learning a lot about the colors we use in watercolor. I’m also working on a watercolor portrait…and hoping it turns out all right. If so, I’ll be posting it when it’s finished. Good luck on your “May Madness”.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You are correct! I wonder about who came up with those “rules”. Well this artist is on the warpath on those rules! well, within reason that is…I am looking forward to your portrait and thank you for your good wishes.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I think I missed your first post on this so will have to retrace my steps but didn’t want to leave this one without saying how great a post this is! I think you got some great results but, more importantly, you’re allowing yourself the freedom to paint without restrictions, purely for the fun of painting and I think only good things can come from this – I think we could all learn something from this. Thanks Margaret, think what you’re doing is great.

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  9. Pingback: A change of pace – Vicki Hutchins Artist

  10. it’s a beautiful spot to paint! I think the two studies are tremendous. Beautiful colors and freshness. I can see with a bit of tweaking they could shine even more.

    I have found the best experiences are when I mix more than enough of the colors I want to charge into each other, and plan, plan. That’s very hard to do in plein air though! I love your monthly challenge. paint on!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I don´t have much experience with plein airs yet – but i am going to take every chance i get from now on. It is an extraordinary experience to get inspired by the surrounding compared to painting at home from reference pictures. I really like both ways but the few plein air painting sessions i had really thrilled me. It seems you live in an area with a lot of inspirational places.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I do live in the perfect area to paint. You know what is interesting? I have been stuck indoors because of the weather for the past 3 days or so. I used to be reluctant in taking my watercolors outdoors to paint because it is so difficult (the medium)….. well, now it has switched on me. I am dreading having to paint from photos because it seems more difficult than plein air painting! I think it is because when I am outside painting the subject, the excitement and freshness of the subject excites me and gets me motivated. I never thought I would ever feel that way in regards to plein air painting in watercolors! Wonders never cease! 🙂

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