Building on failure
In 1993, when I took my first watercolor painting class at the Memorial Art Gallery, we all wondered how long it would take to get good at this. The teacher, local artist Wendy Gwirtzman, told us our discard pile might be way over our heads before we felt satisfied with our work.
In other words, maybe never.
I’ve persevered, had some successes, won some prizes. But lately I’ve been in a terrible slump, painting almost every day but feeling like I have no idea what I’m doing, making rookie mistakes, covering pristine watercolor paper with mud. On the plus side: The discard pile keeps getting taller.
If you wonder what I’m talking about, take a look at What’s Wrong with this Picture?, which accompanies this post. I’ve struggled with this thing for several months, no kidding, and at this point I believe any future it has lies in the recycling bin. If you have any helpful comments, please send them along. (I’m open to cutting and saving bits and pieces – always a possibility with watercolor.)
I decided revisiting past projects might be a way to jump start my creative battery. First I dug through my “works in progress” drawer and immediately moved a bunch of these to that growing discard pile. I realized that some projects have been sitting around for more than two decades. I’ve long forgotten the inspiration.
I moved a couple to the top of the “possible” pile; one is currently in the active category. I’m hopeful; perhaps I now have the skills to complete it.
Finally I opened a dusty portfolio of paintings that I had once considered complete but had never framed. One in particular seemed, well, pretty nice. It’s a watercolor on rice paper, a technique we experimented with in one of Wendy’s classes years ago. The rice paper is glued onto heavy (300 pound) watercolor paper and the picture is painted on top. Fine detail is not possible, but you can get a pleasant misty, dreamy affect. I did a little more work on it, and the result is One Pine Day, which accompanies this post. It’s now attractively matted, framed and hanging at the Main Street Artists gallery/studio.
My spouse likes it, and several friends had kind comments, which made me feel better. I am not ready to throw away my paints and brushes! Ever the optimist, I’m sure my next attempt will be better, maybe even sort of good. In any case, I remind myself, for me the joy of painting is the process, not necessarily the result.
Stay tuned . . .
– Kathy Lindsley
Snow Cone, watercolor
One Pine Day, watercolor