When I showed Phil my latest watercolor painting, finally complete, his response came first from his raised eyebrows, and then from his sour mouth. “Well, I wouldn’t spend your days doing it is all I’m saying.” The subtext for those playing along at home reads: don’t quit your day job, not that you have one. When I retell this story to him, “You realize this was your response when I showed you my work, oh supportive one,” he doesn’t deny saying as much, though he tweaks details.
“I didn’t say it when you first showed it to me, for starters.” Why can’t you just apologize and admit that it was insensitive? Would you ever want anyone to say anything like this to one of our kids? Please don’t answer this, because I fear what your answer will even be. “I said it was very good.” Just not something I should be doing because it’s not “productive?” Because I’m not “good enough?” He puts on headphones refusing to discuss it any further.
I haven’t painted with watercolors in years and decided I wanted to pick them up again because they make me giddy. I am an artist and storyteller, and who knows what techniques I can learn, what experiences will add to and inform my next project or experience. Play, follow your bliss. Do what brings you joy and doors will open. Painting—actually, colors and creating and drawing more than painting—brings me joy, genuine joy. So, why would he say that?
Let me play along and pretend that I know why. Because, he might defend, this painting gets in the way of more productive activity, like writing, or anything that could actually contribute to this family as a whole, anything that could contribute to making HIS LIFE easier. I could take out the garbage, for example. Or stop “creating piles” for him to move everywhere.
I only paint on weekends and at night, but why do I need to make excuses and justifications for when and how and why I paint? I’m painting and creating and leaving a mark on this world. Why must he judge it harshly and say such things?
Remember that the creative artist should be nurtured and encouraged, treated kindly, not harshly. Otherwise, you risk shaming her into silence, into a creative block of fear. I would know. I can treat her just as harshly. But I want to befriend and stand up for her, and to tell you to please stop behaving as if you’re a lump of excrement whenever I’m excited about something.
Be kind to yourself, and continue to create, even in the face of those who see your days, and how you choose to spend them, as a waste of time. And continue to paint and play.
Materials Used (contains affiliate links):
Winsor & Newton Professional Water Color Tube Paints in the following colors (do NOT use Cotman brand):
Permanent Sap Green
HOLBEIN Bright Violet
YARKA ST. PETERSBURG ARTISTS’ WATERCOLOURS Yellow Ochre (This set is very reasonably priced and the quality is excellent)
Martin Mijello 33-well air-tight Water Color Palette
I do my mixing on a regular porcelain dinner plate because porcelain is best for seeing how colors will blend and look before they touch paper, whereas with plastic palettes the colors bead up, and you cannot see. Also, porcelain doesn’t stain.
Let me know if you want me to do a post on brushes. I use an assortment of Kolinsky, Red Sable, Synthetic, Blends, and have been experimenting with different brands and shapes based on what I’ve read on different botanical chat boards from Raphael to Isabey to Rekab and Escoda.
By The Book
Anna Mason’s The Modern Flower Painter is where I found the source photo and instructions for the techniques used in this Dahlia watercolor painting. Anna’s method is to first paint the highlights, then the darkest parts of the image, always painting from a photograph, rather than from still life. Many artists say this isn’t “real art,” but Anna Knights (AKA Anna Mason) has won the RHS Gold Medal (The Royal Horticultural Society), which is a very high honor.
Another book I love, which doesn’t use watercolor and instead uses color pencil is by another RHS Gold Medal Winner, Ann Swan: Botanical Portraits with Colored Pencils.