Staying in the land of the comfortable and familiar, even in our hobbies, is dangerously easy.
However, the familiar can get a bit dull.
Even though I tend not to be a terribly adventurous person, I find myself looking for new ways to grow. This desire to try new techniques and subject matters means I will inevitably create paintings that are an absolute disaster!
But I've learned not to mind the disasters so much. It's all part of the process
I forget who said, "fail faster," but it's a very helpful guide.
Earlier this year, I decided to jump into a month of painting mountains, something I have not done much of.
Some of the paintings were recorded in a paint-with-me style on YouTube (links below to each video). The goal was to "fail fast," and learn some new techniques.
Here are five things I learned:
1. You don't need a lot of colors to create landscape and mountainscape paintings.
I started off with painting sweeping mountain-scapes with blue skies scattered with cloud using only two to three blues and greens. Even though I practice a limited palette, I'm not usually that limited. To my surprise, a few colors can produce surprising results.
Not only did using a few colors produce surprising lovliness, but there was a lot of different variety in each of the paintings, even though the same colors were used.
2. Patience is important in watercolor, especially in creating more complex paintings.
As spring is on the horizon, I was impatient to incorporate flowers into some of these paintings. BUT, with all the wetness of the wet-on-wet style of painting that was being done, I was not going to be able to add flowers without either a) letting the initial layer dry and coming back later or 2) create a very messy flower field!
Option A was decided on. Several evenings, I would come and add more splatters of flowers to this painting. I would spend fifteen minutes or so creating flowers and stems, then let it dry and create additional layers. The result was worth it.
3. Don't be afraid of adding very dark colors into watercolor.
Confession: I've had a fear of payne's gray for years.
It's such a dark color. Often it can come in and overwhelm the other colors OR trickle into other parts of the painting, creating a dark, muddy, mess.
In the Lonely Mountain painting (inspired by the mountain of the same name in the Hobbit), I added paynes gray to the blue and brown to create the distinct contrast of the dark painting against the sunrise.
Once the initial fear passed, it was quite fun to create the contrast. I often tell others, "don't be afraid to go bold with you color." Now I can say, perhaps not with as much confidence (but I'm getting there), "don't be afraid to go dark to create dramatic atmosphere."
4. Micron pen fixes many mistakes and errors.
Many times, the sky and mountain would merge as the wet areas of paint danced too close together. (I'm still learning lesson #2 about patience in painting!).
Using a bit of micron pen to add a light sketch helped distinguish earth from sky and bring clarity in paintings that were murky.
Also, one can go back over the pen with a bit of watercolor to blur the ink and create more of a watercolor-y feel. Micron pens remain one of my favorite tools when creating!
5. Focusing on a new skill exclusively is a fast way to grow.
If you are wanting to grow in an area, I encourage you to focus on it exclusively for a while. It doesn't have to be terribly long.
The focus of attention, practice and mental energy on one thing for a determined amount of time can bring significant growth.
Things get fun when we move from total newbie to having some competence in an area. Our confidence grows and we don't have to feel like we're moving so terribly carefully, trying to learn bit by bit.
I don't mind the newbie part. It's fun to go step by step through the new recipe, a new home décor project, learning a new painting technique. But the fun increases by a lot when I move past the newbie stage and start to feel the freedom growth provides.
If you would like to stay connected to the new things I'm painting and paint along with me, subscribe to The Creative Season YouTube channel. We're starting off painting a TON of spring flowers. I'm so excited to paint poppies, tulips, peonies, daffodils, wildflowers, and so much more!