The beginning of the year can be a bit of a slog when it comes to creativity. We've just come out of the most stimulating time of the year (the holidays) where color, dazzle, energy, and excitement abound.
It's gray outside. (still).
All matter of precipitation is falling, the wind is blowing.
It's cold inside.
Energy is lower.
Motivation to create can be harder to come by.
However, this is a great time of year to dive into painting, watercolor, or art projects that either a) you've put off for a while and they demand a bit more focus and concentration or b) re-energize your art and creativity practice.
This article focuses on the latter type of projects: the watercolor and other art projects that are simple, helping to "prime the pump" to get the ideas and rhythms of creativity going.
Priming the pump is a saying from the 1800s. Priming the pump referred to a process of creating pressure to draw water in and move it to another place. The pump was moved up and down, up and down, up and down until the water rose up from the source and was pumped out into the faucet. Without the physical exertion of getting the pump flowing to overcome the existing pressure, one would never get water.
The same kind of situation happens to us. Ideas don't usually come in a vacuum (at least not for me). They often come when we are in some sort of rhythm of creating, even a simple one.
This month, I've been doing projects that don't take up as much brain power, are fairly fast, and are helping me to think about the bigger painting projects I want to dive into later this year. Even though floral painting is still the main focus, there are some non-painting projects as well.
Prime the Pump with Collage
For example, I share the collage canvas I created a few weeks back. As I cut my way through magazines while watching a movie, I didn't pay too much attention trying to get a certain color scheme. Instead, everything that attracted me I cut out and put in a pile. Then, after laying everything out, I re-grouped the words and pictures is an odd sort of bouquet-shaped collage on a canvas board.
Collage is a wonderful way to get creative, especially if you aren't really feeling it right now. There is not a lot of intent focus involved – a grace sometimes - and the end result can be quite surprising. It's a fun way to do a bit of practical dreaming about the year ahead.
The collage doesn't have to be applied on a canvas. Posterboard, cardboard or anything flat that will take an adhesive will work!
Priming the Pump #2 Painting Lots of Small Watercolors (4x6 inch)
Another fun project for the winter is to paint small. We've all bundled under sweaters and snuggles and blankets anyways and painting large pieces seems to be too much effort sometimes.
Painting small pieces not only is easier, but the satisfaction from finishing gives a few of these pieces is just as rewarding as a large piece.
I feel like I say this all the time, but the mini pieces really do make lovely gifts and additions in snail mail. Lots of people feel a bit down this time of year. It's encouraging to go out to the mailbox and discover someone has sent you a card with a sweet piece of art!
Priming the Pump #3 - Paint with only 2-3 Colors
Use clean colors in January. Instead of mixing things up, use the colors "as they are" on the palette for a very vibrant, "clean" new year look. In these paintings, I chose colors that were bright, even a bit "cold" for a vivid contrast.
(See video at the top of the article!)
Prime the Pump #4- Paint a Whimsical Wreath with the Word of the Year
This is a twist on the 'word of the year' idea. I created a very, very simple, whimsical wreath with a micron pen. Then I painted over it with watercolor, let it dry, then added in my words of the year.
This could be a fun project to write out a poem or bible verses on each of the trailing twigs, blowing in the breeze. I added more pen details on after the paint dried to create another layer of whimsy and the sense of the branches gently moving in the breeze.
Of course, this is a fun project all by itself without words. I can see recreating it with different colored buds and backgrounds, soft yellow, tangerine, lavender, blue to create a collection of budding branches and whimsical wreaths. It speaks of the promise of spring without going into full bloom mood. We aren't there quite yet 😊
Prime the Pump #5 - Paint Partial Flowers
Masking tape is one of the best tools in an artist's toolbox, yet it gets very little credit for its usefulness. Tape creates clean borders, keeps paper from buckling and ...turns a regular floral painting into something different and intriguing.
Take tape and lay it about a third of the way down the paper. I use a 4x6 inch piece of 140 lb. watercolor paper, so it's about three quarters to one inch down the page. Do the same with the tap on the bottom. It gives you about two to three inches of paper to work with.
Paint a flower – I use a hydrangea here- but paint it as if you had the space covered up with the tape.
This gives about a 2/3 view of the flower. Use the colors in the bloom to make some splatters on the top white portion of the white paper. Pretty, right?
It's a bit unusual, which catches the eye as well. I made a few of these. They were easy and fun, especially when I mixed colors that created a lovely harmony on the paper.
What to do more of these fast and enjoyable floral projects?
You might enjoy my "Free and Fantastic Floral Couse."
It's a watercolor course full of creating lovely flowers with splatter art. There's very little sketching involved, so it's not for those who love the detail work of sketching out the flower. You can read more about the course – and the flowers we create- here
I hope these projects encourage you to dive into some creating during these cold winter months. Painting is a wonderful way to relax the body and mind and generate ideas and thoughts about the coming year.
If you'd like to see more watercolor floral projects, check out the YouTube channel here.