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Watercolor Failures

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As noted in a previous post, I've been working on re-learning watercolor painting. To be honest, I'm not really sure I ever really "knew" watercolor painting in the first place, having been mentally configured for oil painting since my teens.

My efforts were sporadic up until a few weeks ago when I decided it was time to get serious about it.

A few years back, I had the crazy idea of selling matted art prints, and ordered a shit-ton (that is the actual term, it had a box to check and everything) of pre-cut 8" x 10" mattes with a 4.5" x 5" window. With that hefty inventory of mattes, deciding on a size for my watercolor failures was a no-brainer. I paint these failures at that specific size, just in case I accidentally create something worthy.

I doubt I'll ever be a traditional watercolorist. In my paintings, you never see beautiful washes that blend from one color into another, luminous white spaces, or luscious brushstrokes that sparkle with life. My style (at least whatever mediocre substitute for a style I seem to be developing) is nothing like what most people think of with watercolor.

I tend to start with washes, then go back and re-work the areas again and again, sometimes adding paint, sometimes lifting up paint, until I'm happy with the result.

In other words, I bully the painting, metaphorically beating the paper with lead pipe cruelty and (occasional) foul language until it gives up and complies with my demands.

Perhaps a watercolor teacher would be shocked at my methods, but I'm not trying to impress a teacher for a grade. What I'm doing is finding my way of painting. I suspect my current method is mostly due to my insecurity with the medium, and that as I gain more confidence, the paintings will appear more spontaneous and, hopefully, better.

So here are three of my latest failures. They are really just studies at this point. I name all of these early studies "failures" before I even begin because 1) at this point in my development, nearly all of them aren't very good, and 2) accepting that the painting will be a failure eliminates the pressure to be perfect; it essentially gives me permission to experiment and learn from my mistakes.

And now, on to the failures!

Steve at 60

About the Author

Topdog is the online persona of Steve Merryman, a retired graphic designer, illustrator, and winner of over ninety regional and national awards. Living in the woods just west of Idaho (USA), Steve can often be found working on pet portrait commissions. His spare time is spent painting; writing; cuttin' trees an' shootin' guns; hiking with his dogs; savoring the occasional beer; searching for the perfect cheeseburger; and wondering where he left his pants.

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