Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Another experiment - this time, watercolor

I just read a post by Rose Welty about the Importance of Failure. She is absolutely right. Many years ago, I would have considered the piece above a failure because it did not come out looking like I wanted it to. Half way through I decided to turn it into more of a children's book illustration than the soft watercolor that I was going for. To be honest, I was actually going for this kind of look from Cathy's Watercolors.

Even though I failed in my attempt to create my original goal, I still managed to create an image that isn't half bad. But the most important thing is that I learned many things from working on this. I wish I could explain the things that I learned, but I really can't. It is more of a feel for the medium than anything else.

All of my life I have been taught the importance of practice practice practice. And it is true, you can never truly be great at something unless you practice. When I was a kid in band I had to practice my trumpet at least an hour a day. I was supposed to work on scales. The problem is, scales are boring. I have the same problem now. Art practice is boring. Drawing the same thing over and over again is extremely difficult for me because I feel like I am getting nowhere. Yeah, I know what you are going to say, "You are getting somewhere, you are getting more proficient." This is true, but in my mind, if I am not actually working on a project of some sort I feel like it is a waste of time. I know it isn't, but that is just the way it feels to me. So, that means that my 'practice' is actually working on complete pieces.

Let me give you an example of a time that I simply tried to practice and failed. I had painted a dragon that I really wasn't that happy with. One of the things that bugged me was the eye. I really didn't like the fact that all I did was sort of hint that there was an eye there. So, I thought I would 'practice' drawing dragon eyes. I finished drawing the eye and it inspired me to complete this mechanical pencil drawing:

So, it was no longer just a practice piece. It was suddenly a complete piece on it's own. The problem with it was that I really liked it. But it wasn't in color. So, I got out my Prismas and went to work. This is the end result:

Is it perfect? Not by a long shot. But it was fun and I enjoyed it so much that it became the cover of our first book.

So, what is my point in all of this? I'm not sure I had one. I think I am simply reminding myself that everything I do with art should be enjoyable. It should be fun and I should love every second of it. Otherwise, why do it?

The flower at the top of this entry isn't a failure, even though I technically failed to get the result I wanted. What it was, was practice, just like the dragon eye. And I had fun doing it. So, as I close this entry, I raise a glass to one more successful failure.....Huzza !!!!


Rose Welty said...

Good perspective Michael...and good perspective on your "slump" too. Hang in there, you will find your way with watercolors. It is a discouraging aspect of being an artist when you can see exactly what you want in your head and then the translation out the arm all falls apart. And you are right, the flower as illustration is lovely - (exactly the sort of thing that I seem to be incapable of doing - so well done!)

Jeanette gave you some good advice about slumps...for me, I just ask myself "what do I really want" and then make a list of steps to get there (clearly I am a perpetually goal-driven individual :D) I can't be "non-directional" for too long, I get "stuck". Doubt that helps, but that is what works for me.

Lilly said...

Thanks Rose. Encouragement always helps. There are actually many things that have contributed to the slump that I am in. Part of it is that I am in a situation where I feel kind of trapped, you know what I mean? I am an extremely free spirit and feeling trapped is a bad thing for me.

So, we are making plans now that will get us out of that "trap." Just the act of making plans helps a great deal.

cathyswatercolors said...

I love the flower the center is very detailed. I am going to risk it too. I am heading down to the river to try some plein air painting... this will be interesting. I am going to be brave and post my results. YIKEs