Some Watercolor Philosophy

This isn’t really an exercise, but I think it’s important to mention at the outset because if there is one single thing that will help you progress quickly, it’s this!

Lose the Perfectionism!

It is absolutely understandable that when we are striving to learn something new, we want from the outset to do it right and avoid acquiring bad habits. It follows then that we quickly develop the notion that if we can exert enough control over what we are doing, we can do it right, including making corrections if we think we’ve made mistakes. (NOW PAY ATTENTION TO THIS!): In watercolor, an overly developed desire for perfection is the one thing you want to let go of ASAP! This means that when you paint, you will probably have to restrain an almost irresistible urge to go “over and over” your strokes in an effort to “improve” your work. In watercolor that doesn’t work!

Watercolor is the only painting medium where applying your paint is just the beginning. This is because once you put paint on your paper, it will start doing a dance. Water and paint move around when they are wet. Sometimes—no, often!—you will think, this looks bad. I don’t like it! I want to fix it! Resist this urge with all your might! Face the fact that you can’t control what the paint and water want to do together! And that’s the beauty of it!

That said, however, you can certainly use your water, paper, and paint strategically to give them a chance to produce the effects you want. And this is where many hours of learning and practice comes in. You can learn lots of strategies, and with experience and your own adventurous experimentation, you will learn how your paint behaves! And it gets a lot easier to resist the perfectionist in you!