What Is It?

“What is it?”

Those are the three little words no artist ever wants to hear, especially one who’s still relatively new to the art journey. In other words, especially ME!

Usually my husband is my biggest fan, and each day I eagerly show him whatever art project I’ve done while he’s been away at work. Recently, however, when I proudly showed him this pastel piece, I was greeted with a puzzled look and those three awful words!

“What is it?”

It's rocks and a waterfall! Is it really so awful that you can't tell?
                                         It’s rocks and a waterfall! Is it really so awful that you can’t tell?

Now, in my husband’s defense, I have to say that he has trouble distinguishing certain colors. In this particular pastel piece, the colors are a bit muted. And I should point out that I had a little trouble while drawing this. The waterfall was supposed to be going over more of the rocks, but in the reference photo — this was from a lesson at The Virtual Instructor — I was having problems figuring out exactly what was rock and what was water, so maybe it is hard to tell exactly what this is. Oh, and those are leaves and bushes in the background…in case you can’t tell that either.

I really didn’t think the picture was so awful. I rather liked it, in fact. At least I did until my husband came home. Now, every time I look at it, I ask myself again, “Is it really that bad?”

Look at the soft blue water. Look at the waterfall splashing over the rocks. It’s not all bad!

Of course, once I pointed out the rocks and the water, my husband nodded, and I know that was meant to appease me, but all the while I could still see that look in his eyes. He still couldn’t see it.

Not everyone sees things the way we do, and sometimes our work might not be recognizable. I guess that’s one of the lessons we all have to learn at some point on our artistic journey. I just hope I never have to hear those three little words again.



  1. I’m sorry to say this but, you will hear “What is it?” again. My husband says it to me all the time, but he is not an artist nor does he have an artists eye. Think of someone asking the question, “What is it?” as a teaching moment. To me I love it when someone says it to me. It gives me a chance to talk about my art and show what I love about my art: the colors, highlights, shadows, this area or that area. It is also showing that the person asking is interested in understanding your art as opposed to saying “That’s nice!” When you are learning something new give yourself permission to be a newbie, because you only get to be a newbie once. Enjoy the process not dwell on what others think.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Excellent advice! Thank you so much for sharing it with me. Yes, those three little words sort of “deflated” me a bit LOL. When I’m with children, I use the trick of saying “Tell me about the picture” instead of bluntly asking “What is it?” My husband does have problems seeing colors…his world is almost entirely black and white. It’s always a little disappointing to me to realize he can’t really “see” what I’m drawing and painting unless the colors are very, very bright. I do try to find something good in even my worst drawings. Maybe it’s only one little bush or a particular shadow, but if I can find one thing I like, I consider a drawing a success. I do learn from every drawing I do.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree, excellent advice from Jade. Sometimes I think that I have gone far enough in depticting a painting and then call it done, I do this all the time. I’ll bring a painting up to a certain finish and then get feedback and (always my husband) I’ll get either excitement or a so-so response. Then I focus so much on the lackadaisal response and wonder what’s wrong. It isn’t until later that I realize that I have an underpainting or that I am close to a finished painting. I need to take it further with bringing out what is already there. Sometimes a painting needs is a little more definition or shadowing and after viewing it several days later or a week I’ll see the fact that I didn’t go far enough with it. Of course I have a tendency to “noodle” a painting to death but I think you probably get my point. To me your painting has an excellent beginning and even middle and perhaps you need more definition and “pop”. Getting into the swing of things and maturing that artist eye takes work and giving yourself a break from having to getting it just so. It is all part of the process, learn to flow in the process and don’t forget to relax and breathe. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love your insights, especially the part about remembering to relax and breathe. Creating art can be an intense experience — in a good way — but even so, we can’t let it overwhelm us. I’ve found myself doing that many times, and like you, I will keep “noodling”, always thinking I need to do something more. What I really need, of course, is to set the drawing or painting aside, step away from it — relax, breathe — and then view it later from a more objective perspective. I’m so glad you’ve come to join me here on my journey. I look forward to more of your insights.

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  3. to be honest, I really like This One!!
    I knew exactly what it was. I loved the gorgeous soft edges! you did not over kill with too many Hard sharp edges all over the place. great foliage colors, have a look at John Singer Sargent (famous master watercolorist!!) Edward Seago, JW Turner, ….. their work is balanced with soft edges.
    Good work Judith. cheers, debi

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Debi. I’m really enjoying pastels, and I’m learning a little more each day. I’ve had fun discovering each different medium. I’m not familiar with Edward Seago, so thank you for mentioning him. I’ll check out his work.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I looked him up yesterday. He’s taught the royal family, I noticed. I loved his work. As you said, it’s stunning. I’m definitely in awe. Thank you again for telling me about him. I want to learn more about him and his art now.

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      2. Coincidence! I just picked up the latest issue of Watercolor Artist, was browsing the Watermedia Showcase, and the first artist listed mentioned Edward Seago. I felt so “in the know” thanks to you 🙂 Other artists mentioned were Thomas Girtin, John Sell Cotman, and William Henry Hunt. I’ve heard of Cotman, but the other two are new to me. So…I’m off to browse online and discover more great artworks.

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  4. The movement, the flow of water is lovely–the muted focus almost dissolves into sound… synesthesia.
    I can hear it–as I would hear a rippling stream.

    And the answer to that question is– it’s a pastel! A painting–even when there’s a represented subject, it’s about what it is: colors and forms and lines and tones on a surface, and only incidentally what it suggests out there in the world beyond the painting. The exception, I suppose, would be purely conceptual art–else, why the bother of putting it on paper or canvas?. For myself, I see little meaningful difference between ‘representative’ and abstract art, in how one enjoys them. The need to identify a subject is about control, ownership of the image, not about the art. I think that’s why ‘the question’ is so confusing–especially for new artists. It’s like being mugged–robbed of the thing that you’ve made. A denial of what it is… and of you as an artist.

    Keep doing what gives you pleasure. It’s all that matters.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for visiting. I like the way you spoke of “being mugged”… good way to describe the experience. I know that finding pleasure is the key for me in art, but sometimes I let that slip away. I appreciate the reminder. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for the follow – and yes – I knew what it was – it really isn’t ‘that bad’! I think that if you go back to the reference photo and look at what differences you can find between the photo and the painting, you will perhaps see parts that could be a little more like the original. Having said that I believe pastel is a very vague medium – I don’t use it, though occasionally do chalking on the streets and I know that a firm line is so difficult. Ask your husband what differences he can see and perhaps it will help you both.
    A piece of advice given to me by an early painting teacher – it’ doesn’t have to be exact, it just has to be believable. And this painting is certainly believable. At least I think to most of us.

    Liked by 1 person

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