Toward the end of last month, I shared my whimsical watercolor based on Mary Cassatt’s painting, The Child’s Bath.
I loved doing this quick, anything-goes version of one of my favorite paintings, and there was a purpose behind it. For me, it was all about exploring the mood of the painting, understanding how Mary Cassatt created this peaceful, intimate scene.
Much of the project involved simple observation — looking at Cassatt’s image and questioning everything I saw. I observed my own whimsical version, too, not for comparison’s sake, but because there are qualities in the painting I love, elements I hope I can capture again in other paintings.
I also painted and repainted the image several times without drawing it out first. I wanted the fun and freedom of making all those gentle, curving strokes, of putting down those soft, delicate colors, to play with it all and, in time, to gain some understanding of how it all worked.
Here are three images I created:
Viewing these from right to left — yes, I tend to always do things backward — my first “loose watercolor” felt awkward and stiff. My paints were too dry, the colors too noisy. This wasn’t the effect I wanted. With the center painting, my second, I went too far in the other direction. I loved the looseness in the way the watercolors floated over the page, but the essential feeling of the painting seemed to have floated away, too. Lovely colors, a loose feeling, but not what I wanted. Finally, I painted the third version — the one on the left.
Here I began to develop my own ideas and interpretations a bit. I was happy with the way my lines curved around the central figures, uniting them in what I saw as almost an “egg” shape. I loved the soft “glow” of color that surrounds the figures, and I like the repeated oval shapes. I liked this painting. I felt satisfied that I had learned from it. I enjoyed experiencing the qualities I like in the original Child’s Bath painting, and finding my own way of expressing those ideas.
Of course I played with the image a bit more.
It was fun to play, and I like seeing how the inverted colors give an entirely new feeling to the painting.
What I most enjoyed in this project was the experience — first, I gained experience as an artist, experience in using watercolor. That’s experience as a noun.
But experience is also a verb in the English language, and this project allowed me to experience Mary Cassatt’s painting in new ways, and then to experience many of those same feelings in my own art.
In short, I loved this project, and I will treasure the experience of it forever.