Half-Way Home

Today marks the half-way point in my 100-day creative adventure. I should be half-way home. I’m not, though, because some “projects” are taking longer than others. My initial plan for this adventure, as I’m calling it, was to read, study, and follow along with one page of Watercolour Painting with Aubrey Phillips each day. I’m trying to re-create each of the paintings he shows in the book, and doing that sometimes means spending two or three days on one watercolor.

Of course the most important element of any artistic challenge, I believe, is not how much work we produce, but the overall results we achieve in terms of improved skills, new insights, and increased knowledge. Good challenges should inspire us, not leave us feeling as though we’re falling behind or are in some other way failing to meet the requirements. Although challenges like the 100-Day Project, the 30 x 30 Direct Watercolor Challenge, Inktober, and others generally have guidelines to follow and may even offer a prompt list for participants, all challenges are self-challenges. We’re not competing with anyone else. We’re using the challenge as a means by which we can push ourselves a bit, perhaps try new things, and — if we choose to do so — to share our art with others who are part of the same challenge.

At this point in my adventure, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve definitely improved my skill with watercolor, although I am still only a rank beginner. I’ve created a number of paintings, some more successful than others. Some you’ve already seen; others you’ll be seeing in upcoming posts; still others were deemed lost causes and you won’t be seeing them at all. Some that you will see — such as my attempts at painting May Morning should probably have been relegated to that lost cause category.

So far, I’ve completed the following paintings:

Spring Sunshine

Evening Storm

Dartmoor Landscape

Light over the Moelwyns

View near Abergavenny

Cardigan Bay

Cottage on Dartmoor

May Morning

That’s quite an impressive list, really, even if the paintings themselves aren’t all that impressive.

In the chapters I’ve gone over, I’ve learned about tools and materials, color, techniques, perspective, and composition.

Now I’ll be moving on to topics such as seeing with an artist’s eye, atmosphere, sunlight, shadow, weather, mood, distance, space and skies. These are all important elements to consider when we’re painting, regardless of the medium we use.

So far, what I’ve enjoyed most was painting Evening Storm, not only because of the results I obtained with the painting, but because it helped me begin building — and understanding — my own personal watercolor process.

  • Create a preliminary sketch for understanding shapes and values
  • Lightly draw the basic shapes on my watercolor paper
  • Lay in the initial washes and LET THE PAGE DRY
  • Work slowly each day to paint different areas, to deepen colors, to make subtle blends of colors
  • Finally, add in necessary little details

But then, no sooner had I come up with this process than along came the 30 x 30 Direct Watercolor Challenge, asking me to try approaching watercolor in an entirely different way.

So, watercolor has definitely become an adventure for me. There’s so much to learn!

As for my 100-day project, it’s likely going to take me a little longer than 100 days. That’s all right. I’m not on any strict timeline here. Again, keeping up is not the most important thing. Even making it to the finish line might not necessarily be all that important in the overall scheme of things. Art challenges are designed to push us, to give us feelings of satisfaction if and when we complete them. But even if we fall short, we still benefit from the work we’ve accomplished.

I’m not going to rush ahead in an attempt to catch up to where I should be at the end of these fifty days, because,  you know what…? I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I’m learning what I need to know, I’m enjoying watercolor, and I’m growing day by day.

I like being here. I like where I am as an artist, and I like where I’ve been. I like where I’m going, too.

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