Just Give It Up, Already!

I believe it’s important for us to try many different things in art. Since I began my journey of discovery, I’ve explored many different media and have tried different subjects. I feel I’ve benefited from every attempt I’ve made at drawing and painting.

Still, I think there are times when we must accept the fact that we’re not able to do a particular thing — at least not at that particular time — and move on to something else. I’m been stuck in a difficult rut, you see, and I haven’t been able to dig myself out. A thought that comes to mind is that oft-repeated definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.Β 

What I’ve been working on are repeated attempts to create a personal version of May Morning, a watercolor by Aubrey Phillips.

May Morning (2)
May Morning – Watercolor by Aubrey Phillips

Correct me if I’m wrong — I probably am — but to me, this doesn’t look like an exceptionally difficult painting. Maybe part of my problem is that I didn’tΒ really study the painting before attempting my own version, and most likely part of my problem was that in some ways I feel as though I’ve painted this scene time and time before.

Consider how similar this is to one of my very first watercolors, painted back in 2016.

Woodland Scene — Watercolor painted in March 2016

Two years ago, during one of my plein air attempts at our city park, I used oils to paint a very similar scene.

Looking Toward the Lake — Oil painted in June 2018

Neither painting is very good, and I’d like to think that I could do better today, both with oil and with watercolor. That would be a lie, however, because over the last week I have repeatedly tried! Each successive attempt I’ve made seems to be worse.

Of course, I began by attempting to follow along with the guidance Aubrey Phillips gives in Watercolour Painting with Aubrey Phillips,Β the book I’m using as the basis of my 100-Day Creative Art Adventure. The results were not good, but being determined to complete a painting, I tried again. And again.

I was hoping that possibly “third time’s charm” might prove to be true. It wasn’t. The more I tried, the worse my paintings became.

At this point, I’ve lost track of the order in which these paintings were done, but just take a look at all these awful paintings!

I’ve tried a lot of different methods and approaches. More water. Less water. Different color mixes. Different watercolor paper. The more I tried painting this deceptively simple scene, the worse my paintings became.

Finally, I decided that “enough is enough,” and in this case, it’s more than enough. I should have pushed this project aside sooner rather than later and moved on to new adventures in my 100-Day Creative Art project.

This is one instance in which persistence did not pay off. I grew more and more frustrated with each attempt, which meant less and less likelihood of producing good results.

Later — much later — it will be fun to go back, look at these paintings again, and remember how I struggled with this woodland scene. Maybe later — much, much later — I’ll try painting it again.

But for now, thankfully, I’m just going to accept the fact that I can’t paint this quiet little scene of a spring morning in the woods. I’m going to give it up and go on to other paintings. About time, huh?




  1. To be honest, the original isn’t exactly inspiring to me. Sure doesn’t make me think of a May morning. I think you will hopefully look again at the bottom row, second and last one on that row, they are really nice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is exactly the problem I’m having with a lot of the Aubrey Phillips paintings. They’re just not inspiring to me. In fact, I was actually thinking of writing a blog post on that topic. Maybe I will!


  2. Theres the answer to your problem…you are trying too hard, and in doing so are losing the spontaneity of a fresh watercolour. If it were me I would put your reference away – and make a very quick sketch/s or some other subject from life….Janet:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I got very, very frustrated with this particular “assignment”. I was determined to complete it, but that’s not always the answer. I’m happy to report, though, that since writing that post my watercolor work has improved considerably. I’m not good at watercolor landscapes. I see that, and that’s all right. But I’m getting better at other things. πŸ™‚ You’ll be seeing more watercolor paintings coming up soon. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  3. For what it’s worth, I really like AB7, and both AB10 and AB6 have positive qualities. No, they don’t look like May Morning, but, honestly, I’m not that keen on that painting – the bottom third is lovely, but cover that up and the trees look like they belong in some post-apocalyptic landscape! I think you’re probably right when you say you didn’t study it closely enough, because all of your trees feel far more spring-like than Aubrey Phillips…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Yes, part of the problem is that I just don’t really care for Aubrey Phillips watercolor style. Still, I’m glad I’m studying his book and using it as a guide for a personal 100-day challenge because experiences like this one with “May Morning” are helping me understand more about my likes and dislikes, and how I want to evolve with watercolor. It’s definitely been a great learning experience — even when I get unsatisfactory results.


  4. The Aubrey Phillips painting looks like a forest fire is happening. Yours aren’t all smoky, and that’s better than the burnt look. It’s ok to give it a break and do another project any time you want to. A better teacher could give you a better start. I wish I could advise you but watercolor is difficult for me too. I took a couple classes years ago and I think you have the right idea, try more water, less water, different colors etc, but give it a break for a while if it’s frustrating.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was only this one particular painting that got to me. I was so determined to come up with something I liked… and I just couldn’t do it LOL. Fortunately my other watercolor projects are going just better. I really am learning a lot, and it’s starting to show. I think you’ll see some improvement in future paintings. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Looking at the brushstrokes at the top of the Aubrey painting it seems that is wet-on-dry – from the hard edges. I think the wet sky was brought down all the way and the trees put in in varying stages of the sky drying, rear ones first, and that there was some rewetting esp of the left ones (or maybe that area was wetter). The foreground I think went in when all was dry. In your examples grouped at the bottom it looks like they were mostly done wet-in-wet, hence the trees running soft, except the bottom right it looks like you were all wet-in-dry there. Your 2016 one seems more wet-on-dry and you used way more pigment. Now I’m really curious as to how close I can come to the Aubrey, I’ve downloaded the image and will give it a go, but won’t be until the weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good luck! A big part of my problem is that even with the “explanations” Phillips gives in his book, I can’t quite figure out what different techniques he used to get the results he did. Of course, that’s largely a matter of practice, I’m sure, but my objective ultimately isn’t to copy his style or develop a similar one. I want to take what I’m learning and go on to find my own unique style. Trying to copy his paintings is just one more step in the process, and sometimes it’s challenging. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, I see I can’t post pics here. I put it up on a back page on my website. http://skyscapesforthesoul.com/jpgs/may-morning-bate.jpg Must admit I had more struggles than I thought I would with wet vs. dry; in my defence it’s 80 in here and 38% humidity (it’s 1% humidity outside!) and I have the fan on in addition to the a/c cycling, so the environment wasn’t helping. I am looking again though at your AB10(2) and you were quite close there. Another thing that might give you differences to struggle with is paper. I’m using some leftover Fabriano on a different project – it behaves quite differently than my usual Strathmore. There’s like zero rewet/lifting on the Fabriano.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I recently got a small pack of Strathmore “hot press” paper. It’s for the next “live lesson” class series at The Virtual Instructor. I plan to use a bit of it for other watercolor projects, too, just to see how different it is.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh, that’s lovely! I’ll have to check my blog settings. I didn’t realize you couldn’t post images in the comments. You did an excellent job on the foreground. It’s all very nice!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. In your little montage group, the leftmost lower painting is really quite good. It’s free-flowing, the colors swell and recede, they all mix well together, nothing looks stilted or strained, The trees are repetitive without looking repetitive. I could be wrong, but I bet that’s the one you gave the least “how do I do this” thought to while you were painting it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmmm… I think that montage randomly resets each time it’s viewed, so I can’t be sure which one you’re looking at. But, I bet you’re probably right. πŸ™‚


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