Breaking Up Is Not So Hard to Do

Yesterday I painted a very simple watercolor landscape as part of my 100-day creative art adventure. As you know, I’m following along page by page, day by day, with a watercolor book written by Aubrey Phillips. I bought the book back in 2016 when I first began playing around with watercolors. I’d seen a few of Phillips paintings and had fallen in love with them.

Or so I thought. Once I received Watercolour Painting with Aubrey Phillips and saw more of his work, I realized that what I’d felt had been a mere infatuation and that it had quickly faded away. In short, I did not like his watercolors at all.

Well, I did like his skies, especially the colors in his skies. This was what I’d seen in those first paintings. This was what had caught my attention and led me to believe I was falling in love.

Now, having worked my way through the first few chapters of his book on watercolor, I’ve come to accept that Aubrey Phillips and I have irreconcilable differences. While I was never married to his particular style, had I been, it would be time to set divorce proceedings in motion. His style is not my style. While there are a few of his paintings I like, for the most part I don’t like his watercolors, and I don’t want to paint like him.

For what it’s worth — not much, seriously — here are two recent landscapes from my project.

Scan Test (2)

This untitled painting was based on Summer Landscape by Phillips. His painting is beautiful in its own way; mine is not. Mine is simply a sorry attempt to create a watercolor in someone else’s style.

And yesterday’s project based on his View of Lake Bala:

Distant Lake

Again, his painting is lovely. Mine is simply a mess of indistinct shapes and colors and some little blob of green pretending to be a tree. Even my skies are messy, and that’s mostly because at this point in the project, I’ve come to realize two important truths:

  1. I don’t like Aubrey Phillips style of watercolor painting.
  2. I don’t yet have a style of my own.

You might well be wondering why I’m doing this project based on an artist whose watercolor style I dislike. I talked about this before, mentioning how I tend to make random choices in art, and that’s how I chose this book for my project.

Upon choosing it, I knew from the start that I did not want to copy his style. This was, in fact, one of the reasons why I decided to work with the book. I knew that because I don’t like his watercolor style, I would come to the point where I would have to begin developing my own style. I knew I would become uncomfortable trying to imitate his art and that I would be forced to examine that all-important question: what is my style?

I don’t have a watercolor style. I don’t even know what I want to do with watercolor or why I want to do it. It’s been a fun learning process, and I have learned a lot. But I still haven’t found a style of my own.

Why dating analogies are coming to mind, I don’t know, but having now divorced myself from any pretentions of loving Aubrey Phillips and his style, I’m ready to start meeting new styles, maybe going out and about with a few, maybe imaginatively having dinner with a style that catches my eyes. Yes, I’m ready to start dating again.

So, like a modern-day woman signing up on an online dating site, I’m going to be browsing the internet, too, looking for possible matches to my artistic tastes and sensibilities. I want to find a watercolor style that lets me walk along quiet pathways through misty woodlands, a style that speaks softly and gently, a style that loves skies of all colors, trees in all seasons, and lots of cool shadows.

Sometimes I can imagine what my style would look like — if only I knew how to create it!

That’s what I’ll be working on now as I complete this 100-day adventure. I won’t be attempting to copy or even emulate or imitate any of the paintings by Aubrey Phillips. Instead, I’ll be taking his subject ideas and interpreting them in my own way, seeing his scenes with my eyes, not his. I’ll be using my techniques — such as they are — to create my skies, using my colors to paint not what Aubrey Phillips put on his paper, but what I feel in my heart.

This is why I chose to work with his book. I knew we would inevitably come to a parting of the ways. This, my friends, will be the most exciting, most difficult, but most rewarding part of this creative adventure. Wish me well.




  1. Glad you answered this because I have been wondering why on earth you would spend so much time copying paintings you don’t like. You don’t have to like an instructor’s paintings to learn, I have a book by Tom Hoffmann, I’m not interested in what he paints, but the instruction, for me, answers a need, I just apply the instruction to my own things. And that is something I have learned, I can be inspired by somebody, but that doesn’t mean their instruction is actually that good or that I even want to paint in that way (give it a try and think, no, not for me). I don’t know the book but guess that Aubrey Phillips is probably old school instruction which is often not that great. Just have fun finding what you like, there is so much out there. Even learning what you don’t like and ways you don’t want to paint are great things to learn. And your own style will come out, it is as inevitable as your handwriting being yours. I don’t think it is that much about your style of painting, it is more about finding your way of looking at the world.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Definitely our painting reflects our way of looking at the world, and with my oil painting I can feel a lot of myself “coming through” in what I paint. I can see my thoughts, my moods, my likes, my memories, and maybe that’s one more reason why I love oil painting so much. It’s all different for me with watercolor. Other than choosing colors, I don’t yet know how to “express myself” with watercolor, so it’s definitely a process of looking at the world in new ways. As I browse around and see so many different ways of using watercolors, I love a lot of what I see, but I know, too, that I don’t want to paint in a similar style. Other times I see watercolors and think “Oh, I wish I could do that!” but when I try, I see that I don’t yet know the right techniques to use. So it’s very much trial and error, and figuring out what I don’t like — as with the Aubrey Phillips paintings — has been an important part of this adventure. The more I learn, the more I’ll move toward “my personal style” — and you’ll be seeing watercolors coming up in future posts that show the direction I’m going. 🙂


  2. I never found my style until I had tried painting in lots of different styles. It’s an important part of the process, so don’t feel at all down about it. You’ll take something from his style you can use, as you will from others. And all of these different ways of painting will come together into your own style.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, and it makes changing media an interesting experience. Sort of like playing music in a different key or writing in a different language. Each alters our viewpoint.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I love sloppy skies, and I love creating them in watercolor. Maybe you want to try it? Just put down a nice juicy layer of blue where your sky is going to go, then take a natural sponge and start lifting the color off. The edges between white and blue will merge creating the nicest delicate borders. You have to use real sponge, though, which you can get from any art store. Different sponges of different sizes will create different effects. It’s lots of fun, and nobody will ever know you “cheated” by not using brush unless you spill the beans yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do have some sea sponges in my watercolor supply cabinet. I’ve also used bits of tissue in the past to create “cloud-like” areas. I tend to go overboard with water and often end up with colors so light that they’re virtually non-existent. I guess I need to play more with adding pigments and creating “sloppy skies”. Watercolor is definitely fun to play with. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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