Watercolor painting is a lot of fun, but over the past few years, I’ve come to realize that whatever I produce follows no rules. Sure there are things I do like wash my brushes, mix my paints, don’t add too much water, and on and on, but learning for me comes when I make a bunch of mistakes.
Learning with Tutorials
I’ve been doing some flower tutorials on Creative Bug and while I love seeing the instructor paint and give tips, the outcome of mine is always drab and something I’m not proud of. I try to follow her instructions, but I just end up with something completely lame. “It’s simple” she says. Umm, not really. I wanted my flowers to look like hers, but instead I got some weird attempt that looks like a Kindergartner made it.
Same thing happens when I go to one of those painting classes with friends. I just don’t like how my stuff turns out. I think it’s because I’m such a rebel. I don’t like other people telling me how to be artistic. And I also don’t like people looking at me while I’m painting. It’s unnerving. The last time I took one of those painting classes with friend, I left with a complex. The instructor walked by mine and said “oh no” and then told me how to fix it.
Another time, I went to one of those ceramic painting places and I felt so uninspired. I painted one of those spoon holders you put on your stove so that the ladels don’t make a mess on your appliances. I have no idea what it’s actually called. But I painted it turquoise on top, orange on the bottom and put dots on the wide part of the spoon. My friends were painting fruit and peacocks and whatever else their creative brains could think of and I was painting dots. Wow. I just don’t get inspired in those places and what works for me, might not work for others.
I prefer to get ideas from other artistic places like Etsy or Pinterest. I might find an idea, but I don’t replicate it exactly. Instead, I become inspired by it. This was the case on a project I took on for friend. She wanted me to make a hand lettered print for her Mom’s birthday. I saw this print on Etsy:
I liked the floral border, not so much the hand lettering. So that was my idea–to add a border to the side. But what ended up happening is I added flowers to both sides. The flowers are similar in some ways to this print, but also very different. I hand lettered the print using a little help from a template I made as a guide. (If you ever have to do something on a large scale, try taping it up on a window or glass door then put your watercolor paper over that and lightly trace it out as a guide–worked great for me on this project).
The result, after trying to fix some flaws and getting frustrated, was this:
This was done completely in watercolors and watercolor markers (for the hand lettering and outlining). I loved how it turned out. It’s bright and cheery and balanced. I love that the flowers frame the words instead of just being on one side. Although I used the Etsy image as a sort of template, I didn’t copy it. Instead, it inspired me to get creative.
Other Places of Inspiration
Art can inspire us, but so can the outdoors. I like looking at the colors of flowers in my yard and trying to imagine how I’d mix the paint to get that exact color. Or looking at the shadows on the flowers and envisioning how I’d paint that. This process to me is much more fun than having an instructor tell me how to do it.
Here’s a quote that resonates with me:
Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
I’ve learned a lot from online classes and I’ll never say they are worthless. They are great for beginners who don’t know what to do and need some guidance. I still take watercolor classes online because even if I don’t like the result, it usually inspires me to go find my own inspiration and paint something better. At least I tried. And that counts for a whole lot. But, I’m learning to go with my own artistic flow instead of having someone tell me how to do it. I try things, waste paint and paper, and learn. That’s what I do. And in the process, I’m getting better and am much happier with my results.
I would be happy to create a print for your next occasion. Contact me, if interested.