beginning of the painting Shibuya, Tokyo


 Watercolor require faith. And when I talk about faith I don't mean anything religious. But like the Bible says:

faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
— Hebrews 11:1

  This is very true when working on watercolor. Because you work from light to dark when you paint watercolor. The painting usually looks flat and lack of detail when you first started. And it quite often looks disastrous. It looks like spots of colors bleed into each other. But during this stage you have to press on and keep at it. Have faith that out of all these mess, you will end up with a successful painting! 

  Most of my paintings don't come together until the last 30%. That was the time when all things are set for the detail and the dark. For landscape, it will be the figures, animals, cars or the main trees. For portrait, it will be the the iris of the eyes, the eyelashes, dark shadow of the mouth, etc. 

 The problem is that people want to get to the last 30% when they haven't finish the first 70%. You have to lay the solid groundwork before you put the finish touches. If you lost the faith and rush to the final stage because you are not seeing it. You will likely overwork it because you didn't have good washes underneath to support your painting. I am convinced that the most important part of the painting is the first two washes. The background and the midground. Because that's the stage to establish depth, color and light. Without those, final touches will not magically transform a bad painting good. 

  It was a challenge for me before. I didn't have faith in my own painting. I was afraid to take my time and stay in the uncertainty. I want to get past it and get to the final touches and hope it will come together. Although I still struggle with it sometime, I can enjoy the first 70% a lot more. I enjoy playing with the color, explore the possibilities and design the shape.

  Faith cannot be taught. It has to be grown. By practice, by getting familiar with the property of watercolor, and by many bad paintings. If you constantly don't think your painting is going to work out, the most important thing is NOT to stress about whether the painting will be successful or not. But just enjoy the process, and think of everything that is happening on paper a gift. Sometime the painting might not work out. But if you declare failure before you finish the painting, you are more likely to fail. You don't get on a car to drive and keep telling yourself that you won't reach your destination. You might make a wrong turn and take a detour, or you might need to stop for gas, but you have to believe that you are going to be where you want to be. Same thing for watercolor. Have faith and take heart!


Shibuya, Tokyo - finished painting