Sometime the best thing you can do is to leave it alone

Afternoon in Redmond - 12x16

Afternoon in Redmond - 12x16


 I had more than one person told me "I have no patience for watercolor". And I used to find it odd, because watercolor is one of the fastest medium out there. I can usually finish a painting with one sitting (about 2~3 hours). While with oil and acrylic it usually requires more time for one painting. But now I think I can understand what do people mean when they say they don't have the patience for watercolor - It's not the about the time it takes to finish the painting, it's about the time you get to work on it. Because acrylic dry very fast, you can pretty much paint right on top. And even though oil paint dry very slow, you can always lay thicker paint on top without waiting. But when you put down a wash in watercolor, you need to wait for it to dry completely in order to paint the second layer on top. 

 It's true that there are some waiting time in between the washes. I mentioned in one of my old blog, if you go back in impatiently before it's completely dry, you can really messed it up and create some bad cauliflower edges. I can tell you that it takes tremendous amount of discipline and faith to leave a wash alone. When I first started to paint I always want to paint just one more stroke, add just a bit more water when I knew I should've just leave it alone. I used to paint with oil, acrylic and digital. I was always able to keep working on my painting without stopping. The thought of leaving a wash to dry makes me uneasy, because I have no control, what's done will be done and there are no way to really fix it. But then I learned one of the most important thing about water color:

Letting watercolor paint itself is part of the work!

 Painting doesn't mean you have to hold a paint brush and put pigments on the paper. Sometime it means to finish your part, and let watercolor finish the rest for you. We are living in a time that we want result instantly, and we are always tempted to speed up the process by getting our hands on it. But it isn't so in watercolor. Sometime you have to be "hands off" to yield better result!


 The above painting I painted recently. I have to wait for each wash to settled and dry. I didn't know how it's going to resolve, but once I knew I've done my part, the best thing I can do is to leave it along. Any more disturbance will just ruin it. About two years ago I was in the workshop of the great watercolor master Joseph Zbukvic. Something he said that I'll never forget is that "if you keep digging, all you will find is dirt." During one of the painting in the workshop, I wasn't satisfy with the wash I did, so I kept trying to fix it, but the more I try to paint on it the worse it gets. Joseph came by and tell me to just leave it. He then paint some darker value over it after it's dry and it works out. Should he not stopped me from keep working, it would've gotten a lot worse.

 If you are still learning watercolor, knowing went to stop can be one of the hardest thing. And that voice in your head telling you to keep trying to fix it is also the biggest temptation you need to fight off. One of my previous blog post about edge control talks about some easy way to check if a wash is completely dry. A good rule of thumb is to leave the wash alone when the wet shine is gone but the paper is still moist. Wait till it's completely dry before you paint anything else on top. You can take a break or work on another section of the painting. Next time when you do a wash, after you done playing with it when it's still wet, try to leave it along and let it paint itself. If you don't fight the watercolor, it won't fight against you.