Welcome to 2018! I hope you had a wonderful holiday. I had a wonderful vacation with my family. As I started my online course last year, I get to interact with students on a more personal level. One thing that has become obvious to me for quite a few student is to simplify their painting to a simple and clear message. Because we have this notion that "a picture worth a thousand words", we are often tempted to throw as much stuff into our painting as we can. However, a powerful painting doesn't have to be complicated and overwhelming. It just needs to communicate the message across clearly.Read More
This past weekend I was painting a figure painting. Haven't done figure painting for quite a while, it wasn't surprising that my first attempt wasn't up to the standard(my standard). I knew I can do better so I decided to paint it again. The 2nd attempt (the one you are seeing above) turns out much better. I was able to plan my painting and executed it much better than the first one.
I've done this quite a bit. When painting watercolor, a few wrong decisions and solutions can ruin a painting. Since there is no "undo" button in watercolor. Sometime the next best thing you can do is to start over. This can be a mental roadblock for some people. People may think all the time they spent on the unsuccessful painting is all wasted. But there is no wasted time when you did a bad painting. You gain valuable experience and you learned from your mistake! Even a seasoned NBA player cannot expect to score every time when they shoot, so neither shall we.
Yes, it can be frustrated to see your fail attempts and wondering if you can do it better next time. When you set your self up to that dreadful empty white paper again, you may have to conjure up all your courage and faith to start the process over again. However, that's part of the learning process and journey to become a better artist!
Do you have a good subject that you wanted to turn into a painting only end up with a fail attempt? Maybe it's time to give it another go. You might be regretful for not giving it your best shot!
New Painting Demo
If you haven't, go check out my new painting video of one of my favorite painting! This is another longer painting demo video that I haven't done for quite a while. Hope you enjoy it!
One of the biggest issues I see in student's painting is not understanding the subject they are painting. Instead, they try to simply paint what they see in their reference. It's understandable that we want to jump right into the painting and enjoy the process. However, to paint a believable watercolor painting requires a good amount of thinking. I made that mistake sometimes as well. I try to just blatantly copy what I see instead of taking a brief moment analyze and understanding what I am looking at. I'm convinced that a good painting demonstrates and show the artists' understanding of the subject matter. How does the object sitting ina 3d space? How does the lighting work with the scenery? What's the surface material of the object you are painting? These are all very important questions you should be asking yourself before and during the painting.
Your painting looks more alive when you paint what you understand
Imagine you are trying to retell and explain a story you've just heard. However, you didn't really get the story yourself. It could be due to you missed part of the story, or you weren't really paying attention. It will be a struggle to retell the story to someone else because you cannot retell something you haven't heard!(unless you make things up). That is what happens when you try to second guess in your paint. An experienced painter might be able to make things up, spice the story up a bit and tell a different story. But the things they make up are still based on their understanding of the real world. They have a rich visual library to pull from.
Only through understanding can you paint a believable painting. And only through understanding can you produce a painting that looks alive. All the painting techniques and skills are very important, but your understanding of the subject will make your painting stand out and gives it characters.
Your painting doesn't start when you put down your first brush stroke. It starts when you choose your subject. I live in Pacific Northwest, and it offers some of the most beautiful autumn sceneries in the US. It is very tempting wanting to own the beautiful sceneries for your painting. However, beautiful sceneries are often not the best subject for painting.
I had talked about the suitable subject for watercolor a long time ago. Watercolor is a very different wet medium compares to oil and acrylic, and we need to play on its strength. However, besides picking the subject that's suitable for watercolor, you should also consider a subject that you can make it look more interesting in your painting than a photograph. I made that mistake recently. I took a photo of a beautiful tree filled with yellow leaves and light bleed through. It was a really beautiful scenery, so I attempt to paint it. And as you probably can guess, I wasn't satisfied with the outcome. I do believe it is largely due to my lack of skill to pull the subject off, or my unfamiliarity of this type of subject. However, if I picked a subject that was more suitable for my painting (like the one above), I might have more luck.
Instead of looking for an already beautiful subject and trying to re-capture it into your painting,
look for opportunities.
When choosing a subject to paint, you should look more for potential than how pretty it is. The more beautiful a subject is, the harder it is to do it justice in your painting. A sunlit forest with light and shadows everywhere, a beautiful sunset with the dramatic clouds, or an epic highland scenery. They are all very beautiful sceneries when seeing them in person that will be difficult to capture into painting. Even if the person who sees your painting appreciates it, you might still constantly compare your painting with the original reference and feel the failure.
Look for potential in a reference. I often capture a typical street scenery and interpret it my own way. I do so by rearranging the image, adding elements to it, and recompose the picture. This way, I improve the everyday scenery into something interesting and exciting to look at.
It seems counter-intuitive to pick a seemly boring scenery as your subject and not go for the obvious beauty. However, I think it is artists' responsibility to bring out the beauty from ordinary instead of presenting to people what's already been shown and appreciated.