Don't be afraid to take the risk in watercolor

Amsterdam, see the full length live demo  HERE

Amsterdam, see the full length live demo HERE

My new car has a parking sensor. Whenever I am too close to a car during parking, it will start beeping to alert me. This warns me that I am about to bump into another car. It is a neat feature. It can help me avoid a parking lot accident. However, since I am an experienced driver who knows the size of my car. I am well aware of how close I can get to another car without bump into them. Whenever I heard the beep from my car while I turn into the parking spot in between two cars, I did start slowing down and be more cautious. However, I know I am usually still quite safe to complete my parking without backing up.

This week as I hear the beep from my car again, I realized that this is just like painting watercolor. When I just started to paint watercolor, I was afraid of making mistakes. That was because I am not familiar with how the watercolor works. I hesitate and did not know what to do. And that ruins a lot of paintings back then. Sometimes I'm afraid of using too much water, and sometimes I'm afraid of going too dark. Now that I am a lot more experience with watercolor, I know how to push its limit and be a little bit more risky with my approach. Sometimes, I might still ruin a painting. But the reward is often worth the risk. I wasn't able to gain this confidence without a lot of practice. Just like driving my car. I know its size, speed, and how to operate it. So much so it becomes a nature to me. I am sure you have a similar experience.

Good news, if you take the risk in watercolor and failed, you don't have to pay for any damage, your insurance rate won't raise, and you don't have to drive a damaged car around the town. All you lose is a ruined painting. So with that in mind, relax, and go for it. Take some risk and accept the outcome. You might fail, but you learn way more than if you are afraid all the time.

Pick just one thing to master in 2019

 Welcome to 2019! Here we are, at the time to set our new year resolution again. I wonder how many new year resolution we make and how many we actually accomplish by the end of the year. For me... it is usually none of them. I wonder why it is so hard to keep the promise we make to ourselves. It’s obviously not the case when it comes to something easy though. I rarely see someone making a new year resolution of “I am going to watch a good movie this year” or “I am going to enjoy my favorite drink every week”. Can’t those be someone’s new year resolution? I think they can be. However, that takes little to no effort. And by doing those, we are not gaining much growth. 

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What's the most important thing about your painting?

Kirkland Afternoon - class demo

Kirkland Afternoon - class demo


Have you ever took that personality test that asks you “What’s the one thing you are going to grab if your house is on fire?”. While I never really thought of those personality test accurate and they don’t serve a meaningful purpose other than a quick laughter, it is always fun to compare result with others. When it comes to painting watercolor, you should often ask yourself a similar question: “What’s the one thing you are going to paint if you only have 5 minutes?” Of course, that’s a silly question because you shouldn’t try to finish a painting in 5 minutes. But this is a hypothetical question that we should try to ask our self when we paint. Because when we give our self a little bit of that urgency, we force our self to choose what’s the most important thing in a picture.

Since the online course launched this week, I’ve been getting some beautiful photo references from the students. However, when it comes to their interpretation of the photos, they are usually very literal about it. They try to paint every little window on the far distant buildings. the amount of the details they are trying to capture end up making the painting flat and underwhelming. This happens quite often especially if it is a photo of a beautiful European city scenery filled with complicated classic buildings.

The most important thing of your painting is the readability. And a good, readable painting is achieved by having big strong shapes. That’s the first thing you should be thinking about when composing your painting. During the painting. You should also constantly check if the overall big shapes still hold up. Any additional detail should not take the viewer out of the viewing experience.

The next time you paint a scenery, find out what’s the most important thing you need to paint. Pretend you only have 5 minutes, and see if you can figure out what’s the mores important shape of the image. This can really help you to plan out you painting.

Endless learning


 My grandma was a great cook. Not only she knows how to cook some of the most amazing Chinese food, she never stopped learning new dishes and share them with us. One of my favorite dishes is Lasagna, which is something she learned well after she was 70. I admire my grandma's learning spirit very much. There is an old saying in Chinese "活到老,學到老". It means as long as we live, we keep learning. This saying perfectly describes my grandma. She loves cooking, therefore learning new dishes is not a chore for her and she enjoys it. But it still takes time and effort to learn new dishes.

 I ran some physical watercolor workshops before. I remembered clearly that many of the students are in their retired stage. Many students are revisiting their long lost passion for painting, while many others it's their new found love of watercolor. Whenever I saw these wonderful people, my heart filled with respect and joy. I take teaching very seriously. Especially when you come to me seeking to learn about watercolor. If I am the one that is showing you this wonderful medium, I have a huge responsibility to give you as much as I can. Perhaps you learn to paint for your own merit, or perhaps you want to be able to share your talent with the ones you love. Like my grandma is passionate about cooking, but love sharing those foods with us. Even though she passed away, her cooking is something I remembered her the most. I also learned Lasagna from her. Lasagna recipe is a very common that can be found anywhere. But I always prefer the one I learned from my grandma.

 As I am about to launch my course again in September. I am very excited to help more people get into watercolor. If you already enrolled the full course, I have many exciting new contents that will be available for you next month. It is such a wonderful and rewarding experience knowing that watercolor connects you and me across the world. I made many new friends, teacher, and students because of it. I am very excited to get to know you more and share with you more things that I have learned.