Every evening now I make my escape. I set up a sort of art studio surrounding the comfy cushions of my favorite chair, an armchair with ample arms to accommodate all my stuff – tubes of paint, plastic palettes, cotton paper, a selection of brushes, a couple of water pots, paper towels – and I become a watercolor painter. Not an aspiring professional one, of course. My highest aspirations are to enjoy and escape.
As my mother often told me (but I never listened then), painting is a balm. When I’m painting now I have no worries, no headaches, no abdominal pain, no anxiety about anything. I get so focused, so carried away with what I’m doing, I don’t have a care. No doubt there are other ways to achieve this kind of bliss, but this way is legal, affordable, and harmless. So it suits me best.
As I know I’ve mentioned before, I like to paint landscapes most of all. There’s something about that dividing line – the horizon line – that guides and grounds me in the painting.
Being an Earth sign (Taurus), I feel happiest on terra firma – clomping along on the burnt umber (or perylene green or whatever color I happen to be on) ground – while way up there out of my reach is the cobalt blue sky, with maybe a fluffy cloud or two blowing through. In the distance are misty, grayish/purplish mountains. In the mid-ground there are earthy or verdant mid-tones, objects coming into focus. And in the foreground things are in clearer, sharper focus. So much to keep in mind.
When I began this watercolor journey in earnest last year, I thought it would be easy. How wrong I was! For months now I’ve been watching watercolor tutorials on YouTube every night, paying close attention, taking notes, trying to emulate the instructor’s demonstrations. It’s a steep learning curve, and I’m still bumping along the bottom of it. But I’m loving the challenge and the climb.
On a particularly hot-hot afternoon this week, I forced myself to walk to the not-too-distant art and design center here in San Miguel de Allende, Fabrica la Aurora, pretending it was a large, air-conditioned art museum (which it is not). I went from gallery to gallery admiring the landscape paintings. At one, Carral Espacio, I picked up a postcard by Jorge Carral that caught my eye; and that evening I used it as a reference photo for my nightly watercolor exercise:
At another gallery that day I studied abstract landscapes and later tried my hand at this genre – first marking the horizon line, then applying blobs of paint directly from the tubes onto the 100% cotton paper, spritzing with water and tilting the board this way and that, pushing and cajoling the paint with unconventional tools (a twig, a cut-up credit card), and so on. Great fun — as much fun as finger painting was when I was a kid.
I can do this now, you see, because I’ve recently claimed my artistic license. In fact, just last week I made myself an artistic license plate and hung it on the wall above my kitchen sink to remind me that it’s more than okay to spend time every day creating. I now consider it not only my bliss but my raison d’etre.
The God I believe in and beseech every morning for strength for the day is an artist – The Great Creator – who did not finish his masterpiece within just one week, as many were taught to believe. My God continues to inspire his creations to carry on the work of creating.
This is not silly, childish, time-wasting work, as some might contend. This is divine work, in my view. And now that I have the time to do it, as a retiree in la tercera edad (the third age), while I’m still able to walk on my beloved terra firma and pick up a slim brush and dip it in water and paint, I must continue to try.
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I’m benefiting immensely, I feel, from three watercolor artists, all in Britain, who generously share their talents and experience in You Tube tutorials. My favorite, because of her boundless compassion and encouragement is Lois Davidson. I’ve become one of Lois’s Patreon members (for only $4 a month) and joined her enormously supportive Facebook group.
Karen Rice’s short, pithy videos giving step-by-step tips and techniques for watercolor beginners have been invaluable to me as well.
And Oliver Pyle, an outstanding watercolor landscape artist, is also a gifted teacher. His You Tube videos are longer and more in-depth, but his clear explanations and careful demonstrations are easy to follow.
As all three say at the end of their tutorials, “Happy painting!”