Watercolour Wisdom & Whimsy

When my new friend, Amanda, asked me to sign-up for a fall art class waaaay back in June, I agreed right away. We picked a Friday/Saturday course called Watercolour Wisdom & Wisdom put on by Vermilion River Community Learning and taught by the talented Monica To, who teaches art at JR Robson School.

I painted those circles & they actually kind-of sort-of look like three-dimensional spheres. Maybe I’m not completely hopeless. A little direction, & instruction go a long way!

We spent Friday night learning a variety of different techniques. During Boxing Day sales last year, I picked up a watercolour set & have messed around with it a few times, not having much of a clue about what I was doing. Learning some actual techniques that I could take back home made the whole course worthwhile.

Like most of my artistic endeavours, this watercolour course provided a lesson in patience. Sometimes, I have a hard time paying attention to small details because I get really exited about the “big picture” or my goal for the finished product. Practicing adding depth when shading circles demanded patience, & I was forced to slow down & enjoy the process.

Saturday brought its own challenges. We started the morning learning about colour theory, & practiced mixing different colours together to create skin tones & other subtle effects that a regular palette cannot provide. Considering I never even took an art class in high school, (I totally regret this & that I didn’t take a second language in University) this was new & interesting information. At least I was a tiny bit familiar with colour wheels from my elementary art days back in grade 3. Thanks Mrs. Hauger!

My inspiration for the day.

Then, we were to chose an exemplar & email it to Monica, so she could print it off for us. We were going to create a “real” painting. Oh dear. I poked around on Pinterest, & picked this fall birch forest piece for several reasons. First of all, I love fall colours & the crispness of the air & the wonderful smell of rose hips & the promise of a new school year full of possibilities that all of those things signal. This piece seemed to capture that sense of possibility. Secondly, on Friday, we practiced a technique called scraping, where we dipped the edges of old loyalty cards in paint, then let them drag across the page. The result looked EXACTLY like birch trees, & I wanted to put this nifty little trick to good use.

My first real watercolour piece.

We started by tracing out the exemplar onto our sheets. My visual-spacial skills are not exactly top notch, &, while this might sound silly, I actually found it difficult to tell what lines belonged to my trees or branches, & which belonged to the empty space in-between. It took a lot of concentration to get my background painted into the right sections.  Next, I went to town scraping in my birch trees, & was quite happy with the results. Then came adding the leaves in the foreground. At this point, I was beginning to get tired, & frustrated. My painting did not seem to capture the same feelings the exemplar did, & every time I tried to paint the leaves on over top of the trees, they just looked really awkward & out of place. Perhaps mistakenly, I decided to use a splatter technique where you flick paint off of your brush. So much fun! Drawing on these techniques was going so well, I decided to try another that involved blowing paint through a straw. I thought the end result would look like a storm of falling leaves, but it just ended up looking like splatters & weird grass. Ahh, well. Perhaps I need to try an abstract piece next time. For a first try, my water colour career could have went much, much worse. &, as I have learned from 2016’s artistic forays, when they’re dry,  & viewed from a few feet away through less critical eyes, they tend to look much better.

I left utterly exhausted by the whole thing. I forgot how difficult being the student, & not the teacher, can be. In addition to that role reversal, I learned that art is hard. It forces your brain to think in new ways. It challenges deep-held beliefs you have about the world, & yourself. It stretches your attention span & ability to concentrate. It deepens your appreciation of the work of others. Art is hard, but art is also beautiful, & worthwhile. It makes you grow in all sorts of directions. Art is good for me, & I’m going to stick with it.




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