The Rules according to Corita Kent

And so to the delightful Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft to see an exhibition of work by Corita Kent.

Now if your reaction to the name Corita Kent is the same as mine was, namely ‘who she?’ – then I think you’re in for a treat. Here’s a little film that can fill you in better and more interestingly than I ever could:


The exhibition at Ditchling is really delightful and Corita comes across as a really wonderful and inspiring person and teacher. Aside from her work, one of the things that really connected with me was a set of rules that she’d written up for her students. Now the world of watercolour, as in so many other areas of life, is full of rules or advice that you ignore at your peril!

These rules are broader, however, and just really made me smile, made me think, and made me wish I’d had such a brilliant teacher at art college!

The Rules, as written by Corita Kent

You can find out more about Corita on the website

Some of the rules resonated with me more than others but, I thought that Rule 9 is a particularly great mantra to live your life by…

Be happy whenever you can manage it, Enjoy yourself, It’s lighter than you think.

…and one that I feel I need to remind myself more often during those times when I’m feeling a little overwhelmed!

I think that Rule 6 is also worth bearing in mind when considering this week’s watercolour offering:

Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail. There’s only make.

After the big sky painting that I dashed off last week on a quarter sheet, I was keen to try another big sky painting but at a larger scale, so I moved up to a half sheet. The view was similar but the cloud formations were very different.

Clouds over the Downs, a watercolour painting by John Haywood
Clouds over the Downs

Someone has kindly compared this painting as having ‘more weather in it’ than the first effort. All I can see however is an overworking of so many areas! Last week’s painting came together spontaneously and freely. This effort was much more laboured. I kept on misjudging the moisture of the paper, sometimes letting it dry out too much before applying paint, sometimes trying to create effects when the paper was much too damp – as was particularly the case in the foreground. It’s not a disaster, but it doesn’t have the lightness of touch that I prefer for this type of scene.

Recalling how I felt when I painted this, and what was running through my mind, I shall also try in future to abide by Rule 8:

Don’t try to create and analyse at the same time. They’re different processes.

The #30x30DirectWatercolour2018 challenge is well into the home straight now. The only problem I have now is that the UK is enjoying a rather unusual uninterrupted spell of fabulous weather, which I feel has been sent to thwart my mastering of the moody skies and cumulus clouds! Here’s how my 30 skies of June is looking with only a few days to run:

30 skies of June, a work in progress

With this week’s forecast, there’s every likelihood that the remaining skies will be rather dull washes of cobalt blue! I may have to revert to some other reference photos I have from earlier in the month, but I’ll keep an eye out on this week’s sunsets! Either way, I look forward to revealing the final result of this endeavour next week. I’m just hoping that I’ll be able to remove all the tapes without damaging the paper as I think it’s become rather attached over the past four or five weeks!

I’d love to hear what you think about the rules according to Corita? Are there any that strike a particular chord with you?

Meantime, I’ll leave you with Rule 7:

The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all the time who eventually catch on to things.

Thoughts on The Rules according to Corita Kent

20 thoughts on “The Rules according to Corita Kent”

    1. Hi Sally, thanks so much for this and apologies for such a tardy response (I’m just back from a two week vacation!) – I really hope that she was as inspiring an individual as she sounds! She seems like one of those teachers that people remember as having a profound influence on their lives!

  1. This is a wonderful article, and it is full of great wisdom – for artists and non-artists alike. For me, the rule about winning and losing is great, just make. I think I don’t take enough photos. And then analysis and creativity. This is interesting because I am a very analytical thinker. I must remember to feel my photos more. Definitely that rule is going to be my new mantra.

    I really found your analysis of your cloud picture interesting. Your comments about too forced and too much manipulation caught my attention. Perhaps we have similar tendencies, John. Yes, what a great read. Let’s remember to follow the rules, just make! And let’s create more and analyze less! Yeah!

    1. Hi Tim and thanks for this – so pleased that you got something from those rules. So many of them really struck a chord with me too and and are still rattling around my head, which I think can only be a good sign. Here’s to more photographs and more paintings (and to leaving the analysis to later!)

    1. Hi Jean and thanks for this – so pleased you like them and that they’ve already come in handy! I’ve already been referring back to them and quoting them quite a bit since last week. Hope that your workshop goes well!

  2. I have to say I did warn you at the start about the incessant blue skies we are prone to in the UK. Surely now is the chance to get away from cobalt blue into blends of Ultramarines, Ceruleans and Cobalt Blue Deep. I even like a cheeky touch of Permanent Magenta or a daring dab of Perylene Green in the mix to add to the mood.

    1. Haha yes, perhaps I should have paid more attention to your warnings! That said, you’ve mentioned some very exotic colours here – my choice of palette is a bit more limited. It’d be fine if there just a few more clouds around the place!

      1. I only use 8 myself but mostly slightly off the beaten track. Where on here do you reveal your palette?

        1. Hi Rob and apologies for the delay in replying, I’ve been scouring my site for reference to my colours but can’t quite find what I’m looking for. I’ve had quite a few enquiries in the past from people and have usually ended up emailing people individually. I’ve also got a 90% written up ‘page’ about the materials and equipment that I tend to use, and maybe your prompt is just what I need to finish off the other 10%! I’ll try to share them soon and look forward to comparing notes. I think my palette started off with eight, but I think I’m up to 13 or 14 now!

  3. I guess you can feel lucky you don’t live in Southern California. It’s been pretty much clear blue skies for June except for the days it’s been a uniform gray overcast. We haven’t had rain for two months and not likely to for next five so not much that clouds can be made out of. There’s nothing wrong with practicing a nice graded wash for a sky or two. Morning sky. Evening sky.

    1. Ha – I suppose I ought to be more appreciative of our more varied weather conditions! I’m not sure how I’d cope with 30 days of graded washes – but I suppose practice makes perfect!

    1. Many thanks for this and I’m so pleased you liked the post and the introduction to Corita Kent. I’ve found myself raving (and probably ranting a bit too!) about her to pretty much anyone that I meet! So nice to feel uplifted and inspired by someone!

  4. Thank you for writing this. News of exhibitions at the Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft struggles to travel the 8 miles to Brighton! The Corita Kent exhibition sounds inspiring and the building itself is a joy to step inside.

    Thank you.

    1. My pleasure, so pleased you liked this post and yes, the Ditchling Museum is always a joy to visit. I very rarely have any idea of what’s on there and, to be honest, I can’t really claim any credit for this visit as it wasn’t my idea at all – but sometimes the best things come completely out of the blue!

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