Annoyed watercolour painting

There’s been a little too much going on beyond the world of watercolour of late to be able to dedicate much time or thought to my painting.

Years ago, I used to swim a lot. If a went a day or, heaven forbid, more than a day went by without my pool time, my mood would start to dip. I’d also give myself a hard time for my lack of dedication and discipline, and boy would I miss the endorphin rush of exercise! Many years on, I now have similar feelings about painting. A lot has changed in the intervening years, and I’ve learnt to accept – if only a little bit – that I can’t just do what I want to do for as long as I want to do it exactly whenever I want to do it. This means that my painting now comes quite far down a list of other, often non-negotiable things.

Anytime that I can paint is now incredibly precious to me. This makes it all the more frustrating that when I do have some time, that I’m not fully prepared to make the best possible use of it. This again is usually because I haven’t had time to really plan, consider and ideally sketch out what I’m going to paint next. This was exactly the set of circumstances that I found myself in recently. I had a very small window of opportunity to paint but, despite having a quarter sheet and a half sheet all stretched up and ready to paint on – I just didn’t quite know what to paint. I was anxious that I needed to paint something – but also annoyed that I didn’t know what to paint!

I decided that rather than ‘waste’ one of my stretched sheets, I’d just paint something, anything! I found an old block of Daler-Rowney Langton rough watercolour paper, thinking that this would help alleviate any pressure! I found an image of a landscape that I felt a little half-hearted about but thought I could at least sketch it out quickly so that I could get painting. If you’re thinking that none of this sounds entirely promising – I quite agree, especially when you add to the mix a large dollop of general annoyance! This was exacerbated as soon as I started painting. The watercolour block hasn’t aged well – (I promise you I’m never buying another ‘bargain’ vintage bit of watercolour paper on eBay again!) The paper didn’t absorb the paint evenly. Instead, the paint just looked all ‘blotchy’! So, I was now painting while supremely annoyed, and hurriedly! I didn’t have time to start something new so just carried on as best I could with a simmering discontent!

Here’s how it looked when my time ran out:

An annoyed and annoying watercolour sketch

This worked out better than I thought it was going to, which is possibly an indication of just how low my expectations were! I’ve enjoyed the process of painting much more on paintings that have been far less successful than this one – but that hardly feels like the point! The whole point of painting for me is that I enjoy it. Of course, I accept that I’m going to be frustrated at times, but I still usually enjoy myself nevertheless. Not this time, however!

I’m hoping that in the weeks ahead, I’ll be able to dedicate a little more time to painting but, with the clocks going back recently and shorter days ahead – I can already tell that I’m going to find it a challenge, especially as I’m still somewhat lacking in inspiration! I’ve been trying to think of ways to alleviate this. One idea is that I might revisit some of my favourite paintings of the past year or two and, instead of referring back to the source images that inspired them – just to use my painting as the basis for new work. I quite like the idea of what they may turn out like when they’re another step removed, and also now that I have even more brushstrokes under my belt than when I first tried them.

Naturally, I know that I’m not alone with these feelings and frustrations so I’d welcome any thoughts or suggestions that others may have – especially ones that people feel have worked for them, maybe doing more sketchbook work, setting a goal, creating a project with a theme etc. In the meantime, I’m going to start planning out my next painting so that I’m better prepared to grasp the opportunity to paint as soon as it arises.

Thoughts on Annoyed watercolour painting

16 thoughts on “Annoyed watercolour painting”

  1. Just goes to show you are only as good as your last painting, but modify the infamous actor quote. Frankly, I blame the water. Another actor quote, I was wonderful but the audience died!

    1. Thanks David – your line about ‘only being as good as your last painting’ is interesting! I do agree and I often have to look back over six months or or year of paintings to realised that it’s not strictly linear journey of upward progress. I’m pleased that the general trend over time is upwards, but within that, there are inevitably quite a few, and often quite steep declines!

  2. Pingback: A rusty watercolour painting

  3. I understand those feelings myself but I also really like the result. “The absence of limitations is the enemy of art.”

    1. Hi Rich and thanks so much for this! I’m sort of familiar with that quote, or a variant of it – do you know who said these wise words? (Or is this one of your own making?)

  4. Actually, you can “do what I want to do for as long as I want to do it exactly whenever I want to do it.” It’s called retirement. And it is wonderful. Not only can you paint but you can also swim and exercise too.

    Don’t dismiss that vintage block too fast. You were using the top sheet, right? And now it’s torn off? Try the next and third. You might see the paper improve.

    Personally, I can’t see the faults you mention in your painting. I think it turned out as well as some of them that you meticulously plan. Sometimes it’s good to forget the sketch and the values and just paint direct and see what happens.

    1. haha, yes, I must confess Mary that you make retirement sound wonderful! Sadly it’s not something that I’ll be able to consider for many many years!

      You were right about the vintage block, it was the top sheet, so I will try the other sheets too in the hope I see an improvement. They should be fine for sketches. Thanks for the tip on this, I hadn’t considered this.

      Glad you liked the painting too!

  5. Hi John,
    My teacher came up with an idea for our class that might be of interest to you. Find one of your old paintings that you feel was rather successful. Then, using the same shapes and subjects, change the perspective. For example, if you had a painting showing a horse from a distance who was standing out in a field with some rocks or trees in the scene, do a painting in which the horse becomes much closer to the viewer and the rocks and trees move off into the distance. Challenging but a fun challenge on those days when you just want to paint!

    1. Hi Sharon and many thanks for this. I already like the sound of this idea (I can already feel a list of helpful ideas coming on based on the few comments I’ve had so far!) I think I’d find this particularly helpful as it would help me to ‘stretch’ myself a little. My tendency is to try to paint the view in front of me rather than to ‘manipulate’ in my mind’s eye to change the composition. Thanks so much for taking the time to pass this on, really helpful for me – and hopefully helpful to others too!

  6. This may seem far too radical but as someone hardly at all experienced in watercolour I often re-use failures in collages . It is easy for me to think like that because I also work in textiles . Some quite good pictures have come from combining 2 or more views of the same thing . Perhaps it is unreasonable but I do hate waste and watercolour paper is so expensive ! More importantly it soothes the irritation of feeling I have wasted precious time .

  7. Preaching to the choir man! I’ve been going through a similar period. I’ve been relying on plein air outings to keep the creative juices flowing, but with the time change and the turn in the weather I’ll be back in the studio.
    I like the idea of using old paintings as reference material for new ones. Especially plein air studies…

    1. Thanks Tom – I think your idea of working up your plein air studies in the studio sounds great. You might also want to check out the suggestion that Rob has also made in the comments section – I can see how this could also help with some of my planning / procrastination! Good luck with the shift into autumn!

  8. Sorry to hear you’re not full of beans this week. One option, of course, is to go back to swimming but, since I can’t swim, that option wouldn’t work for me so I’ve come up with another solution. My own problem is different from yours: I have continual painter’s block. I paint very few paintings because they always turn into “oeuvres” which I think I’m going to mess us at some stage so I worry about even starting. I decided to do something about this so about a week ago I trawled through huge numbers of old photos (digitally) and picked out 23 that I thought might make a painting – even if not a major work of art. I then found a random number generator online and applied it to my list. I now have a list of 23 subjects in order which I must stick to and the plan is to paint about 2 per week. (Un)fortunately, somebody then commissioned me to paint a picture of a house as a birthday present for their friend so my list is on hold till I’ve done that but I’m ready to go. I’ve also substituted cobalt green for viridian and cobolt turquoise light for cerulean to distract me a little more from the nitty gritty of actually painting. I don’t suppose any of this will work for you, John, but that’s the way I cope with my painterly problems.

    1. Aha – I like this idea very much! I also like that no sooner had you come up a plan, that fate stepped in to lend a hand with a commission – always good for focussing the mind! If I were to try to follow your approach, I think I’d have to start with something a little more modest, maybe a shortlist of ten? I think I’ll have a trawl through over the next few days and see if I can agree with myself on a shortlist. Who knows, just be doing this a commission may land on my lap! Thanks as ever for the wise words Rob, much appreciated.

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