One of the practices I started during my Creative Retreat was painting quick little watercolor landscapes. I am not a landscape painter (and don't aspire to be one) and although I've played around painting little landscapes in the past (here, here and here), I have never been truly happy with how they turned out.
There's something freeing, though, about painting them. Joyful. So I tried again in January. The first few I painted still did not look right. At the same time I'd been playing around with gouache in my sketchbook and wasn't happy with those pages, either.
I was frustrated and down on myself but a realization began to crystalize.
My landscapes weren't looking right because I wasn't painting real landscapes. I was painting what I thought a landscape would look like. The flowery pages in my sketchbook didn't look right because they were imaginary flowers (I later sketched some imaginary flowers that I did like, but my intention with them was different).
Despite the fact that I'm working as a visual artist, I am not, naturally, a visual person. I'm terrible at those memory games/tests where you look at an image for a certain amount of time and then have to list everything you saw. I would not be a good witness of a crime (even after all the training I've gotten from reading and watching mysteries).
I went through my photo library and printed out a bunch of landscape shots. When I sat down to paint another landscape, this time with a photo for reference, everything changed.
I studied shapes and their relationships. I enjoyed the colors and their variations. Enjoyed the way the paint and paper reacted to create textures, sometimes in unexpected ways.
Each day I worked on a quick little landscape sketch. None were larger than 5" x 7".
Although I was painting images, recreating what I was seeing, while painting these little landscapes, I let go. I was loose. Messy. I didn't worry about "messing up". I didn't overthink them. If I didn't like one, I'd simply paint another.
Something else I let go of while working on these paintings was an assumption I'd been holding onto. I'm not sure where it came from, but in the back of my mind I had the idea that a real artist creates from her head. A true artist doesn't need any reference to sketch or paint or draw.
That is simply not true. And if I were to think about it logically, I would have known it to be false. Why use a model for life drawing? Why set up a table with fruits and bowls and flowers for a still life?
Perhaps, eventually, I will rid myself of all these assumptions and misconceptions that have been holding me back (apparently there have been quite a few and I'm still working on them).
Do you hold on to assumptions like this? How do you work to battle them?
p.s. here's a peek of what's been keeping me busy (distracted) this week:
Waiting to hear about them was what I was so impatient for last weekend. I'll share more about them on Monday with my Joy List.
Until then, wishing you a wonderful weekend. I hope it's filled with joy.