I've been on hiatus from this blog because I have been in a state of flux with my work. And guys, I've been doing something while I was gone that I never planned to do: I've been working with traditional media. (Eek!)
I guess it all started with Inktober. I wanted to learn to ink so I could use all of the different pens that have been sitting in my studio office (closet) under the stairs for almost a year. A YEAR. So I started making some drawings, and inking them. Then I would add some watercolor just for fun. They were messy and imperfect and I did everything wrong and I didn't care. I really enjoyed myself and found that I had no desire to make any finished art on my iPad (I'm still using my iPad for the sketching phase because it's just faster for me).
Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking digital art-making. I love the flexibility of it and I feel like there are situations where working digitally is the best choice. It seems like lots of people who work traditionally want to learn to work digitally and the people who work digitally want to switch to traditional. So maybe it's a grass is greener situation. Digital media has its benefits. There are like eleventy million brushes available so if you wake up one morning and decide you want to mimic ink or watercolor or gouache or grease pencil, the possibilities are endless and there are no supplies to buy. No paper is wasted when you mess up (I REALLY hate wasting things). You can choose from any color on the RGB spectrum. Working digitally is convenient – my iPad can go anywhere and there is never a mess or tubes of paint that a toddler might decide to eat or smear all over the house. And maybe the most appealing aspect of working digitally is that you can undo your mistakes.
As great as all of that sounds, lately I've found that the unlimited choices digital media offers are overwhelming to me. It's like when I go to the grocery store and am paralyzed by having to choose one box from an entire isle of different kinds of cereal. I don't want to sort through all of those brushes or choose from all of those colors. And even though a brush says it's a "watercolor" brush, I'm finding that using it to try to mimic the look of real natural media feels contrived. There are no happy accidents when you work digitally. Everything is very controlled. The first time I sat down with watercolor paints and paper and realized the water does most of the work for you, I understood why people love them.
And that all important undo feature? I'm realizing more that it's a crutch and is promoting a lot of bad habits in my work. When I draw, I tend to make lots and lots of marks over and over again to find forms rather than deciding to make a line and then putting that line on the paper. It's something I'm working on and cutting back on working digitally is helping.
My grandma and I used to paint with watercolors when I was a kid, back when there was no such thing as YouTube. I used one of those pan sets – you know the kind that comes with a tiny red or blue plastic brush with stiff bristles. I painted on cheap paper. I didn't know stretching watercolor paper was a thing and I didn't know what a wash was or how to do one. It was fun and I'm glad she encouraged me, but I remember being frustrated when the paint didn't go on smoothly and when the paper buckled and looked horrible. That impression of watercolor painting has stuck with me through my entire life, so when I was older I only wanted to paint in oils.
I have always loved the look and transparency of skillfully applied watercolor paint, but thought it was just really difficult to do. So actually learning to use them the way they are meant to be used has been eye opening. I started taking a class a few weeks ago with Sue Kemp at Laguna Gloria and it has been really helpful. I have also been getting expert advice from Marsha, who does really beautiful watercolor art. It's a steep learning curve and I'm starting from scratch, but already I'm feeling creatively recharged and inspired. I'm also finding that when I go back to working digitally, the knowledge of working with traditional media helps inform my digital art.
Stay tuned for more watercolor updates!