You wake up, it’s a beautiful day and you have an idea for an amazing piece of art! You can’t wait to get started. Filled with excitement you gather all your supplies and prepare to make your greatest creation to date! This is going to be phenomenal!
That scenario is what recently occurred in my life. Now I’ll go on to show exactly what happened next.
(Grab some popcorn and beverage of choice and prepare to laugh.)
One morning I awoke with a fun idea. I couldn’t wait to get started! Although I am primarily a graphite artist, I love trying new mediums. Recently I started learning colored pencil techniques and have fallen in love with colored pencil painting. My idea was to draw a Tufted Titmouse in colored pencil. However, the background would be done in watercolor. A mixed media piece. I had this brilliant vision in my head of how I wanted it to look. I knew exactly what I wanted to do and some vague ideas of how I would accomplish it.
I gathered all my supplies and prepared to begin. Though I did attempt a watercolor painting last summer, I haven’t really done much in watercolor for 20+ years. I pulled out a piece of cheap cold press watercolor paper (mistake #1), grabbed my ruler and sectioned off the 8 x 10 area for my painting. I graphed it out and did a light sketch of my bird and the branch. I was so excited! This was going to be fun and amazing!
Next I pulled out my Windsor Newton masking fluid. Have I mentioned I haven’t seriously painted in over 20 years? Uhm, ya. Anyway, I grabbed the cap and began to twist. It was stuck! After many attempts to open it, suddenly the plastic cap shattered in my hands! My first thought? Well at least it’s open!
I began to brush the masking fluid over the bird and branch to protect it from the watercolors. I noticed that there were some gloppy balls in the fluid when I brushed it on the paper. OK, well, that’s alright because the fluid will be pulled off once the paint is applied and dried. No big deal, right? Then as I dipped my brush a little further into the bottle I felt resistance. I pushed a little harder and moved my brush around. There was a huge congealed ball of masking fluid in the center of the bottle! ( Yep, 20+ years since I painted, since I bought the masking fluid.) Well…. hmmm…. it’s ok, because there’s still some liquid and it’s covering the areas I need covered. Finally, I had the bird and branch covered with masking fluid! Now all I have to do is wait for it to dry and the fun can begin with the watercolors!
I sat there, not so patiently waiting, touching the masking fluid every few minutes until it was finally ready-ish. OK, ya so it was still a bit tacky, but I was impatient. I picked up my brush and began washing clear water over the paper. I knew in my head how I wanted the background to look. I wanted it very loose, splashes of color here and there with a lot of white remaining. Maybe some drops of color that run. I’ve seen other artists do similar backgrounds and love it.
OH, did I mention, I used the back side of the paper? Yes. because it is cold pressed (highly textured) I flipped the paper over to use the back side which as less texture and would take the colored pencil much better.
Anyhoo, I squeezed out some watercolor pigments onto my plastic pallet. I mixed two blues together to get the tone I wanted and added water (not too much) and loaded my brush. Took a deep excited breath and flicked my brush at the paper.
Wow. Ok. Not what I expected. The pigment did flick onto the paper. It did NOT flick onto the paper into this incredible splotch that I had anticipated. Instead, because I was using a brush which was too small, it made a sort of small sad face looking series of dots. It also did not spread out as I had envisioned in my head. I thought to myself, “That’s ok, I’ll keep going, add a little more water to the paper, it’ll be fine, it will still work!”
News flash, it did not work and it was not fine.
Quickly my wonderful idea of a loose splotchy background faded and turned into this:
How did that get away from me so fast? What on earth? What did I do? How can I fix this?? Quickly I searched google for answers. Surely there would be a way to save this piece and get it to look as I imagined, right?
Removing unwanted pigment. Use clear water to lift areas of unwanted color. That pretty much summed up the answers in the many google links. Seems easy enough!
I grabbed my larger brush and began wetting down the paper. Hmmm, the color wasn’t “lifting” with the wet brush. OK, many articles mentioned using paper towels or other things. I grabbed a couple paper towels. Nope. Deep breath. Maybe scrubbing is the answer? A few articles mentioned scrubbing with your brush and clean water. Sure, that should work, right? Did I mention I was using cheap watercolor paper?
As I attempted to scrub some of the pigment off the paper I quickly noticed small areas of paper literally lifting, peeling up and rolling into balls. That was not how I expected it to go. I pressed on, determined to make this idea work! Here’s what I was left with:
It’s a bit hard to see, but I think you can get the idea… areas of scratched up paper, pigment that didn’t lift, pigment that did. Needless to say it was a complete and utter disaster. Well that didn’t go as planned!
It was at this point I decided to call it a day and throw the piece into the trash.
The story could easily end here. An attempt with mixed media piece using a new medium along with a medium I haven’t done in a long time. Lesson learned, idea dead, never going to try again, right? WRONG.
The reason I have shared this with you is for encouragement. It would be easy to give up and never try this again, but I won’t give up. I will try this again! I count this first attempt as an experiment. It taught me many things. Also, it was fun despite the problems I had! I enjoyed playing around with my idea. Fun. Art should be fun. We should enjoy what we’re doing even if it doesn’t turn out the way we want. We should also learn from our failures and use those to build up our experience.
I will do this piece again. (After buying some new liquid frisket and good watercolor paper.) I am going to look at other artists who create backgrounds like the one in my vision and watch some tutorials.
Moral of the story? Play with new mediums, don’t let failure stop you and HAVE FUN!
Until next time,