A Tree Grows in My Journal

One of the things I love about art is that I’ll never learn everything about it.  Each day there’s a new discovery awaiting me.  Another is that it’s taught me to accept my own limitations and the quirks that appear in my drawing and painting.  I practice to master techniques but as I practice, I learn to accept my own lack of mastery, my own signature.  It’s quite wonderful when you get to a point where you can accept your weaknesses and go about building on them to create your own style.

One of the frustrations I’ve had with watercolor is that it has variations — staining, transparent, granulating, etc.  Granulating was a hard one to understand.  I mixed some pretty mottled washes that deeply irritated me.  I wanted everything to be smooth.  I used smooth paper, continuous lines and strove for tight detail.

Now 3 years into an almost daily drawing and painting practice, I’ve learned to LOVE the variations and the unpredictability.   (Learning to lift out and smooth edges helped tremendously.)  Now I’m using rough paper and learning how to exploit granular textures.  I got the biggest thrill dropping some granulating colors into wet washes and watch the colors swirl around and mix themselves.  Then, if I mix them before I paint, it’s fascinating how they separate as they dry creating an organic texture. 

Here’s a tree trunk I did mixing Daniel Smith’s Sap Green and Transparent Yellow Oxide.  I painted a very wet wash and it dried like this:

I filled in the ground under the tree with a natural mineral color that Daniel Smith makes — pigments made from ground stone.  This is Red Fuchsite Genuine.  I love how the sediment from the ground minerals make an earthy texture — this came out like red sandy soil.
I added an edge of brown ink, then I inked in the tree trunk in black, and resisted the urge to try to mimic any real bark texture, just flowed with the paint.  I painted the background Lapis Lazuli, also from Daniel Smith, for the sky:

I’m much more successful at life long learning if I keep coming back to beginner’s mind — a state of curiosity, wonder and openness.  It’s nice to know I can keep growing and never grow bored.

6 thoughts on “A Tree Grows in My Journal

  1. i'm like you….i've been painting a while but still learning all the properties of different paints. the granulating ones are definitely tricky to work with.

    nice painting.

  2. Joy, I agree with you: we never learn everything about art no matter hard we try.I confess I still have problems with colors, shades and hues.I used to draw and thats all. No colors at all. Now I know how important colors are! Love to learn your process.Thanks!

  3. You are wise beyond your years, my friend! I totally agree with your opening paragraph and the description of the process of painting was truly mesmerizing. The latter was matched by the amazing textures and volume you achieved in your tree trunk. Thank you for the inspiration to keep trying to work with watercolors to develop my own personal style, which I think is one of my weaknesses. Blessings!

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