Friday, October 10, 2014


 How often do you get stuck? In completing a project, learning something new, making any kind of change? The end of a wonderful and challenging watercolor class last Spring reminded me how being stuck can crop up unexpectedly.

I finished the class with the hope that I could get started painting watercolors on a more consistent basis. I did well in the class. When the course was over and I tried to paint, I was 'stuck', so stuck that I felt that I had lost all the skills and techniques I had learned over my lifetime. They just seemed to disappear as I made 'mud' paintings, the awful mix that watercolorists try to avoid which robs vibrant colors of their beauty.

Not a problem, I thought. I've been stuck before. I would just continue to practice and eventually the 'stuckness' would go away. After a few tries though, I realized that I needed to put away the watercolors for awhile and try something else. I practiced letterforms. 

I did 36 small, non-representational acrylic paintings one right after the other:

I stencilled designs on paper, and I molded Sculpey II clay into a shrine about The Heart of Time:

It wasn't until last week when I attended Gloria Miller Allen's watercolor class on Whidbey Island in Washington ( that my watercolor 'genes' came unstuck. As I sat in class doing simple color, value, perspective, and design exercises, I began to unlock the stuck door to all the things that I knew about watercolor. What I have learned about watercolor came flooding back into my hand.

It wasn't an easy process. I still felt the old 'high expectations' part of myself at work, that part which creates fear of success and failure. I spent a lot of time talking to myself, reassuring myself that I would again hit the stuck place, but I knew how to get through that. I knew that in every piece of art there is a place that becomes mud, that to push through the mud is to find more depth in myself. I knew that not every painting can be special, just like the 35 acrylic paintings that I did quickly and without judgment, but I can learn from the process of doing each one. 

Here is the painting that I am still working on.  One thing I remembered was to slow down and let the painting dry before I put on another layer.  That center leaf needs some clarity, doesn't it?

I started this as a horizontal painting.
But I think it looks better this way, don't you?

Isn't creating art a lot like life?

Take a look at Gloria Miller Allen's website:
She is a warm and encouraging instructor.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Martha. I agree, sometimes solving a problem is a matter of changing perspective, like tilting a frame from horizontal to vertical


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