I’ve always been a people-watcher, interested in a somewhat nosey-way in the lives of strangers walking by. More broadly, I’ve always been interested in the mixture of patterns and chaos in human behavior. I think that’s one of the reasons that I like to paint with watercolor so much and I love to look at other artist’s watercolor painting(s).
For much the same reason that I like people-watching in a busy park or airport, I love that I can easily picture the artist and her brush strokes when I gaze at a watercolor painting. This is because I can see the direct result of the artist’s actions in front of me on paper. Unlike other painting mediums (oil, acrylic, etc.), watercolor can take a viewer back to the very moment in time when the paint was place on the paper. Oil paint and acrylics can be painted over in layers, and layers. Errors are more easily hidden when you are working on tough gesso-covered canvas.
Watercolor as a medium, however, is not as forgiving. Even the heaviest paper will pill and rip if doused too heavily or brushed too harshly. With watercolor, an artist must seize the splatter and love the stroke. She must love what is or … perhaps, start afresh. I am sure that there are techniques for hiding mistakes or transforming a piece of less-than-satisfactory watercolor work, but I choose to love the aspect of watercolor that requires, to some extent, acceptance of irreversible washed strokes and color lines.
When observing another artist's watercolor work, I love that I can pick out the drops, the washes of color, brush strokes transparent over one another. It is as if I am taken back to that once-in-time moment in which an artist’s wet brush hit paper with pigment. This trait of watercolor embodies the essence of what I have grown as an artist to realize is the truly therapeutic role that art has in my life. The acceptance that whatever is created, be it a clay bowl or a pencil sketch, that piece of creative art flowed from my own hands, my own brain, my own heart and soul.
Like many women, I have struggled for a large part of my with accepting myself. Colbie Caillat wrote a song recently specifically about this struggle - of trying so hard, and giving so much of self away. I feel that she was tapping into that portion of a woman’s life in which we try so hard to earn validation and acceptance from others, that we forget to acknowledge the necessity of accepting ourselves.
So, in accepting my brush strokes, the visual creative expression of the self inside me, I am loving myself, giving myself a hug, gifting myself validation and acceptance. Watercolor is freeing for me because this acceptance releases me from the impingement of perfectionism and allows me to relinquish my constant need to edit, redo, and improve.
So next time you happen upon a watercolor painting, take a moment to experience the brief moments in time when the artist applied pigment and water to paper, and perhaps appreciate that he/she let go of perfection and loved the fruits of his/her creative labors enough to share it with the world.