“Life is a journey not a destination.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
To paraphrase: L’art est un voyage, non une destination. (Art is a journey not a destination.)
Most people begin a journey of art as a child, then as they approach their teenage years they give it up, enticed by other pursuits or intimidated by insecurity. The fortunate few press on, thankfully some of us rejoin the journey at a later point in life, sadly, too many miss out on the pleasure of the voyage. I tell this story to encourage you on your journey, or even to entice you to start it up again. I will even post a few early attempts, hopefully I have progressed a bit along the way.
In my early thirties I thought about doing art, when I expressed my interest to someone I knew, who was rather artistic herself, her response was, “Why set yourself up for failure.” Fear of failure is what prevents most people from even trying, it then morphes into the explanation: “I am just not artistic.”
In those years I sought to simplify how I could do art. I bought markers so I would not have to mix colors, I tried pencils so I could erase what was not perfect, I only drew things with straight lines as for some reason I thought I could logic out the lines and the angles. Of course those attempts left a lot to be desired and ended in frustration.
One day I discovered the book “Drawing On The Right Side of The Brain” by Betty Edwards, it changed everything. The one thing which I thought would make it easier, analyzing, was the one thing causing my frustration. If you think you can’t do art, give her book a try, or check my last blog post for another recommendation.
Early on I used two mediums, acrylics or ink. Acrylics because oil paints have pretty strong aromas. Ink because the simplicity of black and white seemed to make sense.
Here are a couple of my early acrylics, large canvases – 36×48”
Here are a couple of my early pen and ink sketches, not the earliest I know, but in those days I did not take photos of things, it is for that reason that I do not have early watercolor paintings to post – Instagram changed all that.
Since I was traveling I was intrigued by the portability of watercolor. What I learned quickly was that you cannot use watercolor like acrylic or you end up with a muddy mess. I remember well one day at Sydney Harbour in Australia, sketching the area under the famous bridge, it ended up looking like a blob of really disgusting greenish brown. I put the watercolors away and did not take them up again for many years. Thankfully, I don’t have a copy of that attempt.
Everything changed when I learned about ink and watercolor, or as it is also called ink and wash. I could do a reasonable sketch with ink, the paint became the highlights. It is hard to admit but I do think it was a bit like coloring in a coloring book in those early attempts. I learned a bit about how watercolor works – most significantly that watercolor is transparent.
Then the idea of capturing the moment, as opposed to creating a masterpiece, came to me. My sketchpad was a journal, not a submission to a gallery. I was free to make a mess, to just have fun. Some look better than others but all are genuine memories.
Here is one from this week when we visited Chateau de Canon. The bee hive in the walls were intriguing.
In a future post I will pass on a few of the lessons I have learned along the way, I hope you can get a tip or two to help you along the way.
Keep traveling and keep sketching.