Haiku #18 (and a new painting)

Divine Mirror, watercolor (WIP*)

Eternal light pools
Reflect your perfect essence
The divine as you

© Amanda Reilly Sayer


* WIP: This is a section of a larger painting that is unfinished. Painted on paper, the original can be easily cropped to match the image you see, something I may do if the rest doesn’t come together! Either way, I hope you’ll enjoy it, and the haiku.

Watercolor Expressions: Reclaiming purple

Lavender Daydreams, 5×5 watercolor

Before I knew anything about painting – only slightly less than I know now, mind you – I was heavy handed with the color purple. For no reason I can really remember, purple (one shade, straight from the tube – ugh!) was my go to color.

Then I learned to avoid it, along with the color red. An unconscious hedge against the inadvertent possibility of making purple, I’d guess.

Blues and greens were safer choices, certainly for the seascapes I’m so fond of capturing. The real problem was that I didn’t understand color mixing, among other things. And dark purple was a good cover for poorly considered brushstrokes and color choices that couldn’t be undone. Hmm… maybe I’m starting to understand why I used it so much!

I cringe to think about some of those paintings now, even as I also see how much I needed to make them. And I’ll almost certainly know this feeling again when I look back at my currently unrecognized shortcomings. So it is with growth, when we’re honest about where we’ve been. Hindsight and all that.

My learning curve as a painter is still on the rise, but I’d rather risk exposing flaws than continue hiding behind a limited palette. Or worse, stop sharing myself as I am.

Progress, not perfection, my friends!

This painting, with all of its transparency, shows a bit better in person. Even so, the color palette soothes me, as I hope it will you.

What do you avoid because you don’t do it well? What colors in your life need to be reclaimed?

Watercolor Expressions: Variation on a theme

Seascape Yellow, 9×12 watercolor

Mostly I don’t plan paintings beforehand. There are exceptions, but painting for me is primarily about expression.

The unintended similarities between paintings shouldn’t surprise me. They might simply be variations on a theme.

Still, the repetition in the absence of intention strikes me, makes me wonder what is being painted when there is no consciously identified subject.

I’ve called this a seascape, because that’s what the image most closely approximates. I’m also curious about what else it might be.


Watercolor Expressions: Light heart, light touch

Untitled watercolor, 5×8

Do anything, but let it produce joy.

Walt Whitman

Joy [joi]: 1. A state of happiness 2. Playful application of paint on paper

A fellow blogger reminded me about the importance of playfulness when making art.

Critical thinking has place in painting, but a considered break from striving is a lot more fun.

Watercolor Expressions: Knowing when to stop

Mexico Dreams, 7×10 watercolor (hot press)

Arguably an ability that ranks high on the list of life skills to master, it is also a valued skill to develop as an artist.

Although the inspiration to start a painting can be a challenge, the wisdom to know when it’s time to put down the brush may be even more elusive. Many of my paintings have been cast in a dull patina of excess fiddling. At the other extreme, lackluster efforts have been rescued by a few additional brushstrokes or slight color adjustment. The problem for the amateur (me) is learning to judge proximity to either pole, to make more calculated decisions about when to rest and when to push on.

If my experience is any indication, I’d guess that beginners err on the side of doing too much, desperate to fully manifest the kernel of a good idea. Masters almost certainly know when enough is enough, when to move on. Not every painting is meant to be saved.

My decision to let this painting rest has been an acute struggle. I see flaws – things I’d like to fix or explore further – and bits I’d like to preserve in a better painting. I also know that the risk of ruining this particular work is far greater than the likelihood of additional improvement. I’ve already edged into destructive territory. Perhaps my willingness to stop here is a small step towards mastery.


Addendum (day after original post): “Oops, I did it again,” to quote Britney Spears. I said I’d stop, but I didn’t. Hear me out though!

As promised, I stopped to let the painting rest. Then I looked at it. And kept looking. I’d already determined it would never be a great painting. Still, there was apparently more to learn. So, before burning it in a ritual fire, I began again with nothing to lose but time.

Ironically (considering the orignal post content), I think the painting is improved in a number of ways. Under no illusions it’s now a great painting, with areas that are evidently a little worse for the wear, I nevertheless prefer it.

What then is the lesson here?

Perhaps knowing when to resume is as important as knowing when to stop. Especially for a beginner, squeezing every last drop of learning from each creative experience may ultimately be more valuable than the final outcome.

Sometimes growth may require a step or two back before finding the right stride forward.

The before and after images are below. Which do you prefer?

Watercolor Expressions: Keeping it loose

Untitled, watercolor (2016)

One of the best things about making art is the essentially infinite possibilities. Not everything works and, of course, we all have preferences or definitions of a ‘good’ painting. Like most things in life, I suspect it’s important to find balance in painting, to blend technical excellence with expressiveness.

Recently I’ve been trying to stretch myself by working with more representational images, focusing on drawing skills and perspective. This older painting is a reminder for me to stay loose, to balance technical advancement with enjoyment, the reason I started painting in the first place.

Fellow painters: How much you play with different styles? What style you prefer for your own art making? Do you find that switching styles helps you progress?