Zen Painting

As artists we all have a natural rhythm—our own personal cadence of expression. It’s that natural expression that I call “Zen” painting. In Zen Buddhist philosophy you become mindful of each moment. This exercise is designed to make you aware or mindful of each brushstroke you apply. You’ll deliberately put down each brushstroke onto very wet paper. When you become mindful of your brushstrokes, you get into “flow.” And when you’re in flow you’re in a meditative state, unaware of the passage of time. That’s where you should be most of the time as you paint.

To do this exercise, you’ll need:

  • A sheet of 140-lb., cold-pressed paper
  • Watercolors: blue violet, golden lake, green blue and dragon’s blood
  • Iridescents: silver
  • Brushes: 3-inch, 2-inch flat squirrel and a No. 14 round

Step 1: Work Quickly
Use a 3-inch squirrel brush to wet the front of the paper. You can also try wetting your paper at random, or wet it thoroughly with a brush or a sponge both on the back and front of the paper.

While the paper is wet, mix up a puddle of blue violet. Then use your 2-inch squirrel brush to stroke a swath of color onto the wet paper. Paint a ribbon of golden lake through the purple stroke.


Step 2: Intensify Color and Add Contrast
Add a saturated stroke of dragon’s blood, then add more blue violet to intensify the blue-purple area.

Add some contrast and intensity with green blue, painting it into the purple/dragon’s blood areas. Use your round brush to spatter some green blue into the mixture as a texture contrast.



Step 3: Enhance with Iridescents
Use an iridescent or an interference pigment to enliven your painting but do so sparingly. You don’t want a glitzy painting. Mix up a puddle of pretty intense silver paint, then stroke it into the turquoise areas.





Step 4: Add More Texture
Spatter more purple in a place that needs a little oomph by filling your brush or a toothbrush with paint and then running your thumb over the bristles to spatter paint on the paper. Remember: A little spatter goes a long way. When you’re finished, step back and look at your creation. Crop in or flip the painting to find a pleasing composition. This may be your finished work.






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