I make mistakes, it’s true. I’m not a robot. I’m guessing that you, dear reader, are also susceptible to making mistakes, even if it’s just a minor rogue brushstroke that you didn’t intend on painting. Artist and author Joyce Hicks speaks to the most common mistake that beginning artists make in the introduction to her new book, Beautiful Watercolor Landscapes. Her love of painting is infectious, as you’ll see in this excerpt below. I have to tell you, it was hard to decide exactly what to feature here, as her writing is as beautiful as her art.
“I wanted to write this book so I could share the principles and concepts that were most important in accelerating my artistic growth. I wanted to share my simple techniques for deconstructing the landscape and to show how even the most ordinary scene can be transformed into an extraordinary one. The watercolor medium is an exciting adventure into the unknown, and it’s willful, unpredictable personality requires patience if our hope is to be able to nudge it in the right direction. Perseverance and determination are traits far more important than any talent you may possess, and the quality of your work will be in proportion to the enthusiasm you have for your subject. Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals and can execute them instinctively, you will be on your way to developing your own signature style.
“The most common mistake artists make, as beginners, is to follow the natural tendency to try to say too much in a painting. Doing so leads to confusion and overshadows the piece’s main message. Remember that less is more, and knowing what to leave out is far more important than how much you leave in. As your skill and experience grows, you’ll learn to eliminate unnecessary clutter from your work and to focus on composition instead. If your goal is to take your work to the next level, you must first understand the meaning of design as it relates to art before you can move forward as an artist. You need to visualize your subject in simple terms so you can paint relationships between shape, color and value instead of painting ‘things.’
“For many who first begin to paint, the tendency is to act as a human camera recording subjects as accurately as possible instead of using time-honored principles and elements of design to produce works of art that are more pleasing and worthwhile. Knowledge is power, and the lack of it is what leads to failure. Fear of failure blocks the way to bold, confident statements and paintings that look as if they had almost painted themselves. It’s not enough to simply want to paint beautiful pictures; you must also arm yourself with necessary skills and knowledge if you are to have any hope of doing so.
“For me, the thrill of painting with watercolor is all about the beauty of translating feelings with brushstrokes of color. When I push luscious, transparent watercolor paint across bright white paper, I am transported to a creative inner place that can’t be analyzed. It’s pure joy, and Lord only knows how the process happens. I don’t want to interrupt the magic with techniques such as masking, pouring or salting, which may slow the rhythm of my brush, so I choose instead to keep it simple. Before starting a painting I go to great lengths to make sure that all potential problems have been worked out before I ever pick up my brush. Once I have a well-thought plan and feel confident with my choices, I take up my brush and place it in the hands of my heart. I attempt to describe what it is about the scene that moved me to want to paint it in the first place.”
Mistakes happen, and it’s because of books such as Beautiful Watercolor Landscapes that many students of art are able to know what to avoid and what to do when it comes to painting. A regret (not a mistake, albeit) that I often hear is that people wish they had started learning how to create art sooner in life. I’m curious–how did you begin your art journey? Tell me in the comments section below.
Until next time,
**Free download: Landscape Art: 4 Lessons on Creating Luminous Landscape Paintings
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