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I am reluctant to call myself an “artist” or a “painter,” but I have recently picked up brushes and pigments again. My reluctance isn’t because I have no history of artistry — I have dabbled in a lot of artistic endeavors over the several decades of my life: drawing (mediocre), pastels (novice), photography (intermediate), pianist (indifferent), other musical instruments (inconsistent).
The one thing I have done the most within the artistic realm is writing. That is because I chose and trained in a profession — law — that required quite a lot of it. Legal writing is not known for artistry, and yet it has its moments. More importantly, the basic relationship between the author and the word is the same. Thus you have many lawyers who have carved out for themselves notable careers in fiction and literature. And it is to writing that I always return when my other artistic ventures go stale. And yet I persist in pursuing other artistic ventures.
Watercolors are my current medium. I dabbled in watercolors over 40 years ago when I was a bachelor between marriages and using a watercolor class with a local artist as a means of some “outside of work” social interaction. Maybe I thought I might meet someone there. Why else? I cannot now recall. At the same time, I was also taking a cooking class that was assuring me at least one homemade meal a week in class. It was also supposed to make me a more self-sufficient bachelor. It did not.
I did remarry, and this woman was a real artist. Not a professional artist, but someone who had a passion for art and pursued the muse wherever it led. Our little family was fairly traditional. I focused on career advancement and financial security; Mrs Rodin made our home life comfortable and worked enough to pay for the materials she consumed in her artistic passions. Some of our vacation time was taken up in artistic workshops that Mrs Rodin was really enthused about and which I gamely attended as her “hod carrier.”
Truth be told, I did enjoy them. And I felt no pressure to create great art, whether it was painting on a computer with a stylus, doing printing with relief images on linoleum, using encaustic pigmented wax, doing gel transfers, cementing mosaics, or producing collages. My production never rivaled Mrs Rodin’s, although she was effusive over my efforts. That effusion “kept me in the game” — and that was either an intended or just an extra benefit of bestowing those compliments.
Of late, I have returned to watercolor. I am immersing myself (an apt phrase for water media). This is a more serious effort than what I made over 40 years ago. But I see a familiar pattern growing: buy all the tools of success, read extensively, think about it, write about it, and “do” some. But I take comfort that watercolor, unlike some other paint media, does require a lot of planning and thought. And the “doing” is actually pretty quick, or must be, lest the paper and pigments dry before you have performed the planned tasks. “Two minutes” is the rule of thumb; the period between when the paper is wetted and the pigment applied. That doesn’t mean two minutes to complete a painting; the painting involves several applications with drying time in between. The two minutes can be extended with a variety of tricks, but each trick carries a hazard of undoing what was just done.
Watercolor is a thinker’s medium. So if you like to think, and justify your sedentary preferences, buy some watercolors and paper. Do a few swatch studies and color wheels. Scratch out a value study. Execute a “wash.” Do a small study in a journal. Then find a comfortable chair, and think.Published in