It’s okay to be basic.

A postcard-sized watercolor painting of a bright purple, red, and yellow sunset over the ocean with silhouettes of palm trees. "Wish you were here" is typed over it in a script font.
(c) January 2022 by Billy Idyll.

I mentioned last post that I’ve been reading a lot of watercolor books, some of which I find off-putting. But even among those that I like and that I learn a lot from, I’ve yet to read one that does not, at some point, completely alienate me by making a little dig at something I like. Usually, it’s bright colors. 

For example, in Powerful Watercolor Landscapes by Catherine Gill and Beth Means, which otherwise I loved so much that I took copious notes, a section on mixing greens warns, “If you use Phthalo Green, which looks like something that dripped out of the car onto the garage floor, be sure to tame it with a hefty dose of red.”

Hello, hi. I have been outspoken here on this blog about how much I love Phthalo Green right out of the tube. It SPEAKS TO ME ALRIGHT???

Right after painting a very red sunset that I adored, I read in Elizabeth Tate’s American Artist Guide to Painting Techniques: “When painting sunsets and sunrises, the most common mistake is to pile on too many pinks, oranges, and reds. This only results in the clichéd image often found on cheap postcards.”

Well excuuuuuse me! Maybe I want to paint like a cheap postcard. Maybe I like cheap postcards! Lots of people do, you know. There’s a reason they’re popular. 

It’s hard not to see these passages as artists reaching through their own teaching materials to slap me across the face and say “Ya basic!” 

I’m working to try to notice these biases and not absorb them and pass them on in my own writing about watercolor. I don’t want to make anyone feel bad about their subjective taste because mine is different. I do express my subjective opinions, but I hope to make it clear when it’s just my opinion. Nobody should feel bad, or like a not-real artist, or like they have to change their taste or make art that they themselves don’t like to be taken seriously or to be a real artist. Make the kind of art you like! 

It’s okay to be basic!