2022 has been an exciting year for me as a watercolor artist, at the same time as it’s been a pretty dreary year personally, with health challenges for myself and my family members, career angst, and garden variety depression. But I think that hard times in life are when we need art the most, and I’ve definitely leaned on art this year as a source of joy, distraction, and accomplishment no matter what else was happening in life. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished as an artist in the last year, and excited about continuing to develop my skills and build my capacity to make magic.
It was just about two years ago that I began watercolor. My first year, 2021, was all about figuring out basic technique: how to use my supplies, water control, color theory, value, composition. I read lots of books and followed lots of tutorials. Toward the end of the year, I found Kolbie Blume’s 10-Day Painting the Wilderness challenge on Youtube. The sense of magic and wonder that I felt being able to actually paint the types of scenes that I found magical and inspiring gave me a real boost, and set the stage for me to spend 2022 developing my skills and painting increasingly complex landscapes.
I took off the tutorial training wheels.
I began the year laser focused on tutorials, but over time, I began doing my own thing, deviating more and more from the instructions. By a combination of direct instruction and repetition, I learned to break down any photograph and plan how to paint it in layers.
I became a total color nerd.
I collected scores of colors and learned their unique properties (and then gave most of them away). I now have extremely strong opinions about color.
I overcame my fear of plein air.
This was a big psychological hump for me to overcome at first. I felt awkward and nervous about being seen by others (mostly people don’t comment, occasionally they compliment), and worried about forgetting things I needed (I did, at first, but that’s how I learned what I needed). But I made myself paint in the park a few times, then I began taking my Art Toolkit with me when I made my first few trips away from home since the start of the pandemic. It’s proved a wonderful way to capture trip memories as well as to occupy myself during the dull moments.
There are always a million possible ways to develop as an artist. At pretty much any point in my life, for example, I could easily have resolved to finally learn perspective, but the idea of doing anything with rulers never appealed to me, so I never did.
I am not interested in resolutions that contribute to the puritanical slog of self-improvement; instead, I’m all about using this time of reflection to identify what you actually want to do. The more trivial, the better. A tweet I can no longer find resonated with me last year, where the tweeter said they only do fun and attainable resolutions, like “Try more interesting pasta shapes.”
In that spirit, here are some fun directions I may want to go in with my art in the coming year:
- Trying gouache! (Beyond just white for stars.)
- Painting from the tube. (This will be necessary for gouache, but could also be done with watercolor.)
- Trying different brush shapes, like a dagger brush or a DIY textured stippling brush.
- Spontaneous painting.
Here’s to more creation, exploration, and magic in the coming year.