Watercolor Doodling!

Watercolor doodles

I’ve always been a big doodler, usually with pencil or pen. As a student, I was always doodling in my notebook during class in order to have something to do with my hands, which allowed me to focus on what the teacher was saying. (Whenever teachers used to say “Stop drawing and pay attention!” I would wonder, “Which do you want me to do?”) As an adult, I continue to draw while watching TV, talking on the phone, and attending meetings. So, naturally I wondered how to incorporate watercolor into this habit.

My first attempt to incorporate watercolor into this habit was to paint the way I normally do while on the phone. I chose a reference photo and worked on painting it while chatting away. Unfortunately, I found that there were many times when I got too involved in the painting and zoned out on the conversation, and the other person noticed too! I don’t always realize when I’m alone listening to a podcast or something, but when I’m working on a painting, there are several times when I have to stop passively listening and actually pay full attention to the painting:

  1. Planning – e.g. deciding what goes on what layer, what order to paint things in, when to place drying breaks, and what colors to use.
  2. Problem-solving – when something goes wrong and I need to recover.
  3. Moments of time pressure – e.g. “I need to do x, y, z while the paper is still wet.”

After all that, my “occupy my hands” problem wasn’t fully solved because I needed to sit and wait during drying breaks between layers!

I realized after the fact that this was the equivalent of trying to draw a portrait or a still life while on the phone, and I don’t normally do that. Even when I use a pencil, I doodle – I just noodle around and draw whatever comes to my hand, without thinking about it, or planning ahead.

So I tried that with watercolor. Don’t think, just idly paint. Swatch, enjoy colors, fool around.

And… it worked! I continuously kept my hands and a small part of my brain busy while being able to focus on the conversation. The featured image for this post is what I naturally produced while on the phone.

Some observations:

  • The way I doodle with watercolor is different from the way I doodle with pencil! Pencil doodling is about lines and shapes, whereas watercolor is, of course, about color!
  • I now have enough loose landscape experience to have a sort of sense memory about how to do it in an abbreviated format… sky, clouds, land, trees or buildings.
  • This non-goal-oriented doodling was a great way to play with colors from my “B team.” I was reminded how much I love the hue of Quin Rose, and how beautifully Perylene Red feels going down (even though I don’t love the slightly dull color it dries to.) There is something to be said for just enjoying the feel, though!

Next time you’re on the phone, why not try some watercolor doodles?