I ended up taking about 3 weeks off from painting over the holidays. Ugh. Not a good idea. It'd been atleast 6-12 months since the lats time I had such a break in my painting schedule, and I'd forgotten how hard it is to get back into the groove. I've never really had the time to consistently paint every day, but there's a real power in regularly painting, even if the interval is only 1 time a week.
So, come the New Year, I jumped back in, damn having guests stay over or visiting with old friends. I was just going to have to carve out an hour or two a day, and that was the way it was going to be. Well, needless to say, it wasn't a delicate reunion. It's hard to go from this, which came so effortlessly, after more than 6 weeks of heavy duty regular painting (and done on a full sheet no less!)...
...to this crappy sketch done on a very small canvas (1/8 sheet, or 7.5" x 11"), which was hard to do and gave me little pleasure.
Where were the smooth washes? The confident brushstrokes with so much grit? The assured feeling of water-to-pigment ratios for wet into wet work? Bah!!
Well, needless to say, once I hammered out that work, I knew it was time to put in some dedicated time over the next week. The party was over. LOL! There was no two ways about it- I'd been remiss, and was paying the cost. I was sure there was a going to be sequence of doozys I was going to have to work through, and I was right. I remember reading a story about a world class pianist, who said something to following-
If I don't play for a week, the audience knows. If I don't play for a few days, other professional pianists can tell. But if I don't practice every day, it's very clear to me. I can hear the difference.
I can only say that this is very true. So over the next few days I set to work, a little medicine every day. I started small, 7.5" x 11". I figured I could screw up and atelast it would be quick! :DThe goal wasn't to make art, but to reacquaint myself with the ins and outs of working with watercolor-
These helped. I started thinking again about how much paint was on the brush, how much water. Thinking before I began about how I was going to construct an image, piece by piece. Composition, visual dynamics. After two days, I figured it was time to upgrade to 1/4sheet (11" x 15"). I did these three over the next few days-
Again, bit by bit, I began to pay attention to old things. Each painting was like fuel for my brain. After I finished one, I would think about how I could have made it better. And when i started the next, I thought about what I wanted to do different this time- did I want washes with a bigger, wetter brush this time? or richer color in daubs? Or more greys? Tighter control in some specific area of my choosing? Things like that. And indeed, washes with the right value began to appear from the get go. Little thoughts about composition appeared that differed from the photos. I began to actively think again about warms and cools, and using juicy, thick darks. By the time I did the last one, I felt ready for a 1/2 sheet again.
Come Friday, I did a little warm up sketch of a crazy tree I've wanted to paint for a while. Small. 7.5" x 11" again. I wanted to see if I could simplify things again, and paint wetter.
5 days in, I felt ready for a 1/2 sheet. I found an old photo of the Alhambra late in the day, from our trip to Spain, and set about composing, arranging blocks and lines, thinking about warms and cools and leading the eye.
It's not the greatest piece I've ever done, but I was happy enough- and I finally was having fun painting again!! Cutting edges, putting little details in, painting upside down for the sky (and thinking "This needs to be darker than I think it should be- it's going to dry lighter"), working the trees wet into wet. There's no way I could have done this on Monday. It was good to wade in, bit by bit and let my art-mind rev up.