I have been wanting to get out and go fishing for quite a long time, and this past weekend, I finally did. The ice has thawed, and they are letting Nimisilla fill with the ice melt. So, on Saturday, I dropped my kayak from the ceiling, loaded it on the car, and drove to the reservoir.

For the first two or three hours, I was fine, but I didn’t get as much as a nibble. No matter – I don’t really go out to catch fish anyway, I just want to be alone.

As the sun started to set, I paddled over to the bridge, and dropped anchor to try to get into some crappie there, but only managed to catch two little guys. As the sun started to set, I started getting too cold to stay on the water, so I paddled home, a little sad because dusk is the best time to catch crappie. Oh well.

I snapped this photo on my way back to the car.

I decided to try to paint it tonight. I have been really down on myself again, because I started experimenting with trying to paint a self portrait. It didn’t go well.

Mud city.
I look like a serial killer here.
My skull is collapsing.

These failed attempts told me i I really do need to work on drawing, and composition. Unfortunately, I am at a loss for how to improve in regards to composition, beyond knowing the basics like the rule of thirds, leading lines, etc. I just can’t seem to compose images in a way that seems enticing, maybe that’s the real challenge.

I started this watercolor thing because I liked it. I started blogging about it because I wanted a place to take notes so I could learn from my paintings. And I’m keeping up with it because I want to prove that you don’t need to be naturally gifted at something if you just work really damn hard at it.

With that goal in mind, I paint about three or four times a week, almost always after I’ve put the kids to bed. So it’s not at all out of the ordinary for me to be sitting at my desk painting until 2am on any given day.

After two and a half years of that, I really want to start seeing the hard work part off, and yet I still feel grossly inadequate.

But that’s the thing. If you want to be good, and you aren’t naturally gifted, it doesn’t take just work, it takes A LOT of work. So… I’m going to keep pushing. I feel discouraged, and wonder, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you CAN’T get good through hard work alone. Maybe you really do need that spark of intangible immeasurable ineffable talent. I don’t know yet, but I’m going to find out. I’m going to keep trying, keep pushing, keep practicing, and keep hoping for light bulbs to go off.

The painting I made tonight I’m half proud of. I really like that I used red for the trees, as they look much more natural than when I use a deep dark brown. I also liked some of the whispery grey trunks that I painted into the wet foliage, but I didn’t packing enough of them, you can’t even tell they are in the image.

I like the patterns on the lit side of the waves, but I got too wrapped up in itty bitty details when I painted the shadowed sides. I also don’t think the waves have enough of a rhythm to them, they just feel a little too choppy.

The colors I think are nice, and I like the way the water looks golden beneath the trees, and blue elsewhere, but I need some more soft edges on the waves in the blue part of the image. As I have rendered it here, there’s really no focal point. Next time, I think I’ll play down the detail on the reflections in The shadowed parts of the waves, and play up the detail on the highlighted parts.

I’ll also dial back a bit on the sky, and leave the water near the horizon as nothing but a dry brush stroke.

The composition itself isn’t mind blowing, there’s nothing that draws the eye through the image, so I’ll need to find a way to make it less rectangular blocks of interest. Hopefully, by incorporating some more soft edges, and perhaps playing with the shape of the waves, I can slide to some leading lines that will provide a better sense of depth, which should contribute to a sense of scale. I’m hoping that will all come together to make a painting with more emotion than this one.

Even though there are a lot of things I want to do differently, I’m still pleased with this. I have to keep reminding myself that this is just one more step on a very long journey. I’m not going to get to where I want to be in a few years. I genuinely don’t think I’ll be able to consistently paint things I’m proud of until I’ve been at it for a decade, maybe more.

But – that’s not to say this is bad. I think this is a good painting for me. It’s a bit sophomoric, but that’s appropriate. I’ll improve with time.

Here it is again.