Well, I’ve been painting for three years now. It’s time for me to do my little progress check.
When I first started painting, I decided to try to paint the same thing every day for one month. It was the first watercolor painting I had ever really tried, and I figured painting it over and over would be a good way for me to learn.
It turned out, that was really helpful. So much so, that I would like to encourage everyone starting out to try something like that. Don’t worry about getting a beautiful photo, or even doing an amazing job in the first try, just do your best. Then, paint it again, and again. If you want a challenge, try to paint it every day, for a month. It gets old after a while, but it’s an incredible learning tool because it takes a lot of the guesswork out of it. When you paint the same thing that many times, you stop learning about the subject, and start learning about the medium. And that is more important in my mind than anything other than learning to draw. (Learning to draw is easily the most important thing you need to learn to do. And, like painting, the only way to improve is to do more of it.)
So, here is the photo I’m painting.
Here is the very first attempt, in 2018. This took me about 4.5 hours, and I swear to shod, I was trying to make it really good.
In 2019, I decided to paint it again as an attempt to judge my progress. I tried to emulate Joseph Zabukovic when I painted it, and this might actually be the best version so far. But, I don’t think it is really a good example of what I’m trying to do, because I changed so much about the composition, it really ended up feeling like a completely different thing. But still, the progress I made in year one was huge.
In 2020, I decided to keep to the original composition a bit more. I did this not because I think the original composition is better, but because I think it’s a better gauge of my progress. I was pretty disappointed when it was done, because it wasn’t as good as the one I did after my first year.
Now I’m entering my fourth year of painting. I think there are some things about the painting i made at the end of this year that are better than previous years.
First: I did a better job of leaving washes alone. I was less tempted to go back and “fix” things as I painted. I think I’ve learned by now that you can’t “fix” things, and keep a watercolor painting feel gestural and spontaneous. Those are both qualities I’m really striving for, so learning to leave well enough alone is a big deal.
Second: I painted from the top, down. I know this is the best way to get smooth washes, but for some reason I constantly find myself painting shapes from the bottom up. I put a lot of focus this time into avoiding this mistake, and I ended up with smoother, more coherent washes. These are important because all those smooth washes tend to conflict less with other parts of the painting, making it easier to define a focal point.
Thirdly: I didn’t use too many pigments. I think this whole painting is done with Ultramarine Blue, Quinacridone Red, and Qinopthalone Yellow. Using free pigments helped me ensure more color harmony, and made the shapes more lively then if I had just used Payne’s grey.
Fourthly: I practiced the drawing. It may not look like much, but I focused on the building structure and tried to force myself to draw only what was necessary. I also paid more attention to perspective that I have done yet.
All in all, I’m happy with it I guess. I think I’ll be able to improve next year, but I’m glad to see progress.
Now, on to year four.