Farm Road: End of Year 5

Farm Road: My first version compared to this year’s version.

When I started watercolor painting, I painted the same thing every day for 30 days. I chose a photo of a farm road that I took while driving around Berlin, Ohio.

This is the photo I paint every year.

It’s not a particularly amazing photograph, nor is it a particularly great composition – but it’s what I used. I learned a whole hell of a lot by doing that, and I highly recommend trying it if you haven’t. It gets really tedious, I’m not going to lie, but it teaches you a lot about working through a composition to find the problems that you need to solve.

The very first time I tried to paint it, this is what I made:

Farm Road 2018, End of Year Zero (I guess?)

After painting that every day for a month, this is what I made:

Farm Road 2018, After painting it every day for a month.

After painting for a year, I decided to paint that Farm Road again. I wanted to see how I had improved after a year. At the time, I was heavily focused on the techniques I was learning in Joseph Zbukvic’s book Mastering Atmosphere and Mood in Watercolor, so this version didn’t end up feeling like I was doing “the same thing” I was more interpreting that photo, and trying to paint it how I though Joseph Zbukvic might… this is the result. (Here’s the post from that one, unfortunately something happened and a lot of the images were lost – they show up as broken links today, maybe one day I’ll remember to try to find them and fix it.)

Farm Road 2019, End of Year 1

Then, in 2020, I decided to try again. This time, I decided to try to paint the image and honor the composition from the photograph, because I thought that would give me a better 1:1 comparison from year to year. This is what I made then. (Here’s the post about that one.)

Farm Road 2020, End of Year Two

I remember feeling really down on myself after that one. I felt like the painting from 2019 was so much better than the painting from 2020 – It was like I had regressed. Honestly, that really screwed with my head for a long time.

When September 2021 came around, I painted it again:

Farm Road 2021, End of Year Three

Then, in 2022 I painted it again:

Farm Road 2020, End of Year Four

In 2023, I didn’t paint the Farm Road in September. Instead, I waited until I was finished with the Watercolor class that I took at the Canton Art Museum. I then wanted to wait until I was finished posting about those classes before I posted this. I thought maybe I would be better after the art classes, and if I waited until they were over, I wouldn’t make something “worse” than the previous years. I knew how much it hurt when 2020’s painting was “worse” than 2019’s painting, and I didn’t want to feel that way.

I was talking to my therapist about this ongoing competition I have with myself to “do better.” She challenged me to consider whether or not that kind of perspective is helpful at all. I am starting to think she’s right – it isn’t. Trying to “improve” has polluted my paintings since the beginning. Every time I sit down to paint, I’m in a contest with myself to make something “better” than the painting I made last time, and it adds all of this pressure and frustration to everything I make. I put this weird pressure on myself because every painting is a contest that I can’t win. I don’t even know what a “better” version of the last painting might look like, I just know there are things that I don’t like about it. As a result, I can’t tell if the thing I just made is in fact any better than the last painting. Am I “better” today than I was when I first picked up a paint brush? Sure. Am I “better” than I was in 2020? Sometimes? Maybe?

That attitude is something I’m trying to fix. I don’t want to focus on “getting better” any more. I get so down on myself when I don’t feel like I am improving that I end up being more discouraged than anything.

When I sat down to paint this, I wanted to try to go back to that original composition, and really stick to it. I wanted to get a 1:1 comparison to the very first version of the Farm Road. I did that because I wanted to see if I was “better” than before, but now I’m more interested in seeing how my approach has changed. I am trying to adopt that kind of perspective when I look at my art – not “Am I Better” but “How am I different?” Anyway – this is what I made:

Farm Road 2023, End of Year 5

Also note that I stopped numbering the Farm Road paintings as if it’s another version of the one I painted way back in 2019. This time, instead of numbering it 37, I decided to number it 5. This is because it’s the painting from year 5… I don’t care how many times I have painted it up until now, I just want to track how many years of experience I had under my belt when I painted it. So – there you go… Farm Road from the end of year five.

On to my sixth year as a Watercolorist.

Farm Road 2018-2023


4 responses to “Farm Road: End of Year 5”

  1. This was really cool to see and read about. Thanks for sharing your journey. It’s vulnerable right? Watercolor is such an interesting medium because we can do it so differently, day to day and year to year. I love all the paintings you made and really just love that you’re on a journey, it’s inspiring to me as an artist. I may have to do this same thing and do the same thing once a year to witness my evolution. If you wanna stay in touch I’m on IG @caseyspirofineart. Would love to connect watercolor artist to watercolor artist!

    1. I will check you out for sure! I don’t have Instagram, but I’ll troll your feed until the pop-up makes me leave!

  2. Wow. Once again, Josh, your running commentary with your paintings was so very interesting. I can identify heavily with many of your feelings and self judgements, and it’s wonderful to see you rise above the ones that were self defeating.
    I certainly admire your tenacity and discipline— I think it really paid (is paying?) off. I loved being able to see your progress & the different techniques & subtleties used each year. I hope you can see how talented you are.
    I adore the medium and truly thank you for publishing these ‘mini lessons’ (‘lessons’ to me, least). They are very helpful.

    1. Thank you so much! I learn so much by doing this, its really helpful to think about my paintings in a different way.

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