November 17, 2009

Leaving White

(watercolor by Charles Reid)

The style I love most in watercolor painting is one that leaves plenty white of the paper showing through - meaning not every inch of the paper is painted. I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but to me this is vital in watercolor painting because the paper, the white, the blank space, is as important as the color brushed on. When painting you have to plan for those spaces and even practice a bit of self control and wait. For some reason it's my tendency to want to fill in everything - like I'm coloring in a coloring book. Why is that? Even as I go through the day with work, errands and even my hobbies, I feel like every moment must be productive, "colored in" in order to be a "good" day. Quite frankly I don't believe I'm leaving enough white of the paper. I'm not talking laying in front of the TV and tuning out. I'm talking about
being intentional ...


sitting still...

not coloring...

leaving some white.
Just like in painting, if we take a moment and let that white shine through - the color becomes stronger - more effective, more meaningful. Is not life meant to be more than just ploughing through quickly so you can race to the finish line and shout I won!!!! In the mean time, your work - art, sales, teaching, writing, adding numbers, flipping burgers, whatever -is finished but is it your best work?
Several years ago I taught a close friend to watercolor paint. Once a week she came to my place after work and we would set up a still life and paint. One night she really messed up a very nice painting in an effort to finish it so she could go home. So she hurried through, not thinking or planing - just filling in and quite honetly you could tell.

Just something I'm thinking about as I wrestle with doing life and art better.

(This is the work of Charles Reid - one of my favorite watercolor artists because of how he shows light by leaving the white of the paper. I recommend any of his books - he offers great advice about his technique. Better yet, take a workshop.)

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