The creative process was alive and well here at Bodega Barn last weekend during my Gouache and Watercolor Workshop. The process I was teaching, a unique way of using watercolor, matte medium and gouache, was born of panic last year when a painting I was working on began to head south...fast. I've written about this in an earlier blog, but will recap it here. The painting was due to be delivered to the gallery in a day and a half. There was no time to begin another, besides, it was an odd size for which I had the perfect frame. Watercolor is not a forgiving medium. As I began to scrub out my mistakes and try to bring the piece back to life, it only got worse. Since necessity is the mother of invention, I decided to turn to invention to save it, resulting in a unique look and a new process that I could then teach to my students.
During the process I was terrified it would not work, that I would be humiliated beyond belief at not being able to deliver. Plagued by self-doubt, self-pity and a nagging voice telling me I'd never be able to pull it off, I lumbered on. At first my brush strokes were all wrong. I tried something else. It was a little better, but not great. I tried yet another idea. Little by little, the way one crosses a rushing creek one rock at a time, I began to see progress. The painting began telling me what it needed next. Slowly at first, like an engine gathering speed, I fell in with the rhythm of the piece. One stroke, then another. What emerged on the paper was light years from my initial vision. I began to feel that little glimmer in my belly—it might work after all! Gone was the terror, the doubt, the voices. It was a painting, a good painting!
Creating a painting, like writing or composing music, is an evolutionary process that often—almost always—runs the full gamut of stages and emotions. The beginning stage is exciting, filled with hope and a new vision. The middle portion is often where doubt and discouragement begin to set in. I observe this time and again, not only with my students, but also with myself as well. It's as if a painting goes through the same growing process as we humans do: delightful babyhood, difficult adolescence, and finally rebirth and self-actualization. During the workshop I observed the students themselves and their paintings travel through a number of incarnations. They kept at it, mostly because of a desire to make their paintings work, and partly because they were in a workshop, and there was no choice! That's one of the benefits of the workshop environment. One is encouraged to keep at it, to pull it off, instead of giving up and going off to do the laundry. Below are some photos from the workshop. One participant is missing from the photo: