When I was a kid, I loved watching a dry leaf float down the edges of the street after a good rain. The moment a leaf would fall and hit the water, I would impulsively chase after it. I’ve no idea why, but watching it bob along on the water, ducking under bits of debris only to reappear a little ways down the hill, was totally mesmerizing. I would often grab a curled, dried leaf and gently place it on top of the rushing water like a fragile little boat to watch it zoom away. Eventually, the little boat would slide into a storm drain and disappear from sight and I was off to find another leaf. This love of the journey followed me into adulthood, where I would happily bounce from one new thing to the next. Perhaps, if I’d chosen a path early in life and stuck with it, I would feel like I had developed some body of masterful skills. But instead, I find myself following ideas just to see where they might go next. The mystery is the lure for me, not the mastery.

This month, I’ve been attempting to use the whole page of my little sketchbook, simply as something to try. There’s no grand plan behind it, or hope that this or that might happen. I just picked an approach that I’m trying to stick with until the end of the month. For me, it seems like less pressure to think about “filling the page” than think about something like, “make a beautiful painting.” This way, I’m literally just trying to make decisions on how to cover a page with paint. Nothing more, nothing less. I’m now half way through this little experiment and I’ve learned a couple of things. I just barely have the patience to fill a page, and often my colors get a touch muddy because I simply can’t wait for them to dry properly. Some of the subject matter I’ve chosen would be better served if it were completed over a couple of days given my little hour or less to paint, but the thought of looking at the same subject two days in a row makes me crazy. This is not something I can easily fix or change, so it has instead, simply become part of my style.

All this to say, the mystery of what might appear each day is what keeps me excited for the next. It’s a thrill and a challenge to make these little posts on a daily basis. I’m sure they could benefit from some sort of planned approach, but I just really suck at planning things. I love to live in the moment and love whatever comes my way. There’s so much I’d like to learn when it comes to watercolor, and still more things I’d love to try. Maybe one day I will. Maybe I’ll take a workshop or spend the afternoon working on a particular technique. Maybe I should. In the meantime, you’ll find me sitting at the end of my kitchen counter each evening, rapidly sketching and splashing paint, then quickly typing whatever just came to mind. But, in that little moment, I find that I feel a bit like a kid again and realize not much has really changed. After all these years, I’m still just chasing leaves.

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About the Doodlewash

Sennelier L’Aquarelle: Quinacridone Gold, Dioxazine Purple, Perylene Maroon, Phthalocyanine Blue, Cobalt Turquoise, Ultramarine Deep, and Payne’s Grey. Lamy Safari Al Star pen with Platinum Carbon with sepia ink in a little red cloth hardbound l’aquarelle journal I found in a Paris shop.
 Day 15 - #WorldWatercolorGroup Chasing Leaves Autumn Winter Leaf in Puddle Water Ripple Watercolor - #doodlewash
Posted by:Charlie O'Shields (doodlewash)

Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world!

23 replies on “Chasing Leaves

  1. Very nice! I never was much of a painter, I love to draw and I get it! I’ve actually recently told myself that it’s ok if I don’t master my hobbies. I’ve been drawing since I was a kid but in later years I started playing a few instruments and most recently wood carving and making canes and walking sticks. Do what you enjoy and be in the moment! I sometimes walk away from a drawing when I get frustrated with the details or when I’m just anxious to finish. Enjoyed your story!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the idea of the mystery not the mastery – you will always find satisfaction if your imagination keeps asking you to investigate round the next corner. Always investigate, never stick with the mundane, and it means you are constantly learning. Fabulous!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the almost transparent look of your leaf, the detail shining through. Now all we need is spring to arrive and those trees start showing the small glimpse of bright greens, before they bloom into giant veined plates, to feed the tree with sunlight….and we thought we humans had invented solar panels?

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  4. The light is really shining through your leaf. I used to like piling them up and jumping in them myself…it made raking the leaves a long job, but much more fun!
    And I’m not good at planning either. I like the surprise…(K)

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  5. WHOA Charlie, that leaf is photo-realistic! Crazy crazy. I used to enjoy chasing floating leaves too – it is a curious thing. I never did get one of those flash remote-controlled boat dealies, so maybe it was the next best thing! 😉

    I like mystery over mastery – a fine motto!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. “The mystery is the lure for me, not the mastery.” I’m no expert, but I think you’re mastering a lot of things as you pursue their mystery, Charlie! Thank you for a particularly charming painting and post.

    Liked by 1 person

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