When I was a kid, getting a new box of crayons was the ultimate joy! It was amazing to see all of those colors together and begin to imagine what I might make with them. Beyond simply coloring what others had already drawn in books, I would set out on my own path and draw whatever came to mind. My favorite part of that memory is the feeling that I had when I did so. Never once did I question whether or not I could draw. I just assumed that I could and would happily set about DOing it. As an adult, I was told that there’s a proper way to do everything and while that’s lovely for a child, it’s time to learn how to do things a very particular way. The “right” way, they said. I always wondered how they knew at the time, and I still wonder to this day. There’s certainly a right way to do some things, like screwing in a light bulb. If done incorrectly, no light will emit and fill the room. But, when it comes to art, things get a little less clear. What’s the right way? I often see people declaring a “one true approach” when it comes to watercolor and disregarding anything done differently. This, to me, isn’t a very artistic point of view. Art is relative and personal. It’s odd to assume that everyone using a medium is even attempting to use it in a preferred style. Sometimes, like when we were kids, people just like to play with a bit of color.
For my own watercolor, I dance between the complete lack of control and adding a touch of control in the mix. This puts me right in the middle of traditional techniques. Usually, watercolorists chose abstraction or realism and since I couldn’t choose, I adopted the center path. Which isn’t really a path at all, or at least not a widely accepted one. Abtract-ish Hyperrealism-ish isn’t something you’ll find broadly covered when exploring watercolor techniques. Instead, you’ll typically be invited to explore one or the other. I’m truly not being a rebel, I just can’t quite seem to move in either direction. In truth, I don’t have the patience for true hyperrealism and the hours it takes to render something that looks like you could pluck it off the page. And when I try very abstract things, I stare at the result, and while sometimes lovely, I crave for a bit more modeling and definition. So, my doodlewash style was born. A strange love child of the two that doesn’t quite fit in. Combine this with my inability to let paint dry and you have a perfectly naughty and improper approach to things. Like a little kid playing with crayons.
But, for me, this is what makes it fun and keeps me coming back for more! I’m not a full-time artist, but just play a bit on the side, amidst a ton of other, often way less fun, responsibilities. This little doodlewash was made in the 25 minutes I had left to paint today and felt a bit childish in its approach, which I rather loved. Very fitting for the subject matter. If you’re like me, and just paint for fun, then I say have all of the fun you possibly can! Sometimes, we can just grab those colors and make whatever our heart wants to make. But, yep, I totally suggest that each person reading this learns those proper techniques from wonderful art instructors! My own style is a blend of all of that wonderful learning and I can’t imagine where I’d be without it. But, if you’re feeling a little naughty and want to try something a bit differently, I’m here to give you permission to DO that as well. You probably guessed already that I hope you’ll DO just about everything you possibly can and delight in the journey. The only thing I would say you shouldn’t do, is worry about whether or not you’re doing something “correctly.” The only way to know that is to try it and see what others might think about it. Sometimes, it’s okay to think outside the box. Each day we sit down to sketch and paint something is a beautiful chance to learn and explore a wonderful box of possibilities.
About the Doodlewash
Da Vinci Paint Co.: Quinacridone Red, Opus (Vivid Pink), Cobalt Turquoise, Cobalt Blue, Terra Cotta, Leaf Green, Indigo, Vermillion, and Aureolin. Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with sepia ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Send me a note with a link to this post, and I’ll add it to my shop!
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!