For today’s prompt of “hamburger” my mind immediately leapt back in time to when I was younger and a double cheeseburger seemed like a completely wonderful idea. I mean, if you love hamburgers than why not go ahead and have two at once! Brilliant! Of course, looking at this now, the notion is an exercise in grotesque excess, but when I was young, I didn’t have such sensible limitations. In fact, when the idea of a triple cheeseburger was introduced, I gave it a try as well. Although I had the metabolism to battle the ridiculous calorie-bomb I’d just ingested, I really don’t like to think about what was happening on the inside. Growing up in America, the idea of “bigger is better” applied to everything under the sun, especially food. My dad used to only take us out to buffets because it was the only way to “get your money’s worth.” It’s a bizarre notion indeed to think that more food could be the goal versus good food. But, that was how I was brought up. Thankfully, I discovered the joy of good food and that less can most definitely be so much more.
I keep hoping to adopt a less is more approach with my watercolor, but I tend to render everything I see. That’s why I’ve been trying these ink-free paintings, in a hope to find a bit looser style. Trying to resist the urge to double-up on lines is a struggle for me. I actually have something that looks perfectly edible, but it lacks the graphic quality that I love. So, I dive right back in with paint. In the end, I hope that even without ink this habit creates a bit of a style that might make you recognize my work at a glance. When I first started painting I worried so much that I didn’t have a unique style. That “look” I adored seeing in the paintings of others. But, the truth is, when you look at your own work every single day, it’s sort of difficult to truly see it. I can tell whether one little doodlewash is kinda of cooler than the last, but I can’t see beyond that. I’m just too used to seeing my little illustrations. But when I look back at my early work compared with today, I get a little excited. There’s definitely progress! For example, my worst attempt this month is still far better than my worst attempt last year. That, my dear friends, it what you call artistic progress.
The truth is, we shouldn’t be competing with our best work. There are some days that the stars align and everything comes together so brilliantly you have no idea what just happened. And therefore, you can’t really replicate it. I feel that we should instead compete with our worst work. When we look at our paintings, we should look back at the work that seemed like a good idea at the time, but we didn’t like how it turned out. Looking back at this lightly despised piece will tell us everything we need to know. Yep, we’re better today than we were back then. We’ve grown and learned so much along the way. Despite our habits and things we thought were perfectly natural those many days or years ago, we’ve learned new things that make our work quite different today. It’s an extraordinary transition. But that doesn’t discount anything that came before. It’s all quite a delicious memory. A time that’s brilliant in its own right, like those wonderful moments, back in the day of double cheeseburgers.
About the Doodlewash
M. Graham Watercolors: Gamboge, Pyrrol Red, Burnt Sienna, Permanent Green Pale, Ultramarine Blue and Neutral Tint. Alvin Draft-Matic Mechanical Pencil in an A6 Hahnemühle Watercolor Book.