What does an artist need? MORE PAPER! That’s just a given! And yet, somehow, when we have a wealth of paper at our disposal, we hesitate to use it.
But did you know that watercolor paper is time-sensitive? Over time, the sizing in 100% cotton paper can break down and cause your paint to flow and absorb unevenly, resulting in patchy washes and dark spots. What heartbreak in realizing you waited too long to create your masterpiece!
Brush Miles AND Paper Miles
If that isn’t reason enough to use your paper, for an artist there is only way way to grow your skill in technique and it can be measured in miles. You’ve heard artists talk about logging brush miles to grow skill, but what about miles of paper? If you believe in your ability to master this medium, be willing to fill the mountains of paper it will take to acquire your most accomplished techniques.
And measure your growth! Not in the paintings you have framed and show proudly, but the development pieces that you aren’t so proud to show or identify as your work. Celebrate failed paintings as learning opportunities. Recognize less-skilled paintings as stepping stones to today’s achievements. Growth begins in the paintings with the less-than-perfect outcomes, where we’ve made the mistakes that push us further, where we have struggled to understand and implement something new, where we take risks and work with the consequences. If a painting isn’t turning out, I want to throw everything I can at it so it can teach me as much as possible.
The Stare of the Blank Page
Do you struggle to place that first mark on a new sheet of watercolor paper? You’re not alone! The blank page has intimidated artists for centuries. I love this letter describing the problem (and the solution) from Vincent Van Gogh to his brother, Theo:
You don’t know how paralyzing it is, that stare from a blank canvas that says to the painter you can’t do anything. The canvas has an idiotic stare, and mesmerizes some painters so that they turn into idiots themselves.
Many painters are afraid of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas IS AFRAID of the truly passionate painter who dares — and who has once broken the spell of “you can’t.” (-copied from this post)
Isn’t that a wonderful closing thought? We choose to adopt a passion for our art that is greater than our fear of failure. For me, I do that best by making my painting practice fun. Even if my painting doesn’t turn out, I want to be able to say, “I poured my heart into doing something I deeply love.”
Cheap or Valuable? Investing in creative growth.
As a new painter, I purchased pads of “student grade” watercolor paper, and struggled to get the effortless flow other artists were creating. It wasn’t until I tried out 100% cotton, artist quality paper that I realized that I had been making my learning more difficult and frustrating by choosing cheap paper that resisted flow and made watercolor harder to control. I needed to believe in my creative practice enough to invest in quality paper…and then to be willing to use it, even in practice!
I love investing in supplies that indicate the value I’ve place on my creative practice. It’s inspiring to paint with lovely brushes and my favorite colors on velvety surfaces of pristine paper. As proud as I am of the paintings that represent the best of my heart & vision, I commit to believing that the value of my art is not the quality of the work I am creating but in the investment I am placing in my creative growth, regardless of whether or I have a finished painting to show for my effort. The investment of myself to become a passionate painter who is willing to dare to go back and try again, to push further, to do more. I am valuable and my art practice brings so much value to my life that I want to treat it like the treasure that it is.
Treasure is there for the artist who dares!
Having a personal artistic practice has filled my studio with a wealth of paper that has fulfilled its purpose – to be filled with color. A blank piece of paper has not lived its potential and I want my paper to live a full, happy life! But my personal artistic practice has done more for me than create a body of work; like that blank piece of paper, my purpose as a person is to be filled as well, to live a life of experiences.
Art has invested my inner life with meaning; teaching me to look more closely, to notice without judgment, to feel my feelings without allowing them to define me. It’s taught me how to care for my heart, how to hear it and when it’s safe to let it loose. Art has given me words to define what love looks like.
If that takes an investment in a few sheets of paper, I think it’s been money well spent.
This article offers a look at how to get the most value for your paper.
What lessons has art taught you that have been the most valuable? Leave a comment below!Recommended3 recommendationsPublished in