Once, several years ago, I experienced my first and only trip to a rainforest while visiting Puerto Rico. It was an amazing experience and it felt like I’d been transported to another place and time. I’ve since always wanted to travel to see other rainforests, but that opportunity hasn’t presented itself yet. So, as ever, I’ll just have to enjoy the idea of visiting a toucan via my sketchbook. When I was a kid, I used to wander through the tree-covered acreage of my grandparent’s farm. This wasn’t called a forest, but instead was just referred to as “the woods.” The fun part about visiting the woods was slowing looking back to see the world I knew disappear, only to be replaced with a strange and wonderful new world full of mystery. The deeper I’d go the more and more I found myself thrilled with possibilities and excitement. Sure, I’d return covered in bug bites, but that was a small price to pay for all of the fun. I remember stopping to examine things more closely, kneeling or partially climbing a tree to get a better look. In those moments I was focused and thrilled by the littlest things I found.
Today, in my mind’s eye, I often put that image of little me enjoying the woods into my brain. It helps remind me of the me I’d prefer to be, rather than the addled adult I often become. It’s very hard to achieve a feeling of true calm as an adult. Our brains are filled with all sorts of things and there’s so much noise there. But each time I close my eyes and put that image of me staring at a stream or carefully watching a bird staring back at me, I find that mental space I adore once again. It’s one without all of the noise and confusion. It’s that part of my mind that I used all of the time when I was a kid wandering through those trees. And it’s the one I turn to as an adult to help me relax and enhance creative thinking. Sometimes, I can ever hear a stream trickling nearby or the soft sound of birds in the distance. Perhaps that’s also why birds often come to mind as in the sketch for today. And toucans are weird and wonderful creatures that always make me smile. And I’m rather envious of their rainforest lifestyle, even though I’m quite sure I wouldn’t survive a day there as anything more than a tourist.
Since I only have a little slice of time to sketch and paint each day, it can feel to me like my progress is moving slowly. I try little things as I can, like adding an extra branch in the background to this little doodlewash to suggest a bit more depth and environment, but there are so many things I’ve yet to try. Yet, when I’m painting, I’m in that zone I enjoyed as a kid. That timeless moment where I’m just happy to be there. And, that to me, feels like a gift each and every day. Any time you can take a moment to smile and enjoy life it’s the best moment of all. I realize now that my goal with all this has never changed on my journey and continues to be the same until this day. While others might have grand plans for where to take their art next, I’ve made the ridiculously simple promise to myself to just show up and paint each day. It’s not something amazing, and truly something that everyone on the planet can DO! And I hope I’ve inspired some others on this little green planet to DO just that. Taking a little break each day to sketch and paint, relishing in that childlike feeling of getting lost in the forest.
About the Doodlewash
Da Vinci Paint Co.: Aureolin, Quinacridone Red, Leaf Green, Vermillion, Cobalt Turquoise, Terra Cotta, Indigo and Cobalt Blue. Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with black 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!