Today, for our prompt of “goldfish,” I opted for a couple of them swimming in a glass bowl. After sketching the first one on the right as rather content, I decided the other fish surely had dreams of getting out of the fishbowl and experiencing the world beyond. I can’t imagine that swimming in circles all day would be exciting even for a goldfish. Yet, there have been many days lately where, I too, find myself just swimming in circles. Since sketching stuff is the only thing I’ve found to ease my crazy mind, I’ve taken to just scribbling things in my sketchbook whenever I find myself a bit blocked. Well, not really specific things. I just let my mind wander a bit. The crazed little fish on the left was born out of one of these scribbles. No doubt a bit of an autobiographical view of my state of mind at the time, but I loved this little fish. He finally saw what I couldn’t quite see at the time. A huge world of possibilities waiting for me, just outside the bowl. The bowl in my case is only metaphorical, of course, and simply describes my “safe place.” A place I go to for all of the comfortable knowing that it brings. The place where I personally still break a lot of rules, but only certain ones. Some are still in my head, swimming around there like facts. But are they really?
People have often used the term “facts of life” to refer to sex in general, for example. Those of us old enough to have experienced it know that those facts only apply to the scientific procreation bit. The rest is just a mess of emotions, hoping he or she will call you back, good intentions gone awry, and when finally performed correctly, a lovely night. The “facts” don’t really do much to answer all of the questions involved in the actual process. As I learn more and more about painting, pigments, and techniques, I realize my mind is indeed swimming with the various “facts” of watercolor. Yet, the truth is, this was a medium only used by masters as a study for oils and they used it in a very different way than the approach of contemporary watercolor painters today. Whose “facts” are we to believe? The answer is painfully simple, of course. They’re all perfectly correct! When someone finds a method or an approach to a medium and shares it with all their heart, they’re absolutely right. The way that they DO it is a fact of life. Their life. And should you find it fits your own life and style, then it should happily become a fact of yours as well. But, it’s still not a universal fact. That’s left only for the purely scientific bits of life, and simply doesn’t apply to preference, technique or style.
This is why I passionately tell people to take as many art classes as they possibly can! There’s no better way to discover the styles and approaches that feel like universal truths to you. But, if you’re trying something that doesn’t feel like a good fit, then take a break and scribble your way through it. Think of something else, try anything else, and then come back to what you were doing before and experience the difference. Whenever it feels like we’re blocked or at a loss for what to do next, it’s likely because some of the wrong “facts” are getting in the way. The ones that you don’t feel passionately about, sort of devilishly want to defy, and simply accepted somewhere along the way. I’ve learned that if you feel strongly that you’d like to break the rules, then DO it! Just see what happens! That’s what art has always been about. When lots of people agree on something in art, we call it an art movement. But, these shift and change with every century. In the end, it’s about self-expression, which comes with no real rules at all. Just a constantly alert and creative spirit that allows us to see all the possibilities beyond what everyone else is doing. That’s my hope for this community. To always look for new ways and new ideas when it comes to art and find the sheer joy that comes from finally getting out of the fishbowl.
About the Doodlewash
Da Vinci Paint Co.: Nickel Azo Yellow, Benzimida Orange, Quinacridone Red, Cobalt Turquoise, Cobalt Blue, and Indigo. 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!