Today, I was about to sketch a single bee and then realized that’s what I would normally do, so I decided to try something different and more complex. I literally erased an entire pencil sketch of a bee and drew this instead. It was liberating to wipe the page clean like shaking an Etch A Sketch and move right on to something else. So here we have a bit of a hive of honey bees doing their bee thing on a honeycomb. Still sketched loosely and speedily as I’m running out time to make this post. I don’t have a vast knowledge of honey bees, but do know that their numbers are shrinking each year, due to pesticide use, as humans are rather poor neighbors to pretty much all other living creatures on the planet. That, and honey bees are the only bees that die after they sting you, which is another unfortunate fact for them. Thankfully, these little guys are pretty docile so if you stay out of their way, they’ll typically stay out of yours.
I heard once that bees in a colony have different jobs, and some change their jobs throughout their brief existence. Interestingly, their brain chemistry actually changes as well before they start their new job. I’ve always thought this would be an exceedingly useful trick if humans were capable of doing the same. It also probably explains why I’ve only been able to do creative jobs my entire career. My brain just can’t rewire itself to say, do accounting, or other things that require an extended use of the left side of my brain. I’m pretty sure my right side devoured that bit sometime in grade school. But I guess, in the end, I wouldn’t have it any other way. As I continue to push myself into new territory with full-page sketches, I’m also wishing I could rewire my brain to increase my attention span. Near the end of these, I get a bit bored and start splashing color around and dabbing bits of dark in places in order to complete it.
What I’ve realized is that my short attention span and quick execution are simply part of my style. They’re what makes my sketches look like mine, and so it’s really not such a bad thing after all. This may also be why I’m reticent to do any sort of demo, as I’m not sure that “jabbing bits of dark” counts as a teachable technique. But if you happen to like my style, that’s pretty much the key as I always push contrast as much as possible. This is why I rarely put down my fountain pen as it helps me add immediate contrast which makes the painting go by faster. That, and painting in circles so one bit almost dries by the time I come back with another wash. All of this, I now realize, is my version of a style and so even as I paint larger, I’m still embracing it. Sometimes, you have to just lean into what feels right for you and abandon notions of right and wrong ways to do things. Sure, it would be nice to rewire our brains so that we could do what we see others do. But, in the end, we should just stick to being ourselves as we all can’t be as lucky as honey bees.
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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!