My name is Jennifer Roberts and I’m from Kansas City, Missouri. Because I was never much of a doodler during my school days, I always assumed I had no artistic talent or interests. In retrospect, this was probably not true at all–my artistic expressions just ran towards music and acting for the first few decades of my life. I was very into musical theater during school, which lead me to get a Performing Arts degree I have never, ever used. I also fell in love with barbershop singing while in college and participated in a local Sweet Adelines chorus for a handful of years after I graduated.
After a while though, I wanted to try something new. To my great surprise, I kept returning to the idea of trying watercolor. I hadn’t used paint since grade school after all. Something about how it flowed, or how soft and delicate it could be kept intriguing me.
I bought myself some very cheap supplies from the local big box art store and spent an afternoon fiddling with them…to terrible results, of course! I put them aside until I took a free watercolor course at a local library. The supplies they had were student grade, but it was a completely different experience and opened my eyes to the importance of quality supplies. I was hooked from then on.
I did some obsessive research after that, and purchased multiple sets of watercolor to try. This started my supply addiction which has never really slowed. Luckily, I also have very generous family members who support my addiction with art supply gifts at the holidays and my birthday! I kept working with cheap watercolor paper for far too long, unfortunately, and my next eye-opening experience was purchasing 100% cotton watercolor paper. Suddenly I could actually get results similar to the videos I had been watching online!
I have tried quite a few different brands of paint, brushes, and paper. I went a bit overboard at first, which I can now admit was me secretly trying to find a “magic bullet” in the “perfect” supplies for me, but which only really comes from putting in the brush miles. I bought a few lots of paint from Ebay so I have much more paint than I could use up any time soon. The first color I ever fell in love with was Indigo. It was such a bold, commanding color on the little swatch I was making.
I pretty much buy a tube of indigo in any brand I can find easily, because they’re all a little different. It is my go-to darkest dark. For paper, I mostly stick to cold press. I love texture! I have some rough grain and handmade papers from local artisans as well that are fun to experiment with. Arches & Fabriano are reliable favorites, and I recently got some sheets of Saunders Waterford 200lb paper that I’m excited to use. I tried it in the sample packs from Cheap Joe’s and it seems like a nice balance between heavier weight and affordability.
I am operating under the “shotgun” method so far – try everything and see what sticks. This means I go through “a lot” of paper. I feel like I’m always breaking down full sheets for my painting experiments. I have taken a few online courses, and in the Watercolor Mastery class with Angela Fehr, I came across palette knife painting. It was really the first method that I stuck with for any length of time. I’ve found a lot of joy, excitement, and curiosity in just smashing a pair or trio of paints onto a piece of wet paper to see what happens.
Sometimes amazing things result, but many times I make mud. Oh well, just grab another small piece of paper and try another color combo. I like to experiment with applying paint to paper with methods other than a brush–I have used glasses, palette knives, plants and leaves, fingers, pouring, etc. My favorite part about the watercolor medium is how it has a mind of its own, and using methods other than a brush really lets the paint do its own thing. I’m surprised at how much I like that, since I can be a bit of a perfectionist and control freak in the rest of my life!
I’ve been painting for a little over two years now, and while sometimes that feels like so long, I also realize it is just the tip of the iceberg. I don’t think I’ve found “my style” yet, but because I like palette knife painting so much, I have been focusing on abstract art lately. I recently launched my first website to sell my small experiments, and help fund more paper purchases.
I still struggle a bit to think of myself as “An Artist” and feel comfortable painting. I am trying to embrace an idea of myself as a “color explorer” after reading Nita Leland’s book Confident Color last fall. So far my favorite color combo is almost always orange and blue. They look lovely on their own but also mix to make gorgeous neutrals. When I feel insecure about painting and want a quick pick me up, I often grab a tube of French Ultramarine and Quinacridone Burnt Orange and make a palette knife painting. They look a bit different every time, but there’s always something pleasing about the results to me.
I am also constantly working on my artistic mindset, and I try to find something positive about every single painting I make. Sometimes, it’s that I learned what not to do, but I also think we rarely make anything that lacks any merit whatsoever. Maybe it’s a single spot of glowing color, or a particularly interesting watermark. We can be our own worst critics, so don’t be too hard on yourself, and try to find something good in every piece you create.
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