For today’s prompt of “colorful” I decided to give it a go with just three primary colors. French macarons just seemed the right choice for such an exercise. I’m always amazed at what’s possible with a very limited palette. I passed by some of these treats today and they were still on my mind. I didn’t eat any as I find them a bit too sweet, but I think they’re rather pretty to look at. I tend to grab for bright, sometimes candy colors rather than using a more muted, natural palette. I was like this as a kid as well when I attacked a box of crayons. Digging through to find the brightest colors in the bunch. Soon a bright pink bird would appear, flying next to a purple cow or an bright orange elephant. I just felt the world looked cheerier when painted in bold colors. My tastes have refined somewhat, but I still like to keep my colors a bit brighter and more saturated than they could possibly be in real life. For me, it captures more the mood I’m hoping to convey than the exact object itself, which is just a sort of happy feeling. The kind you can’t always explain.
Back in art school, during my one and only painting class in acrylic, I had a painting due the next day and no idea what I was going to make. While others had been working on their painting for weeks, I was still staring at a blank canvas. I did what any art student might do in such a situation. I downed several beers and then grabbed a couple big yellow sponges. I attacked that canvas with reckless abandon and stupidly bright colors. The end result, to my eye, was perfectly wretched. An abstract mess of pure energy that was only relevant to me in that moment. But when I took it to class the next day, people saw things that I didn’t. Moods, feelings and shapes that I certainly didn’t intend and could barely see when they pointed them out to me. But, my art wasn’t a complete disaster after all. Something happened that made it connect with people. They had an emotional response while viewing it. I left that class feeling a bit better, save the hangover, and went home happy.
As for the painting, it was later lost in a huge basement flood and I found it bobbing in the water among the four or five other paintings that I had made for that class. Being acrylic they sparkled with a shiny plastic sheen, half-submersed in the dank water. It was the oddest gallery show I’d ever had, but it was somehow fitting. In the midst of such a horrible thing, those sparks of bright colors made me smile. I didn’t care about the paintings, I honestly never liked any of them. But in that moment, when I saw that horrible sponge painting float by, I finally saw what they saw. Not the erratic lines or the questionable composition, but the emotions that were bubbling on the surface. Bright strokes of life, made impossibly more colorful than any reality could ever mimic. Yet, there was still a bit of truth to be found. That moment stuck with me, and now, over 20 years later when I’ve decided to try painting again, it’s still how I approach my work. It’s not the world as it truly exists, it’s a bit happier version of it. And just like that day back then, my paintings are still spontaneously made, bobbing in water, capturing stolen memories of my life in primary colors.
About the Doodlewash
Da Vinci Paint Co.: Da Vinci Yellow, Quinacridone Red, and Cobalt Turquoise. Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with sepia ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book.
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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!