When I was a kid, I fascinated by flowers, but most of the time I was told that I could look, but should never touch them. Dandelions, to me, were a lovely little flower, and appeared everywhere, like little gold treasures in a sea of green grass. For reasons I didn’t understand at the time, they were considered a nuisance and something that you could not only touch, but were actually encouraged to pluck out of the ground. I thought it was great fun, but later understood I was simply being tricked into helping my parents weed the lawn. I didn’t mind, as it was such a joy! The coolest part about dandelions was that they were not only themselves a brilliant yellow, but if you rubbed one on anything at all, that surface also became a brilliant yellow. I remember sitting in the driveway with a dandelion and painting various shapes using the little flower. Looking back, I guess you could say they were my very first paint brush. You can actually dip them in paint to create lovely patterns, but the idea that they came with their own color was always the fascination for me. My little hands were soon dyed a deep yellow when I was done, making it look as though I was suffering from liver issues, but I was having too much fun to worry about that at the time.
Actually, as a totally random side note, I was actually born jaundice and spent my very early days in an incubator. The result of an immature liver that’s a side of effect of a baby far too eager to enter this world. Of course, I have no memory of those days, but my mother is always quick to share the story. Much of what I remember from my childhood is actually a mix of real memories and the stories that my family has shared about me over the years. The facts are likely muddled a bit in the process, but like all good stories, the truth still manages to shine through somehow. The thought of using dandelions to spread color, however, is very vivid. I can still remember it, even if the exact time and circumstances are a bit cloudy. For that, I blame the act of painting in general. As I’ve now learned, it’s an incredible experience where time simply slips away and reality slides to the far corners of my mind. I often forget what the thing is that I’m even painting, choosing instead to focus on the feelings that the thing brings back to me.
As a very little child, I didn’t have memories to draw on. I only had the overwhelming sense of all the new things waiting to be discovered. An electric energy that buzzed through me, clinging for understanding of all the wild and wonderful things that life was presenting to me. This is why I like to conjure that feeling when I sit down to sketch something. To focus not on the actual thing itself as much as the feeling that it brings back to me. This, for me at least, is what it means to paint like a kid again. Going back to a time when only feelings guided us. That time when feelings were all we had to make sense of the world. I’d jump in with a recklessness that was at once energetic and other times nearly crazed. I never once stopped to wonder if what I made was correct. I already knew that it was. This is today, the way I approach each and every watercolor sketch I make. Sure, the adult in me hopes in the end, that you can actually recognize what I intended to illustrate, but mostly, even to this day, I’m still just painting with dandelions.
About the Doodlewash
Da Vinci Paint Co.: Nickel Azo Yellow, Terra Cotta and Cobalt Blue. Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with sepia ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Click Here!
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!