When I was a kid, bubble gum, our prompt for today, was a ton of fun! Since I’ve already illustrated bubble gum in packages and even in a vending machine, I opted for a very rare attempt at sketching a human being. Though ordinary gum was lovely, back then, a good piece of bubble gum was really the ultimate joy. It had to be a great brand, of course, capable of producing large and sturdy bubbles. My friends and I used to hold contests to see who could blow the largest bubbles. We’d stand in a little circle and shout, “Go!” and the contest would begin. Of course, this was really only the beginning of the fun. As the bubbles grew and grew in size, expressions of joy turned to mild fear mixed with excitement. Though we wanted our bubbles to grow to gigantic proportions and win the game, we knew that at some point, nearly impossible to anticipate, the bubbles would ultimately pop. All over our faces and hair. In this game, the winner was actually the loser as well. But the hysterical laughter amongst friends really made everyone feel like they’d won in the end. And without keeping score, we’d peel off our bubble faces and have another go.
There are many things in life that feel like this sort of game. Certainly painting with watercolor is similar in many ways. Each splash of paint adds more and more to the page, and there’s so much excitement as the image begins to appear. This, yes, is then mixed with just a tiny bit or something a lot of fear that things will go too far and mess the whole thing up. For me, this is not really scary, but actually exhilarating. Just like when I was hanging out with my friends on the playground blowing bubbles. If everything blows up into a sticky mess, then who the heck cares! Just have a good giggle and jump right back in and DO it again! To me, this is what it means to paint like a kid again. I never put pressure on myself to “get it right’ the first time, because it’s only a bit of paper and paint, after all. There’s more where that came from and I can always simply start again. That said, I almost never do. The thought that I “could” try again is enough to remove those silly fears and I end up happily sketching and painting away and then post whatever happened on that first attempt.
I don’t actually take my sketches seriously, I take them gleefully! It’s way more fun that way. And truly, if you’re sketching a Slinky or a boy about to pop a bubble, there’s really no other way approach it. But even if you’re painting a beautiful bouquet of flowers or a stunning landscape, it’s still more fun to lose the stress and just play. The results will always be better in the end when we let ourselves off the hook and just create for the sheer joy of it, no matter what we’re trying to make. Sure, some days, it feels like we made a mess of things, but making messes is part of how we learn. And sometimes, what seems like a mess to us is something other people adore when we show it to them. We’re always our own worst critics, so I’ve learned to just ignore me when I tell myself that something isn’t good enough. It’s always good enough and sometimes rather cool! So I just keep going back for more and more no matter what, just like when I was a kid. Life can be terrifyingly fun while you’re waiting for the bubble to pop.
About the Doodlewash
Da Vinci Paint Co.: Opus (Vivid Pink), Yellow Ochre, Cobalt Turqouise, 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? 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!