The Keepers — some watercolours that stayed at home

If you are an artist, you may know how hard it is to turn loose of some of your paintings. I’ve always had the occasional piece that I’ve needed to hang onto, for a while or forever. Sometimes it was because it turned out so much like I had intended that I was astonished, and hung onto it because I couldn’t believe I did it and needed to keep looking at it to prove that I could do it again. Other times a piece turns out in a surprising manner (watercolour is like that — has a mind of its own) and I have to keep it to see if I can do it again. And sometimes I keep a piece because I fall in love with it. Here are some of all three.

Arbutus (watercolour)

Arbutus (watercolour, 4.5×6.5 inches)

This is the arbutus tree in my front yard. The setting sun had turned its bark bright red, and the leaves looked like green jewels with the light shining through. If you’re not familiar with the arbutus tree (south of the border, they call them madrona), the smooth red bark peels off to reveal even smoother, glowing green-golden skin. The curling bark is an interesting study to paint in itself. This is one I kept because it turned out just as I had envisioned it, though I wasn’t sure it would until the very end.

Alas, the arbutus around here often fail due to a fungus they catch from the oaks, and ours has been fading over the last few years. I’m glad I was able to capture a bit of its beauty when it was in its prime. Another reason it has stayed at home.

Beneath the Surface (watercolour)

Beneath the Surface (watercolour, 4.5×6.5 inches)

A student in my watercolour class was trying to paint stones underwater, as in a running stream. I am often asked to demonstrate things I have never tried to do before, but what the heck, I’m game! I think it’s even better for my students to watch me figure something out from scratch, because then they can understand my thought processes better, as well as see that I have to struggle sometimes too. Anyway, I took the challenge, and surprised myself with this tiny painting. This is one of the ones I’m keeping to see if I can do it again!

Forbidden Plateau (watercolour)

Forbidden Plateau (watercolour, 7.5×9.5 inches)

This is from a photo I took while on a hike in Strathcona Park, BC. I was really happy with the simultaneous look of looseness and control, if that makes any sense. I did a coloured pencil painting of the same scene, and am equally happy with that one, which has a very different feel, very controlled. Why did I keep this one? It’s one of the ones I fell in love with.

Tropical Sun (watercolour)

Tropical Sun (watercolour, 7.5×9.5 inches)

This was another challenge by a student. She was trying to paint a watercolour of a tropical sunset, but couldn’t keep the washes cleanly gradated. I wasn’t sure I could either, but rolled up my sleeves, taped down some paper, and proceeded to lay down washes. I figured if nothing else, I’d figure out where the trouble was on the first couple of tries. Lo and behold, If this didn’t appear beneath my brush on the first try! This is one of the ones I keep around both to remind myself that I did it and to see if I can figure out how to do it again!

Water Music (watercolour)

Water Music (watercolour 7.5×9.5 inches)

This one was started as a class demo on how to simplify the details in a photograph and cut out the distractions. I chose a very complex photo to work from (yes, there were way more rocks than this, and a whole lot of individual leaves), and didn’t finish it in that session, but it showed enough promise that I worked on it until I finished it. There were a lot of problems along the way, and several times I almost gave up, but eventually it came out in a way that pleased me. This one I keep to remind myself to work through the rough spots. On anything.

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