How to Paint in Watercolor (part 3)

Here’s Part 1 in the series: How to Paint in Watercolor (part 1)

Here’s Part 2 in the series: How to Paint in Watercolor (part 2)

Let’s get started!

So today’s the big day and we are going to start to paint in watercolor. Or maybe you are going to start again. It’s not unusual for people to want to go back to basics and start again, maybe after a long break to raise a family – as was my case – or because you didn’t get off on the right foot first time out.

Whether you are a complete newbie, or a returner after a break the same suggestions apply.


Fear of White Paper or FOWP, otherwise known as FOBS (Fear of a Blank Sheet) or FOWEP (Fear of Wasting Expensive Paper) are genuine conditions known to all painters of every skill level. It’s an affliction that doesn’t affect us EVERY day, but often comes up and rears its ugly head on the same day that other art bugbear comes calling, namely ISBDSMUTP, otherwise known as I Should Be Doing Something More Useful Than Painting.

These two syndromes can combine as to cause a sickness called Procrastination, which has been the cause of many an artist giving up and turning to crochet or cake-making.

Not to denigrate those hobbies of course, but if you actually want to paint you’re not going about it by picking up the finer details of treble crochet or Victoria sponges.

So what do I do to cure myself of these afflictions?

I have two suggestions which will work, and which you can develop your own variations of so that you always have a procedure to turn to which will short-circuit the development of FOWP and ISBDSMUTP.

  1. Put your “proper“ watercolor paper in a drawer and get hold of a cheap sketchbook or a wodge of copier paper. Hide your good paints and brushes and get out your cheapest set of colors and one brush.
  2. Carry out your “pre-painting routine” – light a candle, repeat a mantra, say a prayer, or listening to a particular piece of music – it’s up to you to find something that you can repeat easily each day.
  3. Find a use to which you can put the thing you are about to create. Suggestions include:
    • I’m only painting a background to doodle on
    • I need a bookmark for my new book
    • If it turns out it could be a card for my friend’s birthday
    • If it turns out really well I could give it to my husband for his birthday
    • Christmas is coming. Need I say more.
    • And so on. I’m sure you can think of many of these “excuses” to paint…

Then give yourself ten minutes to transfer paint from your paintbox to a piece of paper. Don’t choose a subject, just move that paint!

After ten minutes, stop.

Get up, make a cup of tea or coffee, or walk around the garden and let your painting dry. It’s as simple as that.

Result – and why does it work?

The result is you will have created something. You have transformed blank paper into art. You can now officially call yourself an artist!

And why does it work? The parts of the brain which are needed to be active and to let you create art are largely asleep before you start to paint. It takes a while to wake those brain cells up.

What you’re doing here is creating a mental cue for yourself so that when you sit down to paint you trigger yourself (like Pavlov’s dog was triggered) to enter a flow state. Your brain will remember and respond to your startup routine, which I suggest should be a meaningless painting act. If you do exactly the same thing every time before starting to paint, entering an alpha state will be easier and your brain will begin allowing you to paint creatively. Transferring paint to paper starts the creative synapses firing away and after a few minutes you are literally transported to another world, the world of alpha brain activity, in which your creativity lives and where you can go to open the door and let it dance on your paper.

And now we can begin to paint!

To be continued…


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