Back to the Beginning
My students are finishing their portraits now, so I’ll be able to share some of their work here soon. In the meantime, I’ll take you back to where it all began for me. I was first introduced to watercolors in the classroom where I currently teach…only that was 18 years ago, and I was the student. My very first practice watercolor isn’t worth showing (though I do show my students so that they can see how awful it was!). The colors were muddy brown. Hard lines framed each transition of skin tone. Eyes glowed blue and buggy in the girl’s head. Then I started the painting you see above: a shot of my great-grandfather fishing in Canada. He passed away when I was 3, but his son (my grandpa) spent hours with us, fishing as his father had fished with him. Anyway, something in me connected with the old snapshot, so I tackled it as my first major watercolor painting. Beginning with the sky and a faint line of trees in the background, I worked my way toward the foreground figure. The entire painting was a learning process. Looking at it, I remember struggles, lessons, techniques. I remember my teacher telling me to use a darker version of each color to create shadows…rather than adding black as young artists are prone to do. In watercolor, you add water to the paint to lighten a color and use more pigment (less water) for the darker, richer tones. Mapping out the shadow shapes in his shirt and trousers, something clicked, and I began to think like a watercolor artist. Translucent layers of blue in the water; leaving white and painting the negative spaces around it to create foamy rapids; dappling shades of green to mimic foliage in the trees…all were key techniques I still use to this day. So, while this painting was merely a jumping-off point for future work, it played a crucial role in my development. As a side note: it did win an award that year, the prize being a nice leather portfolio case for carrying paintings. Below is the original photo reference.