A few months ago I began painting in watercolor again after not using the medium in close to twenty years. When I was in my teens I took private watercolor classes and started showing my work in juried shows all over Northern California. I was very fortunate that my work was well-received. In my 20s I generated a large portion of my income from selling my watercolors. After awhile, the process became very automatic to me, and I started getting bored with the medium. The way I painted then was very much about seeing things in the external world. I started feeling detached from the work because I had very little of myself invested in the work other than the time it took me to make a painting.
Because I was not mature as an artist (or even as a person for that matter), I did not know how to insert my point of view into my painting process. I made pretty pictures but they felt soulless to me.
In my late 20s I began experimenting with acrylic and mixed media collage, then moved on to ceramics. Both media allowed me to experiment with concepts and lent themselves to experimentation. Working in clay was the opposite of my experience with watercolors - it allowed me to be more spontaneous and express more internalized feelings and ideas. At the time, watercolor seemed more "left-brained" and working in clay felt more "right-brained." Yet the process of ceramics - the time needed for drying, firing, glazing, re-firing – took away some of the spontaneity of the medium. I also worked in metal arts and metalsmithing, also very process-heavy.
After working in ceramics and metals for over ten years, I was again feeling very disconnected from my work, probably because of the process-heavy nature of both media. I started thinking about what made me fall in love with artmaking to begin with, and though it was time to return to my roots of painting.
Last year I started working again in acrylics. I participated in the South Orange Maplewood Studio Tour in June of 2014 and sold nine paintings in one afternoon. Watercolor started creeping into the picture, and I signed up for Sharon Pitts' watercolor class at the Montclair Art Museum.
It has been a challenge to return to the medium. It would be easy to slip back into the techniques I used before, but instead I am pushing myself in two different ways:
• By experimenting more with different techniques than I used to use
• By digging deeper into my psyche for inspiration
In Sharon's class, I feel like a beginner. I am experiencing the same fear and hesitation as beginning painters, because I am pushing myself out of my comfort zone by being open to new approaches. I am giving myself permission to make ugly paintings, as long as I am learning in the process. I am somewhat critical of the final results, but I feel like I am more open to discovery and that my work is progressing. I am currently exhibiting a watercolor for the first time in almost 20 years. Back to the beginning...