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Watercolour Backgrounds - A Journey through a Challenge

Watercolour Challenge Bonus- Snowy Landscape
The best thing to do when learning how to do a new thing is to do it a lot.

If you want to be a baker, you bake a lot of bread.
If you want to be a writer, you write a lot of things.
Watercolour Challenge Bonus- Vienna Cityscape
If you want to be a mathematician, you have to solve a lot of mathematical problems. (Actually, that one is not true, you learn how to make your own problems. But that's a different matter...)

So, when faced with the prospect of using actual brushes to work with actual watercolour paints instead of watercolour pencils, I ...

screamed, ran away and hid in a corner.

That wasn't very productive, so soon I had to switch to the only reasonable approach: I picked a challenge that I thought might work well with this medium, and jumped right in.

During the first few days, the painting would take HOURS, and look about as professional as I felt - not at all.
Days 1-6

My colour mixing was awful, I didn't know how to make the watercolours glow, and why exactly weren't there 120 colours like with normal pencils anyway?

This attitude lasted until about Day 3, when I didn't know what to do at all, and basically just dropped colour onto the paper in the hope that it would roughly look like a thing that fit the requirements of the prompt. 

On Day 4, I knew what I wanted, but even my drawing didn't satisfy me, so I just tried to do my best. 

That day I also made a decision which would help me a lot: I decided to reduce my colour palette. Some of the paintings from that day on looked very monochrome.
Days 7-12
But not having to worry about colours so much helped me to focus on what was important - learning how to work with my sketch, how to handle the brush, how to apply the colour, how to paint little details.

Then there was the added challenge of me not actually being good at drawing backgrounds, so this exercise was educational on two fronts - and sometimes it felt like two fronts were too much. 

I discovered a lot of shortcomings that I had to work around, and will have to practise in the future - not the least of which is perspective. And originality, without looking for inspiration online. Sometimes nice ideas would come to me easily - and sometimes I would scroll through dozens of Google pages without any clue what to draw. 

Days 13-18
That being said, some of the prompts were rather odd, or unsuited to me. I realize that this is what makes it a challenge, but in most cases, I was just really annoyed. (And on day 24, I think it is possible to tell that I just drew whatever.)

By the time I got to days 12 and 13, I was fairly comfortable with the brush and the paint, and - through a long process of crying about my ugly ugly art, I learned that watercolour paintings go through several stages, and that one can always change things with more layers. (On day 15 I learned that these changes aren't always for the better.)

I also learned that watercolour paint will lift off when you go over it again with water - I still don't know why this fact surprised me, but it took me a while (and some muddy details) to figure out. 

Days 19-24
Eventually I looked at all the pages I had reworked over and over again, and I realized something: my watercolour notebook took water really well. Again, probably not a particularly surprising fact, but something that I had to eperience for myself in order to understand.

By day 17, I was experimenting with more and more water, and by day 23, even with actual washes. I added water to the page, and then I waited a long time to add colour because I was scared, which is why it looked a bit blotchy - but I was still proud.

All my new discoveries had also managed to carry me into the last third of the challenge. I learned new things and wanted to try them, so I didn't think about giving up.

Days 25-30
And when I became really tired - around day 22 probably, I wanted to keep going because I had come so far already. I was really tired though, and my paintings became less detailed and more focused on forms and colours and values. (Values! I learned about those during the challenge as well.)

I like the idea that abstract artists are just really tired with society and the way life is going, so they can't be bothered to add all the details anymore. It's probably not true, but if it were, I wouldn't be surprised.

By day 28, I had slowly climbed out of my slump, and I'm actually quite proud of the last two paintings.
They look nowhere near how I imagined they would before I started. But the fact that they exist at all, and that they are a clear result of a learning curve based on consistent (!) work over a period of 30 days, makes me stupidly proud. Because while this is not the first monthly challenge I have ever finished, in art or elsewhere, it is the first where I didn't skip a day. And it certainly is the first where I didn't need to pull an all-nighter to finish on time.
So I am proud, I am doing another challenge (Inktober) immediately afterwards to keep myself busy doing art, and I am hooked on watercolour and prepared to learn a lot more. I'd say that's a good outcome :).

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