"No mud, no lotus." Thich Nhat Hanh.

I found this quote in one of my art reference books ironically when I was wondering what to do with some of the disasters that were lurking behind a table in my art/craft room.

watercolour practice makes perfect

In order to paint the beautiful lotus, all artists must patiently practise on many pieces that turn out to be mud. Some mud can be salvaged, especially if the work in question was done with oil or acrylic paint. There is no coming back however, from a bad watercolour painting.

I don't usually show my "mud" to my friends ; in fact, I have never shown the worst of my experiments to anyone, except hubby of course, let alone make them public.

Sorry, that is not about to change. Today is not the day you will gawk at ALL my catastrophes. I have carefully selected these studies in watercolour because I think there is progression in my work. And this blog is all about artistic self-improvement.

The disasters hiding here and there are proof that art doesn't just happen by some miracle.

Nor does it happen on pure talent or giftedness. On Instagram, I like to use #practicemakesperfect with each work that I publish.

There is no getting around it. I have to accept that I will use reams of paper, countless tubes of paint, and spend hours simply making mud. But this is how we learn, isn't it?

I have no name other than "Orange Lady" for this first attempt at a watercolour portrait. She was completed as part of a beginner watercolour course I took at a local high school. I was not happy with her, but the teacher was very encouraging. I set her aside, and did not do another watercolour portrait for well over a year.

Now that I am examining her again, she does have certain charm with her intriguing little smirk and stylish hat. She is quite pleased with something. She isn't as bad as I thought when I first painted her. I guess the teacher was right. One can always find something positive to say about any effort at improvement.

I spent a year painting flowers, shells, and other findings from nature and my travels. Then one day, I decided it was time to return to painting watercolour studies.

More specifically, I wanted to try sets of vintage portraits.

The gray lady as I call her, is from the 1940s. Her ashen face could not be corrected. I do like the shading in her victory rolls as well as the colour of her hair.

watercolour practice
practice makes perfect

These ladies have been out in the sun for far too long.

There is lots of trial and error involved. Frustration and doubts set in. When this happens, it's best to take a break and do something else for a few days, and that might not necessarily be anything related to art.

With these two paintings, I learned to tell myself to "walk away". I discovered that I am too impatient and I have to learn to paint then allow each layer to dry. I also learned to proceed very slowly with light washes. Less is more.

Finally I am starting to like this. Paint has been added in small increments, allowing each coat to dry. Much better results in this study.

watercolour 5
flapper watecolour

There are moments of satisfaction, of pure joy, of elation even. This happens when I feel I am getting closer to finding the lotus after seeing too much mud.

Have you had these mud to lotus experiences?

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