In Search Of Excellence

“The pursuit of excellence is gratifying and healthy. The pursuit of perfection is frustrating, neurotic, and a terrible waste of time.” – Edward Bliss

Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.” – Salvador Dali

In appreciation for all the effort that WASA puts into helping encourage watercolour artists throughout South Africa, I am determined to work towards supporting WASA and creating an art piece that hopefully will qualify for 2025’s FabrianoinAcquarello annual exhibition. 

Thank you to all our wonderfully talented artists for supporting WASA in the past and continue to do so. I challenge those who have not submitted previously to join me by trying for 2025. 

The required size for entries into the Fabriano annual exhibition is 56x38cm or 38x56cm.

While learning watercolour I tend to stick to small paintings.

‘Old Man Walking’ is my first painting towards my collection that I hope to choose 1 from to submit at the end of 2024.

If you have not read Chris’s Blog ‘How to become an amazing artist’ (reidsart 24/02/2024), then please do. I have read and reread it. Below is my response to Chris’s headings.

Paint a lot – tick this box! 

Never stop learning – it is still early learning days for me.

Self-critique – I am my own worst enemy. I talk myself out of drawing even before I start!

Be original – I have tried copying other artist styles and failed. They were good for my learning curve.

Challenge yourself – I do this every time I pick up a pencil or a brush!

Connect with other artist – Love doing this.

Share your artwork – I fear this but do it anyway. Miracles happen!

Make creating art your passion – passion I have! 

Smile – While sharing with others smiling comes more easily. 

Trying to master watercolour is a huge challenge for me. I battle to remember all the rules! Wet on wet. Dry brush. Plus many more techniques and tips! 

I am a complete failure when it comes to remembering the rules of composition. Having a bad memory does not help! When setting up a composition using my photos I go with my intuition. I feel comfortable doing this. I fall apart when my highly qualified daughter tells me to watch this and watch out for that. That’s me done!!

There is tons of information and instruction on the internet. I find watching demonstrations much easier to take in. By nature I am not a reader. 

Photo Reference
Sketch 16x12cm

To take a photo of this tired looking old man, we had to do a quick U-turn and click away before he caught us at it. 

Which Colours to use?

I thoroughly enjoy choosing colours. Freedom of note while not trying to paint an actual picture. I still have to get to ‘Chris’s having fun’ and not take it too seriously! 

I am terrified of wasting expensive paper! 

‘Playing’ on scraps of paper works best for me.

Photo sketched onto Cartridge Paper
Colour tested on Cartridge Paper Sketch
Picture traced and drawn onto Saunders Waterford 600g paper 

I traced my original sketch and transferred it lightly onto my Saunders Waterford paper.

This helps avoid rubbing out on my expensive sheet of paper. Testing the colour on my sketch helped me gain confidence to start painting.

Applying paint 
Painting I thought was finished
‘Old Man Walking’ 56 x 38cm on Saunders Waterford 600g Paper

Being a terrified beginner I found that starting with a pale wash on the background helped release some of my tension! 

Slowly more paint was added. All the learning I had been through was now muddling my brain badly. Terrified that my paper was drying on me I soldiered on with speed and hoped for the best!

‘Old Man Walking’ was left to dry overnight. Then came the pain! 

My daughter commented in a nice Dale Carnegie way! 

“Lovely painting Mom! Maybe you could add more shading into the background. Put some of the text in”. There were a few other comments before she finished off with “Why don’t you paint it again and do it more loosely”.

For those of you who are highly qualified artists, ‘feeling the fear’ is lost on you!! It is very real for me. I see my successful art pieces as miracles! 

Instead of repainting I lifted some of the paint off and fiddled here and there. I kept wishing I knew what I was actually doing while in search of the excellence that would make me happy!

Shelley is still not happy and sticks with “Rather paint it again. You can do it!”

I sent my final take to Grant Wood. Grant is a wonderful artist, tutor and friend. His immediate response, in typical Grant style, was “What do you want me to say kiddo?”

He then made a few suggestions and instead of paint it again, recommended I try a different stance.

No gain without pain! Practice and practice more it will have to be while I continue in search of my excellence!

Marian Mattinson
WASA Admin

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