Weekly Photo Challenge: Unique

Every watercolor painting I do is unique, an original. This is true even if I am painting the same subject again, trying to get the second one to look like the first time. Variations in color, the jiggle of my arm when painting an edge, or changes in temperature and humidity which affect the paint’s drying speed all combine to make each watercolor an original, unique.

Karen Bailey, an Australian artist, asked me to repaint a couple of pictures I did last summer, and as I approached the task, I found myself almost paralyzed by the fear of failure. What if I couldn’t paint it again and make it look like the first time? Hollyhocks are not in season now, and I painted the first one from life. I tried all kinds of delaying tactics and excuses – studying the shadow shapes, looking at alternate compositions, and even working on other projects, rather than face the prospect of failure. But as I grew embarrassed at how long this was taking me, I finally got down to work and did another step each day.

Hollyhocks (the first time):

Hollyhocks, watercolor, 7" x 5"
Hollyhocks, watercolor, 7″ x 5″

Hollyhocks (the second time):

Hollyhocks (#2), watercolor, 7" x 5"
Hollyhocks (#2), watercolor, 7″ x 5″

Hopefully I will remember the next time I go to repaint a picture that not trying is worse than failing, since it is, after all, just paint and paper.

21 thoughts on “Weekly Photo Challenge: Unique

    • They have been a cheery subject to paint in these cold days with snow outside and the furnace purring under the house. I’ve enjoyed the flowers you have posted, too!

  1. It is lovely Rurh, I love how it is different from the first and it’s own representation of the subject. I also totally understand how scary it is to have to repaint a picture, having done it this Christmas for a friend. Thank you for the effort and I can’t wait to see it. Karen.

    • Watercolor is a medium that is sometimes difficult to control, and Gwen Bragg, my teacher, was fond of saying that “Painting in watercolor is learning to love plan B.” Often a picture goes in a different direction than I may have intended, so trying to replicate a previous painting was daunting.
      I’m thankful that Karen (occasional artist) likes this since she is the one who asked for it.

  2. Great post, Ruth. Wow, you capture so well that performance-orientation that is so detrimental to our creative spirit! I like your strategy of just painting a step each day. I love how the second one turned out — a different painting and a masterpiece in its own right. I actually find the colors more brilliant in the second painting. Thank you for taking risks as an artist and putting yourself “out there.”

    • Ah, David, it is good to know that I am not the only one who struggles with the detrimental emotions of “performance” and creativity. I was able to do the second painting for Karen much faster than this one. It, too, turned out with more brilliant colors. I think that doing something a second time is a good opportunity to enhance the original, if possible. Thanks for your comments.

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