Peaks & Vistas

A few watercolor paintings of peaks.

A perk of my job is financial support for very loosely defined professional development. In the spirit of expanding my creative horizons, I've been learning something about painting with watercolors, a medium I've had zero formal training in and appears to be at odds with how I like to make images. Workshops like "Painting Oysters" have given me some insight into technique and process, but clearly, there is much more to learn.

Tiny watercolor paintings of vistas
Tiny watercolor paintings of vistas.

The materials feel simple and precious. Sheets of thick paper are adhered together into a block to keep them flat until the painting is declared finished or, in my case, ready for recycling. The pigments are rich and delightful, sometimes drying with texture and sheen, other times even and thin. After years of drawing with very small blue and graphite leads, and cutting erasers into thin slices for smudging or removing with great care, working with this bright, watery flow is a serious growth opportunity.

Have you read Oliver Burkeman's Four Thousand Weeks? One of my favorite sections is called "Three Principles of Patience" and those are:

  • Develop a taste for having problems.
  • Embrace radical incrementalism.
  • Originality lies on the far side of unoriginality. In other words, work through techniques and ideas that may seem borrowed until you find something that feels like your own. Stay on the fucking bus.

I quite enjoyed painting anthills by layering transparent dots of color but have no idea what to do about large areas of uncontrolled pigment. I've considered abandoning the project but, at least for a while, I am staying on the watercolor bus.

Working off a stack of tiny sheets of paper that I cut from larger pieces, I work on about a dozen at a time. At some point they are deemed finished or beyond saving.

Here are a collection of vistas and peaks from my playtime with watercolor.

Laurel Hunter

Laurel Hunter

Central Oregon, USA