Ok, so I just recently posted on Skillshare an extended version of my latest spontaneous painting with additional commentary. All said, its about an hour long and takes you with me through the process of how I approach spontaneous landscape painting in watercolor. Near the end of this post you’ll find more about this workshop.
What in the Name of Monet You Talkin’ Bout?
Thought you’d never ask. Spontaneous painting or “Accidental Painting” as I used to call it, is just a process of sitting down to a blank sheet of watercolor paper to paint without a pre-meditated image in mind. Landscape works best for me because it lends itself well to rough amorphous shapes, adaptation and loose treatment. It’s also something I’m pretty familiar with. I try to use a pre-planned color scheme and think about good compositional principles as I begin to splash in the first washes, but aside from that I really don’t know what I’ll come up with. Once the beginning wet in wet washes start to come together and it looks like I’ll have something interesting to work with, I let it dry, study the results and then a little more planned and controlled painting ensues. This, for me, is the watercolor version of singing a duet. I give watercolor what it needs and set the conditions for it to produce some interesting elements, then I see what it’s given me and finish the painting by adding my own touches.
Everything Has an Origin Story
I wish I could say spontaneous painting was my super power but its not. It simply began, for me, as a way to study and practice, especially when I had no specific subject in mind but just wanted to paint and try out anything from colors, to various brushes and techniques, to other materials like masking fluids or new papers. It also became an awesome tool for discovery and exercising my artistic vision. I felt freer to try anything and everything, then see how that led to emerging ideas for how to use and manipulate the medium. If nothing else, its just a great starter when you don’t know what to paint. Its been very productive for me and something I highly recommend to any landscape watercolor painter. In so doing I give my usual warning. Embrace failure as your best teacher. Be willing to fail at this, in fact, expect it. Its the only way to feel free enough to try something you’ve been afraid to try before, the best road I know to discovery. You never know though, you may end up with a keeper or two. If not, assess what you learned in the process, make notes on it if you’re afraid you’ll forget and save the attempt in a file. I’ve gone back a few years later and looked at failed attempts I saved to be delighted by remembering some cool watercolor discovery.
If you’re interested in getting inside my big, weird head and watching the 1-hour extended cut workshop with commentary, you’ll find it here on Skillshare. I have a written step by step process in the worshop’s “About” tab and the video is broken down into 5 smaller video segments you can digest in more bite sized pieces. There’s even a project section where you can view other students work or post your own attempt for all to see. Yippee! That link will also get you 3 months of skillshare for .99 cents, if you aren’t currently a member. And just so you’ll know, a Skillshare membership provides you unlimited access to over 14,000 classes on a variety of subjects. For my Patrons on Patreon ($5 and above), no need to sign up for Skillshare just for this workshop. I’ve already uploaded the Extended Cut to the Patreon feed as one of your rewards in case you missed it.
If you want to see all the spontaneous episodes I’ve done for my YouTube Channel, the play list below will let you chain view all 4 of those episodes. Each one was approached a little differently and should offer you a variety of ideas for attempting your own spontaneous landscape watercolor painting.
Let the spontaneity begin!