Painter, have no fear

Before the Big Adventure
Watercolor from Ted Nuttall Workshop

Copyright 2011 by Margaret Sloan

In early fall I took a week long watercolor workshop with Ted Nuttall, one of my favorite watercolor painters. Ted is a marvelous painting coach, and I feel like the workshop changed some important circuitry in my painting mind. Ted said that one of the things he hoped to accomplish in this workshop was changing the way we think about painting. I was looking for a change and I was an easy mark; he succeeded.

The most important thing I learned? Do not be afraid. Go ahead and make mistakes. In fact, Ted says he often purposely paints unexpected colors, streaks, daubs, dribble, and of course, his famous “sloppy dots” in order to give himself problems to solve.

Watching him paint is like taking a roller-coaster ride. (Yeah, I know, painters are easily thrilled). Some strokes made me gasp in fear—I’d never make that kind of mark deliberately—but Ted deftly tied it in to the rest of the painting as he moved along.

I’m not quite brave enough to deliberately make mistakes. I make enough accidental problems to solve in the course of a painting. But I think the answer to that is to make more paintings, and learn from all those accidental mistakes.

More painting? That’s never a bad pursuit.

3 thoughts on “Painter, have no fear

  1. Yes. It’s always interesting to ask ourselves, “What am I afraid of?” because in the answers lie ways to further open, to change. In reading this, I remembered realizing at one point that I was still stuck in “film-thinking” about taking photographs; that is, I am sometimes too careful with taking photos, AS IF I were still using the medium of film (rather than the essentially endless possibilities of digital technology). It’s working from SCARCITY rather than abundance, and any time that’s the case, we are pulling in the reins on our imaginations—-sometimes without even realizing it!

    Thanks for these reminders. . .

    1. Thanks Chris. For me it always comes down to fear of failure, of making an ugly mess of something I’ve spent so much time working on. Time is scarce!

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