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.