I started a watercolor class today. I’m looking forward to learning more about what I can do with that medium. I also thought, since I am reacquainting myself with the basics of painting, I should also think about how to portray basic emotions.

Connecting with basic vision

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am quite taken with the artwork of Paul Klee. His paintings seem so fundamental. Marcel Duchamp noted this phenomenon when he wrote, in 1949, “The first reaction in front of a Klee painting is the very pleasant discovery, what everyone of us could or could have done, to try drawing like in our childhood. Most of his compositions show at the first glance a plain, naive expression, found in children’s drawings. […] At a second analyse [sic] one can discover a technique, which takes as a basis a large maturity in thinking.” (1)

How does an adult reconnect with childhood notions and ways of seeing? After all, a child’s brain is not fully developed. There are fewer filters and less processing of information in a child’s mind. Conversely, an adult has more processing power; has spent more time perceiving the world; necessarily has preconceived notions of what the state of things should be, all of which may interfere with a simple way to portray ideas or fundamentals of the environment.  According to Duchamp, in the quote above, Klee managed to imbue his child-like compositions with maturity.

Klee was inspired in part by Hans Prinzhorn’s book, Artistry of the Mentally Ill published in 1922.  Klee explains his interest in art of the mentally ill in a 1912 diary entry, “For in these “primitive beginnings,” Klee insists, one may glimpse “instructive examples” of pure expression existing independently of the dictates of cultural expectations (1964:226).”  (2)

Klee’s success in incorporating ‘primitive beginnings’ and understanding of ‘pure expression’ apparently made him the subject of a 1922 doctoral thesis. Willie Rosenberg posited in his thesis entitled, Modern Art and Schizophrenia: Under Special Consideration of Paul Klee, he noted that the contrast between Klee’s ‘bizarre’ artwork and his ‘normal’ domestic life was enough for Rosenberg to label Klee schizophrenic. (from Weber, N.F. The Bauhaus Group New York, Alfred A. Knopf 2009)

Connecting with basic emotion

Basic emotions are present in children as well. When they are hurt (physically or emotionally) they cry, for example. Many adults short circuit their emotions. Using the same example, some adults go directly to anger when they are hurt.

I imagine that principles of meditation might help one get back to the basics. Attending to one’s bodily sensations and allowing one’s mind to relax could go a long way toward regaining a childlike sensibility.

Today’s studies

In my first watercolor class today, we used lots of water. We made a pool of water surrounded by a ‘dry moat’ which itself was surrounded by a pool of water extending to the edge of the paper. We saturated the central pool with lemon yellow and the surrounding pool with a red-orange mixture. When we connected the two pools, with brush, the colors mixed.

This is my first in-class assignment.

Varigated watercolor wash, yellow center, orange surround, neutral tint corners

Wet-on-Wet Study 1
7″x10″ 140# Rough Watercolor Block

I tried a second one at home.

Watercolor - varigated wash, yellow surrounded by orange, then by red

Wet-on-Wet Study 2
7″x10″ 140# Rough Watercolor Block

Basics are complicated

That may sound contradictory, but one must proceed step-by-step in simple procedures until it becomes second nature. A musician practices scales and arpeggios when first learning. Sufficient practice allows flawless execution when they are encountered in a musical composition.

I must practice, practice, practice.

10 thoughts on “Basics

  1. “I must practice, practice, practice.” That’s me. Even the simplest stroke or technique requires that I practice it over and over and over. I feel like a complete dolt sometimes and like I’m the only one in the world who can’t execute a willow stroke after the first sheet full of attempts.

    I like Paul Klee and love Wassily Kandinsky. To the eye, it seems like abstract painting should be easy, but creating it is not so easy at all! Good wishes on your efforts. I look forward to your reports.


    • Thanks, Jiuhl. My struggle now is with trying to soften edges in watercolor. I know what you mean about feeling idiotic. Oh well, that’s the price that must be paid.

      Klee and Kandinsky were friends. I enjoy Kandinsky’s work immensely as well.
      Thanks for your comment.


  2. I like your watercolours – but i feel i must say, don’t practise, just play, play ,play, have fun with the paint, watch it do stuff, let it do stuff and enjoy yourself with it 🙂 also, have a go with other mediums, acrylic is a nice medium, you can go over things when they’re dry if u want, also mixed media is very much fun too – when i say fun, i mean you can totally become immersed and forget everything else, and especially if you have music on too – it’s the best fun and freedom 🙂


    • Thanks for that, Susie. That’s good advice, and it might help to break a log jam. It may be that I’m at odds with what I want to say, but since I want to be more childlike and simple in my art, I need to reconnect with playing.
      Thanks again.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: