Have you ever seen a chain smoker light a cigarette from the one he is just finishing? I am doing the equivalent with my blog.  Yesterday I was trying to explain the thought process I use when I am painting. This is unsettled territory for me. My process has changed significantly from when I began; even yesterday’s process was different from a month or so ago.

Today’s watercolor experiment:


At the end of yesterday’s post, I decided that the idea of fulfilling a compositional goal was not a very good approach to painting. Instead, painting energy would be better spent striving to attain a vision.  For example, I am very proud of my painting, Grief. Before I painted it, I saw it in my sleep. I practiced with a couple of pencil sketches before committing it to watercolor paper.

So, the last line of my last post inspired today’s experiment: paint my vision.

At one point in my watercolor experiment of yesterday, I decided that the round yellow form resembled a planet, although I did not start out with that in mind.  Today my vision was to create my own world.  I have always marveled at the pictures of the planet Neptune. It is the quintessential pale blue dot. The uniform, mysterious blue color is fascinating. I wanted to make something like that.


I began with a mixture of indanthrone blue, Payne’s gray and black (mainly because I added the indanthrone to my mixing dish that I hadn’t cleaned out – I hate wasting pigment). Also, I thought a darker shade of blue would suit my purpose.

I applied an excess of pigment to dry paper and allowed the pools of blue to dry in the sun. I thought that the pools would remain after the paper dried. I was surprised to find that, like the surface of Mars, the remains of the blue pools resembled canals, where water once flowed.

Watercolor: Abstract - Stage of Planet, Dark blue partial circle with Light Blue filling in remainder of circle

I painted the lighter areas with turquoise blue.

In the process of drying, the surface of my ‘planet’ was degraded just as Mars’s surface was degraded after the loss of its atmosphere. I had terraformed my orb, in reverse.

To finish my planet project, I had to put in a background of sky. A dark blue or black sky wouldn’t do. Too little contrast with the planet. Therefore I chose to paint the sky orange, for maximal contrast. I will pretend that this is the sky one sees with an x-ray or other sensor that picks up this wavelength.

Before applying the orange sky, I dabbed the stars in with my liquid latex.  Here is the final rendition of my planet:

Watercolor: Abstract - Stage of Planet, Dark blue partial circle with Light Blue filling in remainder of circle, with orange background, stars and nebuli

9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block


It was satisfying to have a vision in mind when beginning a painting. What does one do when there is no vision?  I plan to treat this like I treat my writing: paint (write) on a schedule; if there are no ideas, paint (write) whatever comes into my head. One of the differences between painting and writing is, there are so many more variables with painting. Writing by hand only requires a pen or pencil – the tool is irrelevant.  This is not so in painting. Color and tool (brush) are highly relevant. Therefore, a painter faces many more decisions than a writer does before even beginning.

2 thoughts on “Planet

  1. Well said! I’ve been painting a bit more lately. It can feel overwhelming…but I try to start and go from there till I like my painting. Vision helps bunches too.

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