Find Confidence!

What comes first – behaving and thinking confidently or achieving some success?

Do you hope you’ll feel confident someday, perhaps when you’ve become more competent? When you’re more successful? When you’ve accomplished an important goal? 

Or maybe you believe that a person is either born confident, or is not?

Self-confident people trust in their own abilities, capacities, and judgments; they also believe that they can successfully face day to day challenges and demands. Confident people acknowledge their OWN achievements and efforts. They are their own cheerleaders, without needing validation from someone else. Being confident not only helps them to seek new opportunities but also to trust themselves more. Psychologist Abraham Maslow might suggest that individuals need inner self-respect as well as esteem from other people.

It seems to me that feelings of confidence can come and go, varying to some degree day to day. Perhaps confidence is not an all or nothing condition. As you develop skills and achieve success in one area of your life, confidence grows. In contrast, having an off day, making embarrassing mistakes, or encountering criticisms or put-downs can create self-doubt. Everyone has some insecurities. Thus, circumstances can have an effect on your self-esteem and viewpoint.   

     

‘Jug On The Butt’ry Shelf’ Watercolor.

ATTITUDE MATTERS.

Although external events may temporarily affect your sense of self, confidence actually comes from INSIDE YOU. Your thoughts and beliefs about yourself determine how confident you are. Even if you have a difficult and discouraging day, you can remain confident that tomorrow will be better and that you’ll be able to overcome any demands you might meet. 

Do you believe that you could never be a confident person? Do you feel that you don’t deserve to be confident? Perhaps you fear that if you appear confident, other people will feel you are showing off or acting like you are better than they are. Are you afraid others will be jealous if you behave confidently? In fact, most people like being around those with confidence. Your doubts about your own worth are just thoughts that are NOT necessarily justified! Maybe you deserve to be happy and confident. I’m suggesting strongly that you do and that believing you do can help you achieve confidence.

A belief or thought is in your head. In other words, feeling confidence is a frame of mind, an attitude. It is NOT solely dependent on how others see you, but on how you see yourself. You can choose to feel confident.

Therefore, since you can choose what to believe about yourself, you can also learn to develop the skills or practices that will help you sound, act, and feel more confident. How specifically? Let me share a few things that have helped me build up some confidence. Believe me, as a child, I was insecure in my abilities, shy, and hesitant.

1. First, be kind, patient, and understanding with yourself, as you would be to a good friend. Speak to yourself with COMPASSION, kindness, and encouragement. Take time to nurture and care for yourself. You deserve it. Don’t pressure yourself to be perfect or say you’re useless. Stop comparing yourself to others. (There will always be people who are both better AND worse at things than you.) The most important relationship you have in your life is with yourself, so make it a positive relationship.

2. Master your inner critic, the inner voice that expects you to be perfect and not make mistakes. That voice may say you have no talent or can’t do anything right. Don’t believe it! Self-criticism is shaming. NEGATIVE thoughts are toxic and discouraging. Instead, encourage yourself – you’re learning and improving every day.

‘Forsythia in Vase’ Watercolor.

3. Don’t automatically seek approval from others. Always seeking approval from outside yourself is an easy TRAP. Decide for yourself what you think about things.

4. Avoid dwelling on your mistakes; try to concentrate your thoughts on things you have actually done well, on strengths. You have undoubtedly accomplished much in your life. Emphasize your successes, and celebrate them in your own mind. You attract more of what you pay attention to. What you focus on will actually increase. As singer Johnny Cash said, “You build on failure, [but . . . ] use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.”

Start to create a “SUCCESS SPIRAL” where one good outcome lays the groundwork for more and then more. The more you achieve success, the more you will come to expect it, the harder you will work, the more you will accomplish, and the more confident you will become. POSITIVE EXPECTATIONS will result. And what you expect, you get.

5. Set a goal to become more confident, and make your desire intentional and explicit. If you don’t know what you want, you can’t take action. When you state an INTENTION, however, you can then plan ways to take the specific actions that can improve your confidence. Building confidence is an ONGOING PROCESS of building skills and changing attitudes. It doesn’t just happen to you. You resolve; you make a promise to yourself to take action.

6. VISUALIZATION can be an effective catalyst for creating your confident life. IMAGINE having already achieved confidence. Describe to yourself in as much detail as possible what a wonderful confident life will be like for you. What would it mean to you if you achieve your desire? Close your eyes and imagine what it looks like, smells like, sounds like, feels like, how you would behave. The process of visualization directs your subconscious to be aware of the end goal you desire, making a positive outcome more likely. Imagine what you WANT to happen. Remember, what you focus on, you get more of.

‘Red and Green’ Watercolor.

ACTION STEPS.

So, how exactly? Having set your intention to become more confident, realize that goal is up to you to achieve. Set up a system or plan to help you take daily ACTIONS. Scientist Martin Seligman reminds us that a positive self-image by itself does not produce anything, but requires positive and productive behavior.

1. Perhaps you could practice talking in a confident manner by speaking clearly and in a straight forward voice, choosing words that a confident person would use. Speak up. You need to SOUND the part. Stop mumbling and apologizing – don’t talk like a hapless victim. For example, DON’T BLAME your difficulty on someone else (or make some other excuse). Admit your troubles, but step up, take responsibility, and say something to yourself like “I can figure this out!” Your words have power.

2. Train yourself to project confident BODY LANGUAGE. In other words, stand tall, take up room, make eye contact, smile and greet others. Feel your feet on the ground; keep your body relaxed and open.  Don’t slouch or hunch your shoulders; don’t cross your arms; don’t avoid eye contact; don’t fidget. Social scientist Amy Cuddy has shown that an individual’s posture does not just reflect that person’s level of confidence or insecurity. Posture sends messages to the brain that can actually change your internal chemistry and the way you FEEL. Furthermore, your appearance and presence affect how others see and treat you, and ultimately how you feel about yourself. When you are relaxed and confident, others will feel at ease around you.

3. Similarly, wear CLOTHES that make you feel good and are comfortable, clean, well-fitting, tasteful, and well taken care of. By creating the impression that you are confident and being proud of the way you look, you will begin to feel more confident.

4. In addition, EXERCISE can invigorate and strengthen you. It can boost your mood. It keeps you healthy. A strong and toned body certainly increases your confidence. Try to find a form of exercise you enjoy so you’ll be likely to continue.

5. Allow yourself to be a learner. Have the courage to take a risk and give yourself a CHALLENGE. When breaking out of your comfort zone and starting something new, you are expanding your own limitations. As you successfully complete difficult tasks, you learn, becoming more confident and more resilient. Easy wins usually don’t feel as satisfying.

6. Finally, offer your HELP to others. Doing so is generous. When you reach out to others in a positive way and share what you are learning, your confidence soars; when you encourage learning in others, you recognize what you already know. Teaching my watercolor classes gives me confidence. While I recognize and tell my students that I do not know everything, I offer plenty of ideas for them to try, having done a lot of experimenting myself. I have learned that I can always pivot and try something else if the painting does not go as planned.  While I focus on helping others, I worry less about my own inadequacies.

‘Colorful Tulips’ Watercolor.

SUMMARY.

Being confident is a frame of mind. It doesn’t just happen but takes work to build, develop, and maintain. Make the decision to become more confident, and commit to cultivating that attitude. It is NOT dependent solely on how others see you, but primarily on how you feel and what you believe about yourself. 

Choose and practice some of the specific steps mentioned above. Behave and think like the person you want to become. As social scientist Amy Cuddy says in her TED talk about confidence, “Fake it until you become it.” Remember, confidence is a skill that can be learned, an ongoing PROCESS. When you stumble, get side-tracked, or have a discouraging day, don’t give up. Take a breath, give yourself a short break (perhaps a treat), and REFOCUS on taking action to become more confident. Pick up where you left off, and persevere.

Join me and get painting tips, inspiration, recent art news, or information about new art or products for sale, sent to you by email. Subscribe here. I’ll give you a free copy of my Color Blending Tips pdf. that you can download and print.

How Do I Critique My Own Painting?

To critique a painting ( your own painting included), your aim is to see clearly both the STRENGTHS and WEAKNESSES in the art. What worked and was painted well? What could have been improved? Strive to maintain your objectivity in order to accomplish an impartial evaluation. Detachment can be elusive when you are looking at your own painting and are emotionally invested in your own work. Therefore, step away from your picture for a time and don’t try to critique as soon as you finish a painting. Your emotions can skew how clearly you see your work, so it helps to set the picture aside for a day or two.

‘Floating Christmas Tree’ Watercolor Painting.

AIM FOR OBJECTIVITY.

Remember, as you evaluate, consider the painting as a whole. Small mistakes don’t matter, so don’t be overly distracted by them. Set aside criticism of the little things and negative judgements of your abilities. Notice what you have done well, so that you can pinpoint what to continue doing. And note how your work could improve. Your aim is to problem-solve and work out constructive, specific ideas to try next time. If you have overworked a painting, it is not helpful to tell yourself, “This is awful!” Instead, for example, make a note to yourself to stop painting earlier (before overworking) and to stop fussing with tiny details hoping to fix every little mistake.

HOW DO YOU FEEL?

In order to critique your work, you need to know what you’re trying to accomplish in your painting — your goal. Your job as a painter is not to copy and paint exactly what you see, but to paint how your chosen subject makes you FEEL. When your painting makes you feel the same way you feel about your subject, then you have succeeded in capturing emotion and feeling in your painting.

‘Winter Sledding’ Watercolor Painting.

WHY?

All good paintings have a simple, clear idea behind them. WHY have you chosen to do this painting? What has attracted you to this image? Take the time to think about and experience what the image means to you. Does the scene suggest a sanctuary, relaxation, loneliness, or perhaps is it bustling and filled with people? The reason you painted this picture is your personal connection, and that connection should come across in the finished painting. Is your message clear?

WHAT?

As you evaluate your finished painting, you may want to ask yourself a series of questions that focus on some of the important characteristics of good art. Set your painting up so you can take a look at it from across the room. Which part of the painting do you look at first? The eye is generally drawn to the spot with the most contrast. This space should ideally be your chosen center of interest. You want to draw attention to the center of interest so that the viewer focusses here. It’s WHAT your painting is about. (Be sure to choose only ONE focus.) 

If your eye is drawn elsewhere first, you might want to increase contrast (whether contrast of value, color, shape, or edge) at your center of interest to emphasize this part of your picture. Remember that a full range of light and dark values, from darkest darks to lightest lights, can create more impact. You could also add a pop of complementary color at your focal point to attract attention.

Further, your center of interest should be the most detailed area of the picture, since detail also attracts the eye and tells your viewer where to look. Ideally, keep other sections of a painting less detailed and thus less emphasized. All parts of your picture are NOT equally important and, similarly, should not be equally detailed. How did you deal with detail?

‘The End Of The Day’ Watercolor Painting.

PLANNING AND COMPOSITION.

Did you plan your approach to this painting before picking up your brush? Did you think about rearranging the major shapes in a balanced, pleasing way to improve the composition? Did you test out your ideas first in a small value study? Did you simplify and leave out confusing details? Did you establish the lightest light values right away? Did you consider what colors would support the mood of the scene? If you didn’t do these things BEFORE painting, you may notice a jumble of shapes but no focus, values too similar to each other so nothing stands out, colors that don’t suit your subject or clash with each other, background or sky tacked onto your paintings as an afterthought, etc. Might thinking about the above questions have helped improve the final painting? 

‘The Tire Swing’ Watercolor Painting.

TECHNIQUE AND EXPRESSION.

How was your technique in this painting? What was easiest for you, and what was done well? Did you have difficulty figuring out the sequence of layering colors – what color can be laid down first, then what other colors should follow, or did you mistakenly try to paint everything at once? Were you scared you would make a mistake so your brushstrokes became small and tentative? Were you hesitant in your color mixes, ending up with timid colors? Next time, you could take a chance and try to be bolder. 

If you noticed self-criticism and discouragement while painting, be patient and kind to yourself. It will help you relax. Try to be aware of how you’re feeling as you paint, since your emotions affect your brushstrokes and the quality of your work. When you’re tense, you could take a break and some deep breaths, calm down a bit, then return to painting with a more composed attitude.

JUDGING WETNESS.

How did you do judging the wetness of the paper compared to the wetness of the paint and brush? Do you need to practice judging wetness to improve your ability to create the edges you want to create? If so, get some scrap paper and practice painting hard edges, soft and lost-and-found edges, while varying the dampness of the scrap paper. You might also rehearse ‘softening’ an edge (an essential skill) on scrap paper.

‘On The Way To Groton’ Watercolor Painting.

IN SUMMARY.

Asking questions of yourself (without critical judgement) gets you in the habit of making deliberate decisions regarding your painting. These questions help you evaluate your work objectively, considering value, wetness, color, composition, mindset, and technique. You can walk yourself through these questions for each painting. And start to decide what you like, what interests you, what you paint well, what areas you might want to improve. As you rely on your own awareness, you take charge of your painting while increasing your painting skills and decision-making ability.

Related earlier blogposts: 

Join me and get painting tips, inspiration, recent art news, or information about new art or products for sale, sent to you by email. Subscribe here. I’ll give you a free copy of my Color Blending Tips pdf. that you can download and print.

Let It Snow!!!

Painting snow can be tricky.  Most people think snow is white, but if you look closely, snow is full of color.  Many factors can affect how snow appears, including time of day, temperature, atmosphere, the quality of light, and perspective.  Is the day sunny and bright or overcast?  Is the snow freshly fallen and fluffy or heavy, wet, and dirty?  Do snow shadows appear blue, gray, or purple?

In a landscape painting, much of the color of snow is found either in shadows or as a reflection. You can look for the colors reflected by the sky and nearby areas to determine colors to use in your painting. Sunlit snow may benefit from a very pale warm-colored wash to suggest that sun is shining on the snow. In the shadows, a cool (bluer) color combination will suggest shade. Using both warm and cool tones will increase sparkle. In contrast, an overcast day tends to create grayer snow shadows. Edges may be hard on one side and soft or lost-and-found on another.

Check out the following hints for painting snow from several experienced artists:

John Pike has painted many amazing watercolors of snow scenes during his lifetime.  He says that the “tendency in painting snow scenes is to make the shadows too blue.”  Pike creates snow that glows subtly with color by pre-wetting the entire white snow area.  While that area is still wet, he drops in small spots of the three primaries (red, yellow, and blue), then softly blends the whole together “to gain a subtle spectral quality” and ”to kill the deadness of pure white paper.”  He creates soft upper edges of snow shadows by “applying clear water in just that area” and painting shadow color “upward to the water.”

Frank LaLumia believes that snow is “like a laboratory for studying light.”  He says, “In my opinion, using only white paper to depict snow is inadequate.  Light is color.” (www.lalumia.com)

Winter is Coming.jpg

Gordon MacKenzie has said that painting a winter scene offers many opportunities to play with color temperature and purity.  The snow is “a mirror for the subtle atmospheres that surround it, from the pure warm and cool colors of a bright sunny day to the dulled subtlety of a snowstorm.”  He describes two techniques to create the snow shadows that define the contours of the land they fall across.  The first method is a quickly laid-down wash wet-on-damp for the first layer and then wet-on-dry for the final layer.  MacKenzie suggests mixing a large enough batch of paint that you will have enough of the same color for both layers.  The second method of painting snow shadows involves painting the entire snow area with a non-staining blue-gray (cobalt blue or ultramarine blue plus burnt sienna).  Once the surface is dry, you can remove bright sun spots by scrubbing them off with lots of water and blotting away the paint.  (www.gordonmackenziewatercolours.com)

Robert O’Brien uses both warm and cool colors when painting snow.  He will wash in a very pale cadmium yellow light where sunlit highlights fall, but for other sunlit areas, he tones down the white of the paper with a very light wash of brilliant orange mixed with quinacridone rose.  For a cooler, more-shaded area, O’Brien uses a light wash of French ultramarine.  He notes that the color of snow shadows will vary based on sky conditions.  On a clear, sunny day, O’Brien likes to use French ultramarine mixed with a small amount of cobalt for snow shadows, sometimes mixed with brilliant orange to tone down the color a bit.  An overcast sky tends to bring about grayer snow and shadows.  Mixing quinacridone violet and new gamboge with blue creates his desired gray.  O’Brien’s snow shadows can have soft or hard edges, or both.  To paint softer shadows, he may rewet an area of snow, let the water soak in, and paint a shadow when the paper is damp but not shiny.  For harder snow shadows, he may wait longer or let the paper dry completely before he tackles a snow shadow.  He also softens hard edges in appropriate place.  (www.robertobrien.com)

Cecy Turner imagines “key words” that will describe her snow scenes and then tries to use painting techniques to illustrate those ideas.  She likes to use glazing – layers of transparent colors (letting each layer dry before adding another layer) – to “create more interesting colors and nuances.”  The blues that Turner prefers are French ultramarine, cobalt, Antwerp, and cerulean.  She uses a No. 8 Cheap Joe’s Fritch scrubber to soften edges on snow shadows, particularly as the shadows progress farther away from the objects casting the shadows.  (www.cecyturner.com)

Jack Reid uses transparent watercolors to make snow translucent and capture its subtle variations.  He likes to mix a soft gray with cobalt and burnt sienna.  If he wants a pure, luminous, warm gray, he adds more burnt sienna.  He varies this color by adding more cobalt for a cooler gray.  Reid’s palette is permanent alizarin crimson, aureolin yellow, cobalt blue, viridian green, raw sienna, burnt sienna, ultramarine blue, and the staining Antwerp blue and quinacridone yellow.  He prefers to use Winsor-Newton paints except for Holbein viridian.  For painting the illusion of falling snow and the suggestion of trees disappearing in drifting snow, Reid lifts color from the bases of trees with a tissue while the paint is still wet.  He also uses a lot of graded washes on damp paper to create roundness on a mound of snow.  Color lightens and softens (in the graded wash) as it progresses from deep snow shadow up into the light.

Early Thaw.jpg

Debi Watson spatters masking fluid to create the effect of falling snow.  She paints her light values wet on wet, explaining that “most great snow paintings have hints of color in their whites.”  These initial washes are painted with soft, transparent red, yellow, and blue.  Watson moves on to dark areas, then to medium values once the lights and darks have been established.  She states that snow shadows can be kept soft by working on damp paper.  (www.debiwatson.com)

Cathy Johnson paints snow full of color.  If it’s tightly packed in a drift, she says it “may look almost blue; if it’s fluffy and freshly fallen, it can appear blue-gray or lavender.  Old snow on city streets is gray with soot; while in the country, snowy roads may become streaked with brown.  You can achieve either of these street effects by painting wet-into-wet with gray or brown, as appropriate, then adding spatter to suggest splashes.  When the sun is shining on snow, you may see the glitter of light on a billion tiny reflective surfaces.  To recreate this look, try combining all three primaries – red, yellow, and blue – in your underwash.  Wet the paper first with clean water, then drop in pure colors such as cadmium yellow pale, [permanent] alizarin crimson and phthalo blue.  Let the colors mix a bit on the paper – I stir them with the tip of my brush, or by tilting the paper.  These colors shouldn’t be too saturated or they’ll look garish – the goal is to create a light-filled look.  While the initial layer is still wet, add some shadow colors.”  Johnson reserves warmer blues (for example, ultramarine, cobalt, and so on) to suggest the shadow shapes on snow.  “Once the first washes have dried, glaze over them with your blue or lavender snow color” to shape and form the snow.  “To further enhance the prismatic effect of snow, you can also spatter on a bit of each of the three primary colors . . . make sure that your primary spatters aren’t too juicy.  This ensures that the paint spatters remain tiny,” whether into a wet wash or onto dry paper.  (www.cathyjohnson.info)

Fire & Ice.jpg

In his article “A Wintry Mood” (Watercolor Artist, February 2018, p. 82), Geoff Kersey has pointed out that “Just because it’s a snow scene doesn’t mean it has to feel bleak and make the  viewer shiver.” When painting snow, Kersey tries to include bright light and warm color.  He has developed several palettes in various color schemes to alter the feel of an image and suggest different moods.  His COLD PALETTE creates wintry grays and darks.  He mixes a cool gray with phthalo blue and just a touch of burnt umber, a dark brown with ultramarine blue and burnt umber, and a dark green from phthalo blue and burnt umber.  The LIMITED PALETTE includes cobalt blue, neutral tint, burnt sienna, and raw sienna to produce a simple, harmonious feeling.  A WARM PALETTE employs the warm glow of raw sienna and cadmium red, grays mixed from cobalt blue and vermillion, and dark greens made with ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, and viridian.  Kersey echoes the sky colors throughout his snowscapes to oppose the rich winter darks he finds in trees and hedgerows (and to ensure color harmony).  He also uses the hard and soft shapes in a landscape to create contrast in his many snowy landscape watercolors.  (www.geoffkersey.co.uk)

Snowy Croft.jpg

Don’t be afraid to use color in a winter snow scene, both warm colors and cool colors.  The light and sky conditions will determine the colors with which you choose to paint.  In snowy conditions skies often require deeper tones than usual in order to make the snow appear lighter by contrast.  On clear, sunny days, snow shadows are bluer to echo the blue sky.  Grayer snow and snow shadows reflect an overcast sky.  As you evaluate your snow scene, look for opportunities to add color and exaggerate color if doing so will improve your painting.  Use snow shadows on the ground to describe the shape of the land under the snow.  Rough ground may need shadow shapes that are bumpy and uneven.  Rocks, twigs, and tufts of grass may stick up through the snow.  Reflected light can be everywhere, sometimes creating glitter and sparkles.  Often snow shadows repeat the sky color, just as a reflection in a body of water can reflect sky colors and the surrounding landscape.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Campbell Smith, Ray.  Developing Style in Watercolour (1992).

Kersey, Geoff.  “A Wintry Mood.”  Watercolor Artist (February 2018).

Kersey, Geoff.  Geoff’s Top Tips for Watercolour Artists (2010).

Kersey, Geoff.  Painting Successful Watercolours from Photographs (2015).

Hendershot, Ray.  Texture Techniques for Winnign Watercolors (1999).

MacKenzie, Gordon.  The Watercolorist’s Essential Notebook: Keep Painting! (2017).

MacKenzie, Gordon.  The Watercolorist’s Essential Notebook: Landscapes (2006).

Metzger, Phil.  Watercolor Basics: Perspective Secrets (1999).

O’Brien, Robert J.  “Winter Whiteout.”  Watercolor Artist (February 2015).

Pike, John.  John Pike Paints Watercolors (1978).

Pike, John.  John Pike Watercolor (1973).

Ranson, Ron.  Watercolor Painting from Photographs (1998).

Reid, Jack.  Watercolor Basics: Let’s Get Started (1998).

Reid, Jack.  Watercolor Basics: Painting Snow and Water (2000).

Reid, Jack.  “The Snow Scene.”  Watercolor Magic (Winter 2002).

Ryder, Brian.  Painting Watercolor Landscapes with Confidence (2005).

Strickley, Sarah A.  “A Revolution of Snow.”  Watercolor Artist (February 2010) .

Szabo, Zoltan.  Zoltan Szabo, Artist at Work (1979).

Szabo, Zoltan.  Zoltan Szabo’s 70 Favorite Watercolor Techniques (1995).

Watson, Debi.  “It’s Snow Time.”  Watercolor Artist (December 2010).

Join me and get painting tips, inspiration, the latest art news, or information about new art or products for sale, sent to you by email. Subscribe here. I’ll give you a free copy of my Color Blending Tips pdf. that you can download and print.

Prevent, Correct, And Reframe Your Painting Mistakes!

      

Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to the error that counts.                                                                                                                          Nikki Giovanni, poet, writer.

                                                                                                      

It is a common misconception that experienced painters don’t struggle or make mistakes. Not true! We all inadvertently make wrong decisions at times when painting and get outcomes we don’t desire or intend. Failing in this way is unavoidable. If recognized early, however, many mistakes can be corrected in watercolor. You can lift colors, blot, scrub, scrape, disguise mistakes, change values by lifting or glazing, reevaluate and change course, or even adjust a composition.

YOU CAN CORRECT MANY MISTAKES.

One of the simplest techniques to correct a mistake involves BLOTTING AND LIFTING wet paint. If while you’re painting you accidentally smudge or paint over an area you intended to keep white, quickly blot up the wet paint with a paper towel or tissue. As long as you have not painted with a staining pigment, the color will lift. (Suggestion: Become aware of which paints on your palette are considered staining. Common staining colors that cannot be easily lifted include Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Phthalo Blue, Phthalo Green, some of the Sap Greens, Gamboge, Permanent Rose, Prussian Blue.)

Another technique for altering wet paint is using a THIRSTY BRUSH to remove some color from your painting — e.g., to lighten a wash, create a highlight, or lift out clouds. The painted surface should be damp, with the shine just about to go dull. A ‘thirsty’ brush has been moistened but squeezed nearly dry before the brush is moved over the moist painted surface. After each lifting stroke with a thirsty brush, wipe the brush clean to remove wetness and lifted paint from the brush before continuing to lift.

If your paint has dried, WETTING AND LIFTING can remove areas of dark color. To lift at least some of a staining color, you will need a stiffer brush and stronger scrubbing. Use a very wet brush to wet the area where paint will be lifted.

Work in small areas to loosen and lift paint, before moving and moistening a new spot. SCRUB until the water loosens the dried pigment. Quickly blot to absorb the liquid with a paper towel or tissue, removing the loosened pigment along with the water. Do not let the loosened color remain on the scrubbed surface. If the damaged paper fibers reabsorb the color, you will not be able to lift it. Be sure to have a wet enough brush when using this technique – using just a damp brush may rough up the paper and scrub the paint deeper into the paper. A slight variation to the above scrub-and-blot technique would be WIPING OFF COLOR with a paper towel or tissue.

‘Mountain Stream’ watercolor painting, using scrubbing and lifting.

SCRAPING can help you recover a lost highlight or create sparkle. You can scrape with a variety of tools (for different effects), either before your applied paint dries or after. To add texture to tree trunks, for example, scrape wet paint with a palette knife or hard brush handle. Scraping can form dark marks on wet paint as the paint flows into the scrape. Or, on less wet but still damp paint, scrape in lighter marks as you push paint away from the scraping.

‘Red Canoe’ watercolor painting, using scraping and lifting.

‘Waves’ watercolor painting, using scratching and scraping.

Rocks can be highlighted and textured with a knife or palette knife by scraping and pushing damp paint. An X-acto knife can scrape dried paint to reclaim highlights, generate sparkle on water, or repair unsuccessful dry brush work. Keep in mind that scraping can damage paper, so it should be one of the last adjustments made to your painting. (Sandpaper can also remove pigment and bring back the white of the paper, although it also damages the paper.)

Hazel Soan, in The Essence of Watercolour, maintains that errors in “light-toned early washes are NOT a problem. As soon as darker tones are employed the eye is distracted from the pale tones.” Soan goes on to suggest that sometimes you can reclaim your watercolor by disguising or DISTRACTING from a mistake. Add a dark-toned accent, such as some grasses or reeds, near or over the error “to distract the eye away from the problem.”

OPAQUE colors, if not overdone, can be used to cover some painting mistakes or recreate lost highlights. Edges can be redrawn with an opaque color. Titanium White, full strength, can hide a mistake against white paper, while a matching opaque color can reclaim a colored background.

Too many layers of paint will eventually destroy transparency, so consider GLAZING to preserve transparency and improve color harmony. Tame overly bright colors, make shadows interesting, or even enliven dull dark color by glazing with a TRANSPARENT pigment. When glazing, make sure the surface of the paper is thoroughly dry. To calm bright colors, choose a transparent NON-STAINING pigment and apply it quickly (without scrubbing). To rescue dull, dark colors, use transparent STAINING pigments (such as Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Phthalo Blue, or Phthalo Green) for glazing. As Jean Dobie explains in Making Color Sing, “turn an error into an asset!”

‘Apple Blossoms’ watercolor painting, using glazing to tame background and create depth.

MISTAKES HAPPEN. HOW YOU REACT AFFECTS THE OUTCOME.

While no one enjoys or aims to make mistakes, the way you react to an unintended outcome makes a difference. Will you respond with upset, embarrassment, and self-criticism, and feel that you’re a failure as a painter? If so, you will lose objectivity and be unable to learn from your mistakes. Instead, try to remind yourself that mistakes can actually be good things (even though it may not initially feel that way)! Making mistakes is a clear sign you’ve moved beyond your “comfort zone” and are challenging your abilities. In other words, this is exactly where you NEED to be so that you can learn and improve your skills. Remember, to improve your skills, give yourself a challenge.

MISTAKES SHOW US WHAT WE NEED TO LEARN.

If making a mistake upsets you, stop painting and take a break. If you don’t know what the painting needs, you should stop. Avoid an emotional response by giving yourself some distance from your painting so you are able to regain some objectivity. A mistake does NOT mean you’re a failure as a painter or a person. When you regain your calm, you’re ready to REFRAME your thinking about your mistake. The best artists are problem solvers. Remember that mistakes are unavoidable, no big deal, and they present us with clear lessons. Looking at your work with fresh eyes, evaluate what happened and think about how best to correct and learn from this mistake. (Look for an upcoming blog post on how you can critique your own work.)  What specifically isn’t working? How can you improve what went wrong? (One or several of the above techniques might be useful.)

REDEFINE ‘MISTAKE’.

Yet another way to look at mistakes is as gifts. What just happened on your paper may not have been what you were planning to have happen, but… it may be something good, if not even better than what you intended. It may be a chance to change the direction of your painting if you let go of a preconceived idea that is not working – it’s okay to be open and change your mind. Perhaps the paint is moving in an interesting way, creating a pleasing effect. Is the ‘mistake’ truly a mistake or instead an opportunity to take the painting in a different, better direction? Letting go and allowing the painting to lead requires trusting in the PROCESS (rather than stubbornly trying to control the paint and force a desired outcome). It’s not easy, yet there are times when you might wish to rethink your initial intention and let the painting begin to ‘paint itself’. Try it! (This option can result in a looser style of painting.)

‘Pitcher and Pears’ watercolor painting, a picture that wanted to ‘paint itself’.

SUMMARY.

Try not to rush to correct all your painting mistakes. It is sometimes best to evaluate your work near the end of the painting process when you can see how one area affects or supports the other sections of a picture. While many mistakes can be corrected or improved, at times it can be best to start a picture over. Try to learn from any blunder. Identify where and how you can improve your work. If you’re not learning from your mistakes, you’ll tend to repeat them. With experience you will become confident about what you can correct as well as know when you probably should begin anew. Continue to enjoy the process of painting, without trying to force the watercolor to always bend to your will. Part of the beauty of the watercolor medium involves its flowing, unpredictable nature and its ability to create beautiful, transparent blended color. Don’t get discouraged – becoming frustrated or giving up could be the worst mistake of all.

Join me and get painting tips, inspiration, the latest art news, or information about new art or products for sale, sent to you by email. Subscribe here. I’ll give you a free copy of my Color Blending Tips pdf. that you can download and print.

Banish Imposter Syndrome, Self-Doubt, And Perfectionism.

I reach a point in every painting where I begin to doubt my abilities and decisions, however briefly. My painting may not be turning out as well as I’d hoped, one of the techniques I tried wasn’t very effective, or a color that I mixed wasn’t what I wanted. Or I may just find myself in the ‘difficult middle stage’ of a picture, after the initial layers of color but before painting any details. This self-doubt can lead to anxiety and second-guessing. I think almost every artist feels a similar emotion about their art at one time or another. And I believe this is very normal. 

Do you worry about small mistakes or flaws in your work? Do you sometimes attribute your successes to luck or happenstance? Are you sensitive to even constructive criticism? Do you ever feel that people will inevitably discover that you are not as knowledgeable or talented as you pretend? Do you ever downplay your own expertise, even when you are genuinely skilled in an area? This kind of self-doubt, although quite common, has been called imposter syndrome or imposter mindset.

Apples Watercolor Painting.

Imposter syndrome can affect anyone! In fact, scientists suggest that as many as 82% of all people experience the self-doubt and lack of confidence of imposter syndrome at one time or another. 

Perfectionism can play a significant role in Imposter Syndrome. Steven Pressfield discusses perfectionism in his book The War Of Art and describes perfectionism as a type of resistance and fear. Perfectionists fear failure and not being good enough. They may also procrastinate, making it difficult to get started on anything new, or to continue a project when encountering difficulty.

Porch Rocker Watercolor Painting.

Imposter syndrome and resistance can hit unexpectedly, out of nowhere. I can be painting along, having fun, secure in my progress so far, when that self-critical voice suddenly screams at me. “What were you thinking? How could you possibly think you could paint this? Really?” It can be deflating.

I have to remind myself that these doubts are just thoughts in my head. Everyone feels unsure at times, but I’m trying to train myself to step back, evaluate the situation, reassess my painting, and engage in some positive self-talk. “Let me be realistic and try to be objective here,” I tell myself. “It’s time to adjust my  attitude.” 

Beach Cottage In Fog Watercolor Painting.

How exactly can you overcome imposter syndrome and self-doubt? I have some suggestions that have worked for me. Try them and see if they help you.

  • REALISTIC GOALS: Set realistic, attainable goals. Step back and try to regain some objectivity about your situation. Stop expecting yourself to be perfect. There is no such thing as perfection. Mistakes actually help you learn and grow. They define a problem, and now you can solve it! Think of each mistake as a puzzle to solve, a challenge to improve.
  • SMALL STEPS: Break up overwhelming tasks into small and manageable steps. In a painting, don’t try to paint everything all at once, including all the layers and details. Focus on one task at a time.
  • BE POSITIVE: Focus on the positive. Even if you notice something you don’t like, make a conscious effort to notice all the good work you’ve done. This approach will start to change your critical focus and build a positive new habit. Remind yourself of all the things you’re good at.
  • NO NEGATIVE SELF-TALK: Cultivate self-compassion. Be kind and encouraging to yourself. You’ll enjoy life more and begin to appreciate yourself and your work. Enjoy the process of painting.
  • AVOID COMPARISONS: Avoid comparing yourself to others. You are unique. No one has had the experiences you’ve had, or has your viewpoint, which is as valid as those of others. If you look to comparisons as a way to gauge your successes and the quality of your work, you will always find others more skilled than you (as well as less skilled). Believe that you are progressing at the rate that is right for you. To compare your progress to someone else’s will only increase your insecurities. An environment where you feel safe, comfortable, and accepted rather than ‘lesser than’ is vital for your creativity.
  • FOCUS ON PROCESS: One important way to recover from perfectionism is to begin focusing more on the PROCESS of reaching TOWARD a goal, rather than just focusing on results and the goal itself.
  • ACTION: Self-doubt feeds on inaction, so choose your best option and get something done! Stop overthinking. Stop ruminating, worrying, or second-guessing yourself. The people who push through imposter syndrome have one thing in common: they don’t abandon the situation that they find themselves in — they don’t give up. They turn their fear of failure and embarrassment into a motivational tool to keep moving forward. Your achievements do not define your self-worth. As Fred Rogers might say, “You’re perfect just the way you are.”
  • SEPARATE FEELINGS FROM FACTS: What you’re thinking and feeling about yourself is not necessarily the ‘truth.’ Don’t believe every thought you have. Having a thought over and over does not make it fact. When you FEEL inadequate, it doesn’t mean you ARE inadequate. Never define yourself as a failure, because what you believe will then become reality. Examine your self-doubts. If you can change your thoughts and your internal beliefs, you will break through your feelings of imposter syndrome. What you think and believe creates your results. Let go of the pressure that you’re putting on yourself to be great. Doing your best work will be just right.

In summary, most people experience moments of doubt, and that’s normal. The important part is not to let that doubt control your actions. The trick is doing what you do ANYWAY, despite your insecurity and anxiety. Don’t deny your strengths, or you will remain trapped in imposter syndrome. Give yourself credit for your efforts, and celebrate all the improvements you make.

Join me and get painting tips, inspiration, the latest art news, or information about new art or products for sale, sent to you by email. Subscribe here. I’ll give you a free copy of my Color Blending Tips pdf. that you can download and print.