August was some kind of a milestone for me. I finally got to paint with watercolor! Those who have been reading my blog would know that the quarantine period got me coloring again, particularly with gel pens. One time, though, when I bought another coloring book, I also got a pack of watercolor papers. I had a 16-color pack that has been lying around forlornly in my room. I was not sure then when I would get around to using the papers. Last August, I finally did. I got to color my own lines.

So far, it has been a more enjoyable activity for me than coloring. Since I am beginning with the basics, I am learning a lot. While my undergraduate course did introduce me to the medium, I found out how those lessons were a mere “brush” with watercolor. It turned out the lessons did not even cover the basics. Understandably though, we were supposed to use watercolor then not to paint but to render sketches of designed spaces, more for practical purposes than artistic. I realized now that I had a reason why I felt so frustrated using watercolor back then, and somehow even hated it. 

I have been watching tutorials and taking note of the artists’ great insights in using the medium. Two concepts that I keep encountering and get me thinking are “capturing the essence” of the object(s) one is painting and “really seeing” the object(s). 

Almost always, when the artist talks about capturing the essence, some related expressions that I hear are “do not get hung up on the details” and “it does not need to be perfect, organic things are not perfect.” These are mostly when one is doing the wet-on-wet technique, or a loose painting. On the other hand, the artists also remind painting enthusiasts to “really see” the object(s), to closely observe the colors, patterns, textures, and, more importantly, the play of light. These things are what (would) give depth to the painting, when you are able to capture them when rendering the image.

Initially, I thought that these concepts kind of contradict each other, or that each applies to the two watercolor painting techniques: wet-on-wet and wet-on-dry. However, I am learning that a balance of the two is needed. To fully capture the essence of the object(s) (or place, or event) entails that you learn to really see it.

I could not help but think of the human person when I think about these two concepts. One does not need to be perfect, can never be perfect, in fact. Water is integral in doing the painting, and it has the distinct character of being fluid. The artists remind that using watercolor entails that you learn and allow the fluidity of the water to play a part in the painting. So long as the paper is wet, the pigments will flow or move. I find this resonating with being human in that as long as we are alive, we are still in the process of becoming.

Then, to really see one’s self or others entails close observation. On closer inspection, each of us is made up of different colors, patterns, textures, and others. The light brings all these to the fore. However, we can only ever see at a particular angle with which we are looking. It is kind of hard if not impossible to see something in its entirety, even the human person. Thinking about these, I am reminded of the Johari window and its four areas. I also remember a remark once made by a friend, “We can never exhaust the human person.”

There is still a lot for me to learn about painting with watercolor. Nevertheless, learning how to use the medium and being able to think how the process and the techniques apply to life and living make it more interesting and engaging. I am loving the process and the thoughts that come with it.

Most of the time we tend to dismiss the ordinary, a thing so quiet it is so easy to miss. When we come to think of it, it is the ordinary that calls for much commitment. And, sometimes, through our committed encounter with the ordinary, there the extraordinary eventually finds its way to bloom.

Word Catcher