As soon as I started painting last year, I came up against the phenomenon of preciousness and I’ve been playing with it ever since.
Preciousness raises its head as soon as I make my first mark on a big white sheet of stretched watercolour paper. This is often the most exciting bit – making a big, bold sweep of Prussian blue across an empty sheet is really exhilarating. But as soon as that happens, a little voice in my head says “that’s good – now don’t mess it up”. This response then often introduces a tentativeness that inhibits further play and exploration and shuts down that little creative voice that encourages risk taking.
So I’m trying to teach myself to listen to preciousness, but not to be dominated by it. Sometimes I set out to deliberately push a painting until it stops being something I would want to show to anybody. If I know I’m going to do that the precious voice disappears and I just explore and learn from my washes, my colour choices and my mark making. More commonly, if I find that preciousness is inhibiting my mark making to the extent that a painting becomes unexciting or dull, then I will quickly put big bold marks on it, or splash some bright paint over it, or stick it under a tap and then rework. It’s amazing how often these approaches bring a painting back to life.
I include a series of paintings below, to show this process from a watercolour landscape which was fine, but wasn’t moving me to a very different landscape I am happy with. This time I got out teh pastesl and attacked the paper. There were also several other steps in between including a Spanish landscape & a Scottish highland landscape, that I didn’t record.
I expect that preciousness applies especially to watercolour painting because they are so easy to mess up and hard to rework and paint over – which is of course one of the reasons that I love watercolour painting so much in the first place.