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A message from long time Watercolor student, Michael Freel.

What Watercolor Has Taught Me

by Michael Freel


For the past several years I have been taking watercolor classes at the Ankeny Art Center. I thought I would share a few of the things that these watercolor classes have taught me, beyond how to be a better painter.


First, and probably foremost, I learned that I could not be in total control. The paint can run when I want it to stay in place. It may dry faster than expected and make it difficult for the blending of colors. It may not dry as fast as I anticipated causing the edges to blur. Basically I have learned to react to the unexpected developments and to use these developments to my advantage. It may be to my benefit to change my ultimate goal to use what is happening on my paper.


Next I have learned to enjoy what is developing in front of me and work with it. If the paints are flowing more than usual then I might decide to paint a ‘loose’ painting. Similarly if I am outside and the heat is drying my paints quickly I may elect to do a more detailed painting.


When things go wrong I have learned to take some of Bob Ross’s advice and ‘add a happy little tree’ to cover a mistake. Mistakes are not always a cause for starting over, but rather a chance to learn how to avoid making the same mistake in the future. Plus they teach us how to correct, or recover from, our mistakes so we can move ahead.


I learned that every so often you just need to step back and take a few deep breaths. It is easy to become so intent on a certain section of your work that you lose sight of the big picture, your actual goal. That is when it is important to step away and look at your painting from a distance, breathe deep, relax, and decide what to do next.


Finally, I have learned to try new techniques. These new things become tools for me to use when the need arrises. If I do not acquire new techniques and skills I will never broaden my ability as a painter.


If you notice that these lessons apply to life outside of watercolor painting you can see why I have found my experiences in these classes so valuable.

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