:: blog ::

Getting stoned in watercolor

Explorations in paint, mindfulness and rocks.

Simplicity by Emily Dickinson

How happy is the little stone
That rambles in the road alone,
And doesn’t care about careers,
And exigencies never fears;
Whose coat of elemental brown
A passing universe put on;
And independent as the sun,
Associates or glows alone,
Fulfilling absolute decree
In casual simplicity.

It’s a time to get back to simplicity, to the earth, and to art. And what better way than to paint stones?

Groups have always gathered to sketch and paint together. With the U.S. under stay-at-home orders, we use technology to gather. I was lucky to be invited to a Saturday virtual painting session hosted by an accomplished watercolorist and designer. The theme was “Balanced like rocks.” Five of us chatted on a Google Hangout as we played with wet-on-wet, salt and alcohol to emulate the mottled textures of rocks, stones and pebbles.

I’ve seen many paintings of rocks and even tried to make some myself, but never really knew how to get those amazing rock surface textures. And turns out that rocks are hard. (Don’t judge me…I love a good pun.)

A rock from a 2009 family reunion. The best I could do was shade and spatter.

As with any new experience, early attempts are about playing around, not outcome. And it was fascinating to see how the water and pigment would flow together to form textures.

It was relaxing to be with other painters…just making and chatting…and to experiment to see what would happen if…

…there was a lot of clean water laid down…
…I dabbed in some brown…
…I added a shadow…
…I left white space (our host Sara calls these “holidays” which is so fun!)

With instructive tips from Sara, I was soon trying out wet-in-wet paint sploodging, then adding salt and isopropyl alcohol. These react with the pigment and water and deliver amazing textures. It’s magic!

Once I got going, I found it a little hard to stop.

Now I’m hooked. In times of stress, a little mindfulness goes a long way; I can’t think of a better way to shuck off the worries of the day than with quiet reflection and a tin of watercolors. Now you’ll find me…brush in hand, painting rocks.

Oh, and to Sara…