Watercolor life lessons

I love new perspectives by looking at the world trough the eyes of others. Especially if they are really good at something I know very little about. So when I met watercolor artist Vladimir Marcos Merchensky Arias from Buenos Aires I was eager to learn from him. He is passionate about teaching and as he was explaining the various ‘secrets’ of watercolor painting, I could not help but see this as a perfect metaphor for life. One day I hope he will reveal more of these ‘secrets’ in a TED talk.

The 5 life lessons you can learn from working with watercolor:

  1. Don’t aim for perfection

If you wait for the perfect idea, you will never start. You don’t need to ‘force’ an idea onto paper, you don’t need to recreate a perfect image of something. Just start, be open and see where the paper, paint and water and/or your topic take you. It doesn’t have to be realistic. If it turns out completely different than you planned, you might actually like it. If you don’t, you can always start over. So you see, no excuse to wait any longer, start now.

  1. Let the water do the work

When you apply water to the paper before you make a stroke with paint, the colors will fade beautifully. Water will help to transport the pigment, blend different colors and make natural transitions. Often we try to ‘fight’ water: when you want it to boil for tea for example, it always seems to take longer when you are waiting for it. Don’t try to change the water or fight it. Use it for what it is good at.

  1. Work in different layers

Start with the basics, not with the cherry on the pie. First create the background, use lighter colors and transparents, leaving open spaces where you want white. When that is dry, apply a second layer where you want/need it, or layer accents or patterns on top. Do this as many times as needed. Only at the end you apply the final touches with less diluted paint. Any project in life needs careful building and structuring. If you don’t get the basics right, but go for the ‘cherry’ straight away, you will miss a good foundation and it is hard, if not impossible to repair that later.

  1. Use what you have

You don’t need the best paint, paper and pencils. You don’t need all colors in the rainbow. You don’t need to clean your palette after each stroke. Work with what you have and make the most of it. Concentrate on what you CAN do, instead of what you can’t.

  1. Be in the moment and enjoy the process

No need to explain this one. But I will anyway, haha. Again this is about not aiming for perfection, not trying to control the process. Give in to the altered state of consciousness that being creative induces. We are all so used to working with the rational side of our brain that it feels liberation to give some space to the ‘other side’, which works differently. No control but surrender, no structure but space. Enjoy the process of creation, the openness that comes with it. It is not about the destination, it is about the journey.

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