Hi and welcome back to Atelier Novotny.

Today’s lessons is going to be fairly brief. Although there are several aspects about this demonstration worth pointing out, I want to focus only on two in particular.

As the title of this article suggests, here again I present a nontraditional way to paint watercolor. I spoke very extensively and thoroughly about this approach in my previous article titled “Painting from Photographs”. I highly encourage you to go check it out in case you haven’t seen it yet. Even if you did, it may be worth revisiting. In the article I discuss not only how I treat photographs when I intend to use them as my reference, but I also list a number of relevant articles I published previously on the topic. I also discuss topics such as negative painting, palette selection, paint to water ratio and more.

“Painting from Photographs” Full Demonstration [+Video]

But what about today’s painting? Where does it fit? Is there some new angle we can discuss when talking about “nontraditional” watercolor?

Well, there’s one more line of thought that I think needs further examination in connection to doing something “nontraditionally”.

Cambridge dictionary defines the word “nontraditional” as “different from what was considered usual or typical in the past: nontraditional families/medicine/methods.

Vocabulary.com elaborates further by stating that “… People or things that don’t follow [these] traditions, instead inventing new ways of doing things, are nontraditional.”

When we practice something in a nontraditional way, when we employ “different methods from what was considered usual or typical in the past” thus “inventing new ways of doing things”. Even if the whole idea of trying something new is only experimental and without previously established intent or particular goal, the shift in thinking from a certain established norm is bound to follow. And this is the idea I want you to take away from today’s video.

When we are ready and willing to break away from the methods we are used to – despite the fact that doing what we’re used to feels good – we effectively open our mind to possibilities we didn’t know existed. Regardless of the beneficial effects on our mind, by doing something inventive we are not only learning the new, but improving the old. Everything we try, we do, we experience adds to the richness of our life and therefore the work we produce. The more we know the more we can express. The old ways are transformed with the new knowledge.

As to the way this painting was made, I have a couple of notes I’d like to share with you.

Even in watercolor you can refine as you go. If you are clear on your concept, the idea behind your work and you work with a pattern you are clear about, you are free to paint any way you want. Often beginners get this all wrong. They start by mimicking someone’s technique. I’m not saying mimicking technique is bad. That’s how you learn, after all. The point is that they are not at all aware of the intentions of the artist who has a clear idea about the “why’s” behind his actions. Therefore focusing on technique first is in contradiction to logic. If we prioritize concept, the technical aspect will come easily to us.

I recognize that you may not necessarily want or need to paint this way in order to apply these principles in your work. Through this demo I want to encourage you to think outside the box. Watercolor doesn’t have to be done in a certain way. Technique is secondary to concept. That is not to say technique is not important. It certainly is. My point is to try and experiment and break the rules of watercolor painting.

The final thing I’d like to mention is the way I painted the road. As you can see in the video I actually don’t paint the road (the white shape), instead I paint around it. That is clear enough I think. But what happens next? I paint the shadows. And yet again, when I paint the shadows on the road I don’t think “shadow”, I think “road”. In other words, not positive but negative. I focus on what’s left behind, not what’s been added. I only add to remove. I put down a positive stroke representing a shadow, but in fact what I’m thinking and what I’m looking at is actually how this affects the shape of the road. The following image should help illustrate my point.

Road shape before final adjustments

This first image shows how my initial blocking in of the large shapes resulted in creating the illusion of a road. It is, however, quite uneventful. Boring shapes are to be avoided. And so it needs further refinement.

Road shape after refinement

This second image shows the shape of the road after the adjustments. When I added the shadows I actually took away from the white shape, just like a sculptor would when working on a form. And this is how we need to learn to see. We need to be able to switch from positive seeing to negative.

And so you see that the road is the subject in this painting. The painting is all about the road. It is the main player and every stroke I’ve made during the painting process was to emphasize that and strengthen the idea of a road running through the country. That is not to say the country is not an important player. But it is indeed a secondary player, one that supports the main idea. In this case its function is to add context, because, of course, a road cannot exist without one – neither physically or conceptually.

©2017 Daniel Novotny. Watercolor on Paper, 11 x 15 in.
©2017 Daniel Novotny. Watercolor on Paper, 11 x 15 in.

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I hope you enjoyed this demonstration and the accompanying lesson. Let me know your thoughts down below in the comment section, I’m interested to hear what you think.

Think big,
Daniel

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