Carol Carter's Watercolor Workshop

About two months ago I signed up to take a weekend workshop with what I consider one of the best watercolor artists around.  The first time I saw the watercolors of Carol Carter in person, my mouth just fell open and I was floored.  This woman knows watercolors.  Her work just really hit me and spoke to me. It was more than a well rendered landscape or still life, there was an emotional impact that just seemed to smack me upside the head.  Fast forward three years later - here I am finally attending one of her workshops.

My main goal for taking her workshop was to bring an emotional quality to my work that I don't usually experience.  Sure I like pretty things that please the eye or make you smile.  But I'm currently striving for something more, something that touches the spirit like a great piece of music.  My goals may be high, but I want my art to touch someone's heart not just match their couch.  Carol does that, and still, I'm not quite sure just how she does it. 

Here's a list of techniques that I had to change in order to open up, widen my watercolor horizons and push myself out of my watercolor comfort zone.

1. Paint bigger - as in a full sheet 22x30 or larger.  I've been so timid about that, but after experiencing her work which is for the most part on a large scale, I see why it's important to push myself here.  I love painting little sketches in my journal or small little flower vignettes, but it's time to make myself uncomfortable.

2. Take your time, be deliberate, think.  - I've been in some kind of hurry, trying to catch up.  My mind set has been having more completed work, because more is better right?   And I think taking the time to work slowly and thoughtfully on a painting is very valuable - especially since I hurry and rush all day.

3. Try new colors and paint straight from the tube - Carol does very little mixing of colors.  And I mix EVERY color. This was really hard for me.  AND, I don't paint so bright.  I paint in a very traditional realistic manner.  Not that there is anything wrong with that, but for me I needed to do this and push myself out of some of my color mixing ruts. 

4. Paint more wet on wet -  Carol does very little layering or dry painting.  She lets the water do it's magic and knows how to coax the water on the paper to move where she likes it.  I love the look of a juicy wet watercolor, but find I needed to be reminded of this lesson because I was getting tighter and tighter in my own work.  One of the BIG strengths of watercolor is the running and moving of the water with pigment.

5. Paint what touches me, what speaks to MY heart - this is a tough one for me, perhaps the toughest because for years I've wanted to earn a living completely by my art.  With the desire to be a full time artist, I think to much about my work and spend too much time on artist sites and blogs comparing myself and painting what I think will sell.  That's not really painting from my heart now is it.  So this one requires a little more thought, a little more paying attention and certain awareness of myself and maybe even my motives.  There are times I think, "Really, another flower?!" but flowers speak to me - especially the ones I've planted from seed, nurtured and watch grow.  I have apologized for my flowers in the past, but no more.  But also, I really need to push myself and paint other subject matter.  Again, Carol does this with a confidence I envy.

The peony painting at the top of the page took me a week to complete.  Working a little every day as time allowed.  Probably three times the amount of time I normally spend on a painting.

This one I worked on in the workshop and I have to say at the time I HATED it.  I was so uncomfortable painting in a method I don't normally do --background first, all wet in wet and piece by piece.  But now, having set it aside and looking at it without all the emotional and uncomfortableness, I kind of like it.

Still working, still trying, still painting.... much like life.