I Don't Always Know What I'm Doing and I Don't Want to Know!

My students are often surprised to hear me tell them that I’m not sure what I’m doing, or what I’m going to do next when I paint.

This usually happens when I’m starting a new painting, or working on one in front of class.

What they might not realize is that I hope I never really know what I’m doing next!

I don’t want to know exactly how something is going to turn out. Where is the excitement, the fun, the thrill of adventure, if that happens?

I’m a painter and, as such, I love to paint. (I’m also a teacher who loves to teach and a writer who loves to write, but I digress).

Recently I got to test out my desire of not knowing what I’m doing by painting some giraffes on a red clay flowerpot for the Honolulu Zoo’s 2015 Gala Fundraiser, “Growing Wild.”

I have wanted to paint the animals of Africa for at least three years. Knowing me, you might be able to guess why I haven’t done so — I haven’t made the time to go to the zoo to sketch the animals!

The Honolulu Zoo gave me (and a few dozen other artists) a 10” red clay flowerpot to paint. This was the perfect opportunity for me to paint Giraffes.

First I painted Daniel Smith’s white watercolor ground on the pot and let it dry for 24 hours. This enabled the pot to accept watercolor paint.

Next, using photos supplied by a friend taken on “safari” at the San Diego Zoo, I sketched three giraffe heads on the pot.

I’m used to painting with my paper upright, so I wasn’t expecting problems painting on the vertical pot. But the watercolor ground isn’t quite as absorbent as paper, and the paint dripped in unexpected ways.

No worries. Realizing smooth washes were not going to come easily, I took a more painterly approach, blending the colors on the pot the way an oil painter might blend them on canvas.

The beauty of watercolor is its translucence, and that characteristic came through as I layered colors upon blended colors. I even added pinks to brighten up some of the warm patches on the faces of the giraffes.

I have one step left: seal the pot so the paint is permanent. This isn't a step normally taken with watercolor paints, but it is necessary for this painting adventure to be successful.

The flowerpot was a joy to paint and I hope it raises a lot of money for the Honolulu Zoo. The animals in our care deserve the very best. After all, they give their best to us each and every day they share with us.