Abandon Control

A few weeks ago I taught a really fun class at the Honolulu Museum of Art Spalding House Campus: Pored Paintings.

Students love this class because it gives them a chance to completely lose control of the painting process right from the start.

Pat San Souci taught me the process about ten years ago. I wasn’t sure I really wanted to learn the process because I wasn’t interested in losing control (I can be a bit of a “control freak”). 

Then I found out just how much fun being out of control can be!

Pat’s class was the most fun I had ever had painting up until then.

The gist of the process is to pour watercolor paint through a filter paper onto wet watercolor paper.

If you’ve ever painted wet-into-wet (wet paint on wet paper) you know the paint spreads and moves F•A•S•T!    

Tongue-in-cheek, I began to demonstrate the technique to my class by telling them that I would be painting two yellow hibiscus flowers.

I poured the paint within 60 seconds, and quickly took the wet painting outside to dry in the sun.

For the next 30 min, each student poured 2–4 painting starts and took them outside to dry.

30 minutes later, we brought all of the paintings inside. One by one we set them on the easel at the front of the class to see what we had created.

At this point all of the paintings were quite abstract. Yet as we turned them around and around, we could begin to see that we might coax something representative out of them to create our paintings.

I put my painting on the easel to demonstrate the next step and reminded the class that I would be painting yellow hibiscus.

The joke was on me! Everyone laughed and Sandy said, “I think you have a parrot there.”

Sure enough, a very Sassy Parrot dared me to turn him into a yellow hibiscus.

Rather than argue with him, I surrendered and began the very slow process of painting my first parrot. 

A week later, I discovered another parrot on the page, along with some hibiscus.

Yes, it can be nice to feel like we have control, and a painting turns out just as we’ve planned.

But honestly, it’s way more fun when we get out of the way, and let the painting tell us what to paint.