After the second kestrel, which was the third painting, I thought I’d try another kestrel. I had another good photo to work from and I’d come to really love the colors and form of kestrels. By this time I was back home and could make more paints. I hoped I would make better ones – easier to wet, and some black from a local source.
- This is the story of my journey into the world of being a watercolor painter. My angle on this is a bit different than most other artists, in that all of my paints are made from pigments I’ve gathered myself. I call these paints ‘Paleo Paints’. By working with the rocks, bones, and pigments of my surroundings, I feel as if I am working with the soul of the Ozarks.
Previous Entries for this Series of Posts:
The 4th Painting
I just returned from a month in Qatar where my husband was working. It was August 2018, and although I had managed to get my first set of paints back through customs and safely home with me, I wanted to try making more colors. That first set of paints were gooey (some of them) and hard to wet. And I didn’t have a dark gray or black from the local pigments, since I used whatever I could find on hand overseas to get by.
Charred wood in the wood stove seemed like a good source of black, so I ground some of that up and made a little bit of paint from it. That worked okay, but it still wasn’t a good, smooth paint. Later I would discover that the kind of wood matters. Hickory and oak make a hard charcoal. But an even easier resource made a dark gray, almost black.
Trials and Errors and Learning
I would eventually find out later that bone makes the best black of all. I would also later experiment and find that different woods gave different qualities of charcoal. But for now, I worked with what I knew, and that was the darkest rock I could find down at the creek. Shale. I was delighted that the gray it made was almost black, and so I put it to use and made paints from it. There was only a small problem with it. The paint stank while it was wet. Really bad, like rotten eggs. Later, I’d discover how to remedy this problem, but for now I just went with stinky paint. Once it dried, the smell disappeared, anyway.
By this time, I had a good idea of how I wanted my paintings to look. But my skill at making that happen were not yet up to the level of my imagination. This brought me to tears, literally. The encouragement of friends watching my process on Instagram and Facebook really helped me get through this phase of my journey.
Set Firmly on the Path
Aside from the support and encouragement from my husband, sister, and mother, there were in particular two other women. One gave general words of praise and encouragement and the other gave critical observations about the actual physical traits of the bird I was painting. Being open to both types of feedback was instrumental in helping me to keep trying and keep learning.
The clincher, though, was that the friend giving me general encouragement wanted to buy this painting once I had finished it. She gave me the confidence that what I was doing mattered enough that someone was willing to part with hard-earned cash to pay for it! I was elated, and I will be forever grateful to her. And to the other friend I didn’t even know was watching until he emailed. Not even a week after she’d contacted me to buy this painting, that friend asked if he could buy the one I’d done before (kestrel no. 2, and painting no. 3). Those two sales pushed me over the fear of failure.
Here’s the finished 4th painting:
If you’d like to see the process, and read about the panic stages I went through in painting this one, here’s the page for it.
Madison Woods is a self-taught artist who moved to the Ozarks from south Louisiana in 2005. In 2018 she began experimenting with watercolor painting, using her local pigments. She calls them Paleo Paints, and her artwork now features exclusively the lightfast pigments foraged from Madison county, Arkansas. Her inspiration is nature – the beauty, and the inherent cycle of life and death, destruction and regeneration.
Her online portfolio is at www.MadisonWoods.art.
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