Sunday, July 1, 2012

Breaking the Rules

5" x 7" watercolor on 140 lb. Fabriano Artistica hot press paper
I parked near a Metromover station in downtown Miami and sketched what I saw.  Carefully.  Meticulously.  I expected I would be back soon to paint on site, but that never happened.

So yesterday I found myself wanting to color the picture.  I decided to use the colors I felt like using.  To throw caution to the wind.

Careful?  Meticulous?  What were those?!  Hah!  I was free!! 

I began applying reds and golds thickly, in a quite un-watercolor-like manner.  I was not in polite company, after all.  I was alone.

I felt raw and not at all polite.

I liked it.

I used more gentile washes in other parts, but then ran wild again in the street.

And this is the result.  And I am pleased.  There are more vivid hues on this watercolor than any I recall doing; there are broader value contrasts.  All because I broke the rules.

It reminds me of a quote I read the other day, by Francis Ford Coppola:  "An essential element of any art is risk. If you don’t take a risk then how are you going to make something really beautiful, that hasn’t been seen before? I always like to say that cinema without risk is like having no sex and expecting to have a baby. You have to take a risk."

So is that what it's all about - learning the rules and then breaking them?  Is that what needs to be done?

We shall see..


  1. Well, I like when you run wild--I look forward to the offspring. This is beautiful.

  2. rules? there are rules?

    I love your RESULTS.

  3. If you 'saw' these colours and ideas when you came to paint it, then that must be equally as authentic as having tried to replicate what you 'saw' the day you drew it.

    I really like it. Keep running wild!

  4. It reminds me of a ballpark exterior there is something about your color choices that give it the feel of something fun beyond the walls.

  5. I like your wild side, it's good just to have fun!

  6. You should be very pleased. This is terrific. It's energetic and alive. It has strong contrasts that's what freedom did for you. Contrasts are something to push. They give paintings a pulse. This was breathes.

  7. A terrific painting and a good laugh. "I was not in polite company." What a line!

  8. Hi, Dan,
    You were in good company...the old masters broke the rules of their day and liked the results.
    Great colors! Great energy!

  9. Nice Dan, it has a slight abstract quality to it.
    Happy Painting.

  10. Blimey, this is good. I love the strong, bold colours.
    You must be so happy with this one - I know I would be.

  11. WOW... this is VERY un-Dan like... but FABULOUSLY Dan just the same. I LOVE your bold use of color here... you should throw the rule book out more often.

  12. I'm with Elaine... throw the rule book out more often! The contrast makes it Dan. Great job!

  13. Yea, Dan, don't follow any rules! In watercolor, we have to explore, not follow. That's how we develop our own style. I've learned that if I follow a photograph for too long, the painting goes off the cliff. I do better this way: I make my drawing from the photo, but then I put the photo away and wing it from there, choosing my own colors, etc. Too boring to follow the photo, and for me, following the photo too much makes for a stiff painting. Go Dan!

  14. Fabulous-both the sentiment and the painting!

  15. Hi Dan, I do like the strong colors and abstract quality. Isn't the process of drawing and painting full of surprises? Sometime s letting go is just the best thing. And, I think you've hit the proverbial nail on the head: learn the rules, then learn how to break them...and have fun doing it!

  16. Yes, yes! Thank you all for your positive comments - I have all of your permission to run wild, now. I see that! Thank you! But if I have your permission, then I am not really wild am I, or maybe we are all just members of the same wild pack, you think?

    Anyway, addressing a few of your comments:

    Jane: Thank you, you are right. I need to give myself permission to believe that any colors I might lay in are authentic colors.

    Mary: I think so too.

    Linda: Yes, you are right. I see what happens when I push the contrasts.

    Elsie: Except I am neither old, nor a master. But I hope to get to both someday.

    Roseann: You are right - photos (or even the scene itself) should just be the starting point. I sometimes wonder about my watercolors - they are much more restrained then yours and many others - not wet on wet. Part of what I was talking about was the thick laying on of paint on the right, more like I would do with acrylic, and they were quite vivid.

    Peggy: Abstract. I am seeing a great attraction to abstract qualities of late. We will see how that develops.

    Thank you all!!

  17. This post was candy to my eyes, music to my ears and any other metaphor you might like to mention!!! How fantastic to see you throw caution to the wind with colour, colour makes life so much more interesting and why do we need a painting to look like what we see..... we can already see it like it is.... how much better to see it spring to life with a completely different interpretation.... great work Dan... will be good to see more like this and will be following your blog as I've really enjoyed reading what I've seen so far!!!