"Seeing Stripes"  by Tanya TyrerThinking of trying watercolours for the first time? Well after my first experience I highly recommend it, especially if you’re a control freak. Read on to find out why…

A Lesson in Letting Go

After the struggles I faced during the creation of my elephant portrait, “Sentient”, I realised that something had to give. I haven’t been a full time artist very long. In fact I haven’t even been an artist very long, having only started in 2016. Since taking on the challenge of fulfilling a dream to do this full time, I have put so much pressure on myself. Pushing to try and create something amazing each time, only to become disheartened when I don’t live up to my own expectations.

Enter operation “Learn to Chillax and just have FUN!”

The Challenge

I figured that in order to relinquish control I would have to choose a medium that would naturally do that for me. I have always been scared to use watercolour for this very reason so it was a no-brainer that I use it’s evil powers for good!

My mission would be to create something (anything really) without overcomplicating things and just to enjoy the process. Whatever I created didn’t need to be amazing, the goal of this exercise was to play and experiment without getting hung up on detail.

The Inspiration

For a while now I have loved the look of the vibrant and splashy animal creations of artists like Ellen Brenneman . Although her work isn’t realistic as such, she still manages to pull off something beautiful by what seems to be simply throwing colour at a canvas.

And so I watched a LOT of her time-lapse videos on YouTube before deciding on a zebra as my subject due to its simplicity.

Old Habits Die Hard

Sadly it didn’t take long for the control freak in me to take over. I just didn’t have the courage to dive in, so I mapped out an intricate plan. Using photoshop I “pre-coloured” the zebra so that I knew which colours would go where, I couldn’t go wrong, right?

WRONG!!! I had barely put down the first few layers of paint before I completely abandoned my plan, realising that it wasn’t going to help me! Here’s where I would normally panic and toss the paper in the bin. But, I found myself enjoying the new sensation of holding a paintbrush and watching the paint fill the paper.

I didn’t know how it would turn out, I had no end goal of how it was supposed to look. There were some really ugly stages too where I thought all was lost. But that didn’t get to me like it normally does. I just kept playing


If the idea of trying watercolours for the first time scares you then my only piece of advice is…you have to try it!!!

I’ve never really considered myself to be particularly “creative” when it comes to my art. I thrive on order and find great comfort having a reference photo from which to work from. I can see the detail that my brain loves to replicate and the whole creative process just makes sense to me. This however is something completely different!! There is something so liberating about not being a slave to a reference photo and having the courage to just play.

And yes I signed it! I am owning this beautiful “disaster” as one of the best artistic learning experiences I have ever had. And yes, I even put it in my shop! Is it a master piece? No! But my aim was to relinquish my creative control and have fun and that’s exactly what I did, so, mission accomplished. Does this mean I’m trading in my coloured pencils for paintbrushes? No, in fact I’m keen to experiment more as I think watercolour and coloured pencil will work brilliantly together. I’m ready to play!

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