Water Color Journey

I’ve embarked in earnest on a water color painting journey, something I’ve threatened to do for years but until now couldn’t quite get started on.

A major inspiration has been the artist Stan Miller. I’ve watched his 20+ videos on YouTube and I’m now “off the couch” and at the table. Here is an amazing demonstration of his skills and teaching, and if you are an amateur artist (or not) you will marvel at what he does here.

My grandfather was an extraordinary artist and I owe any talent I have to him, I believe.  But talent by itself is not sufficient — one must develop it, build fundamentals, and then refine x 1,000,000 repetitions. There is no shortcut.

And so I’ve been following Stan’s exercises, such as learning how to go from light to dark and vice versa, and how to use the water and the paint to build gradations of complexion. Here is my practice:


The face is a simple lesson the power of getting the “value” right — Stan loves that word, “value” — meaning its level of darkness against neighboring paint. But of course he is right, as the face takes shape even without detail, which is his point. A detailed painting with values that are off (e.g., not enough contrast) will look lousy.

Although I humbled myself and did these exercises as a first order of getting started, I could not resist applying some of the techniques to a subject that I happen to be obsessed with: George Washington, our nation’s first president.

And so I thought I would try to apply the lessons on “value” and using only one color to a portrait of GW, in this case wearing a Christmas hat.


The face drops off the bottom of the page because this was not supposed to be a serious attempt. In any event, I am on my way and look forward to continuing the journey.

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