Creative Practice

By Wendy P. Jones

As a warm-up to a painting session, I often create a random background wash with no subject in mind. I learned this from my mentor, Jean Haines. It’s a way to test out color combinations and get into a flow before starting on a painting. It’s also a way to pay closer attention. I leave the wash on my desk, and as I walk by it several times, I often start seeing a subject in it.

Because I was a greeting card maker for a long time, I really enjoy smaller pieces. Recently, I’ve been doing my warm-up washes on 4”x6” inch paper. I do the washes knowing that I’m not necessarily creating a serious painting—I’m simply doing my daily practice.

As I walked by the photo below on the left, I started seeing a mountain. I used Rose of Ultramarine for the bottom half of the wash. That color separates into blue and pink, and as a result, the purple in the wash was dimensional, which I thought would be fun for a mountain scene. The patterns in the sky were unusual and dramatic. This is not a typical style of painting for me, but it was fun to stretch myself creatively.

Here’s another wash that’s been on my desk. I walked by this wash over and over, sometimes turning it in different directions. For the longest time, I saw no subject. Then I started seeing stars in an indigo sky. I’ll give you a moment to look at the wash to see if a subject calls out to you.

Does it just seem like blobs of color? It did to me, too. But eventually, I began to see what looked like an eye shape in the upper right quadrant. Do you see the eye? Now look closely—can you make out any other features of a face?

I decided to use as few brushstrokes as possible to tell the story in the resulting painting: Moon Child.

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