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Day Two : #30x30DirectWatercolor2018

June 2, 2018

One thing for sure about Saint Joseph’s Oratory – you can see the thing from almost everywhere on the island of Montreal.

I was told when I moved here it’s the third largest domed church in the world. Though – I can’t find any proof of that one way or the other.

Across the street from the oratory grounds is the College Notre-dame. If you walk up to Jean-Brillant, just north from the main street, Queen Mary, you’ll find yourself looking at the dome from across the school’s soccer field.

On a rainy day like today, you can ignore all the details in-between and imagine the dome as some hill top church in Tuscany.

What went wrong?

Today’s painting of the oratory is actually my fourth attempt. Here’s one of my false starts.

Sometimes you know the thing is beyond redemption and it’s best to just stop now, save your energy – and the piece of paper! If you don’t flog it to death you can still use the back of the page for another try.

This one’s a flop for A: poor placement on the page, the horizon is too low, the oratory too centered. B: Too much chroma. The colors in the foliage are much too bright, the darks too contrasty. It looks like a glorious fall day, not a rainy Montreal spring.

I’m sure the problem is, I’m rushing myself.

My whole plan for this 30×30 thing was to pop out first thing each morning, fresh as a daisy at sunrise, dash off a wonderful little sketch, and be home before breakfast. (Seriously! I imagined myself having breakfast out as a reward). Hah! In fact, I’ve been wasting time and paper all day!

Here’s another reject. This one is just out of control. The brushwork is sloppy, the reserved whites too coarse, and the building looks like it’s been through an earthquake.

This is probably normal for day two. It’s going to take a while to knock-off the rust from our long winter. I envy southerners who can paint outside all year round.

I don’t mind this tree. Maybe I should have just cropped it and called it my Day Two.

What went right?

This is something that happens to me fairly often. Getting frustrated, and having to mentally re-set. I try to recognize the feeling when it happens and just shut down the frustration.

Sometimes I rip up the bad sketches right on the spot, to get a little revenge. Then I end up deciding, I’m clearly a fraud, and I’m going to give up painting forever, so – I’m just going to have fun with one last sketch.

That’s when they turn out!

Any pressure on myself to succeed, (like, I’m going to launch an international painting event and show everyone how great I am! <hah!) and you’ll stiffen up, become afraid to take risks, and otherwise interfere in your own success.

It might not look like it in the snapshot – but this view is a better choice of subject than the Snowdon Theater. Certainly better than the failed attempt this morning. I tried to pick views based on cover from the rain, instead of holding out for a subject that grabbed my imagination. That never works. This is one case where drawing from a photo was useful. (I did the painting from this cell-shot). Bad weather makes for atmospheric views! But it’s no fun painting in the rain. (I mean, I’ve done it – but I need some external motivation – like being at a workshop, or on a once-of-a-lifetime trip.)

Also – I’m remembering my own advice from Muckross House: Get further away from the subject! If you can’t see the details, you’re not tricked into over-drawing.


22 Comments leave one →
  1. June 2, 2018 9:14 AM

    Being vulnerable helps us grow – I admire your honesty – helpful to us beginners! Takes courage for us to post when there are SO many great artists out there! Great tips you are very generous with your help – thank you!

  2. June 2, 2018 9:32 AM

    Hi Marc, It looks like you added requirements to your 30-day painting challenge: painting 30 masterpieces, or near-masterpieces. While you might not have been happy with some of your attempts, most of them look great to me. I think you hit the issue on the head — perhaps a little rusty from lack of activity during the long, cold Canadian winter. I, too, appreciate your honestly, and it’s great for us beginners to know that even the very accomplished start a painting and discard it once in a while.

    Of course you have to feel good about the achievement of [all of] your goals for the painting challenge. However, another approach is to follow the advice of my former golf teacher, “You gotta learn to dance with it.” He reminded us of this advice everything we hit the ball into the rough. While I might not par that hole with my ball sitting in the rough, I’ll minimize strokes by “dancing with” the lay, and I’ll salvage my score by strategizing at each step.

    I wondered if you are using your dot method to sketch out the bones of your painting, to get the horizon where you want it, and to off-center your subject. I will certainly enjoy your posts for the next 30 days, and the posts from others in the challenge. I hope to join you one of these days soon in an event. Family commitments at the moment keep me from adding another activity to life right now. Nancy

  3. June 2, 2018 9:44 AM

    You may have meandered a bit to get there, Marc, but the end result is terrific! The sense of place, atmosphere, distance, it’s all there, and pulls me right in. Thank you, and BRAVO!

  4. Fern Van Horn permalink
    June 2, 2018 10:00 AM

    You are hilarious! And quite clearly a fraud ! All these hundreds of artists all over the world inspired to just DO IT! Your thoughtful and generous sharing of info; and the real life ups and downs and doubts that stab us all is just …so good! 😄🇨🇦‼️

  5. trentbauman permalink
    June 2, 2018 10:11 AM

    I love your honesty about the painting process. It is very inspiring. Thanks for sharing your work

  6. Judy Sopher permalink
    June 2, 2018 10:56 AM

    I have learned so much from you and this post is so interesting. Your work is amazing.
    While the last painting may be the one you like best, I also like the second one as well. I do have a question. What do you mean by the whites are coarse?

  7. tallboyone permalink
    June 2, 2018 11:22 AM

    There is a lot of serious wisdom being dropped here that I was not expecting on a simple “day 2 of 30” post. It’s great to see you, such a masterful artist. have bad days which are *actual* bad days, and not just “oh I had a bad day because I only painted 6 paintings of perfection instead of 5”. Supremely awesome post.

  8. Carmela Sunnyvale permalink
    June 2, 2018 11:45 AM

    Marc–thanks so much for posting the ups and downs of your painting process. I often find that it just takes time to find my ‘groove/flow’. So patience with the process, as you demonstrated, is important.

  9. Ivana Bowes permalink
    June 2, 2018 12:03 PM

    This is so useful to beginners like myself,and so inspiring to keep at it. I love seeing all the skilful finished paintings but they always have me wondering how they were done and i always assume they were right first time. Thank you for generously sharing your frustrations too.

  10. Michele permalink
    June 2, 2018 12:41 PM

    “I admire southerners who can paint year round”. Come on down to Texas and try painting in this heat! 70s when you get up, 100 high, 90 at 9pm… and this started in May!

  11. Michele permalink
    June 2, 2018 12:42 PM

    I love your humility and honesty… glad you show us you aren’t perfect!

  12. mlaiuppa permalink
    June 2, 2018 1:59 PM

    Get further away. That is great advice. I’ll have to have a third (fifth, 20th?) look at some of the photos in my album for further away, less details and rethink maybe they might make good subjects after all.

  13. Marylin Smith permalink
    June 2, 2018 5:30 PM

    Marc! …darling, you have got to stop bashing yourself up when they dont end up as you expected! These are all lovely paintings – but like the others I appreciate your sharing your frustrations. Thank you so much – you’re amazing!

  14. Avital Pinnick permalink
    June 3, 2018 3:42 AM

    Wonderful paintings, even if they’re not up to your standards! :-)

    The Rotunda of Mosta in Malta appears to be the 3rd largest domed church, after St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London. Mosta’s done is 66m high (, while the oratory’s dome is 60m ( Even if it’s not the 3rd largest dome, it’s still a very impressive site and a good subject.

  15. Susan permalink
    June 3, 2018 7:51 AM

    We are our own worst critique! Which can be good and bad. There are very few things that I do that I like. I was Plein air painting the other day with some Artist friends and I showed one lady my work which she really liked. I told her I did not like it, she looked at me as if I was crazy. I thought maybe I am too hard on myself. ButThis is what makes to strive to be come better. By the way I like your painting that you said the brush work was sloppy.

  16. June 3, 2018 8:27 AM

    Dear Marc, there aren’t so many people who can honestly share what they think might be a mistake ! Your honesty honors you 😊 I am a Montrealer very proud of you (and of Shari) and it’s nice to see l’Oratoire St-Joseph painted by you ! I will follow your challenge and learn a lot, I am quite sure. I just finished to read your Direct Warercolor book….thank you so much, I loved it !

  17. June 3, 2018 9:35 AM

    Dear Marc, when I started dabbling in watercolor in 2014 I didn’t think I would ever get any good.
    It was mostly a therapeutic practice.

    Somewhere along the lines I became super demanding of myself to improve and obviously in this day with instagram and the rest, seeing what other people are capable of doing, usually hurts more than it inspires.

    So thank you so much for letting us follow along with you in this challenge and even though each brushstroke of yours that I see is dreamy and wonderful, it was soothing to read about how you deal with that discouragement when the painting you made is less than perfect (in your own eyes).

  18. Connie Miller permalink
    June 3, 2018 11:38 PM

    Thank you ever so much for your honesty about struggles with an artistic endeavor, which we all experience. Those of us who follow artists as your self only see what great work you do and how talented you are. You made me laugh in your comment about the house looking like it had been in an earthquake. One reason I like watercolor is the fact the paper can be used on both sides so I always have a second chance.

  19. roxannesteed permalink
    June 4, 2018 12:02 AM

    I’m appreciating your thoughts on your paintings (even though I’m thinking you’re being a bit harsh on yourself). I do know what you mean by long cold winters (I’m only in Connecticut here in the US, and I think THAT is freezing! Don’t know how you do it further north!!). Anyways, I’m still wowed by your work and enjoying the challenge so far! I’m getting more painting time in, even though I’m slow at getting it posted!! Keep up the amazing work (and don’t fret!).

  20. June 4, 2018 9:33 PM

    Marc, may i have your rejects, please !!! :)

  21. Carolyn permalink
    June 6, 2018 12:42 PM

    Enjoy your paintings and comments. Learning a lot. Very interesting about you thinking you are a fraud. This strikes home sooo much. So many times I have thought I should quit. I start a painting and suddenly haven’t any idea how to proceed. It is like I have forgotten everything I learnt!! Why …. usually I am frustrated by something. So it is reassuring that you have periods like this as well!

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