After Monet by Jean Haines, watercolor painting. Article contributions from Beth Williams.
The Freewheeling World of Watercolor According to Jean Haines
You don’t get into watercolor because you like straight lines, geometry, and control. You get into it because you crave freedom and fluidity and a taste of the unknown. Watercolor artist Jean Haines paints a wide range of subjects in a loose and interpretive style. Light, color and sections left to the viewers’ imagination play a vital role in her work. As a beginner artist, I’ve learned a lot from her because of the sense of freedom and play she inspires.
Take What You Want and Leave the Rest
“One of the ways I’ve found to challenge myself and advance my skills as an artist is by taking the strong parts of a painting and carrying them into a new work,” says Haines.
+New work can actually be a loose interpretation of your former work. “By allowing myself to be creative and use a previous painting or reference photo as a starting point, I feel I can produce something far more interesting and engaging.
+Study previous art pieces you’ve completed and ask yourself what you like about them. Extract those pieces and build on them–even as a simple exercise.
You Learn from Yourself
“We’re often our own best teachers, but we sometimes don’t realize it,” Haines continues. “I always recommend keeping paintings and looking at them one year later to see how you’ve grown as an artist. I regularly learn from my past work, studying what I liked about it and what I’d wish to improve. In fact, I think we artists push ourselves the most when we’re trying to improve what we’ve painted before. In this way, we also can set our own unique challenges.
Two Versions of a Painting
Sometimes Haines will do several interpretations of the same subject. It allows her to explore technique and narrative without trying to please too many “masters” and coming away like she stuffed her painting like a goose.
The dark, detailed study of a cowboy allowed the artist to play with texture, color and the architecture of the face. There’s drama, mystery and a lot of subtle color layers.
Haines also did by an atmospheric study of the same cowboy. “With so much detail missing in the latter version, a great deal is left to the imagination,” she says. “Both evocative and charming, it highlights the magic of watercolor, as the watermarks create both drama and interest. To me, any further detail would detract from the mystery and freshness of this piece.”
With many ways of working loose, I feel like our first step is to stockpile papers and sketchbooks. We are going to burn through them once we get going on the kind of free, joyful explorations Jean Haines recommends. If you want more guidance from this unique, expressive artist, you can dive deep into all her teachings with the Watercolor with Jean Haines Book Collection. Her in-depth exercises cover all the genres we love and will set your creative spirit blazing. Enjoy the journey, artists!