Free-form painting as part of the learning process

A really important aspect of learning to paint is building familiarity with the materials I use. One way to do this — something I find crucial — is painting without a particular goal in mind. It’s very loose and NON-methodical. I mean I would like the outcome to be visually interesting, but I’m not planning to frame it or sell it or DO a particular thing with it. I make so many pages that it would be logistically impossible to DO something with everything. I am simply creating because I enjoy the process of creating. I like to chill out and paint and listen to a podcast or spotify.

While I was filming Tiny Adventure, I made several extra process videos because I had the tripod set up and ready to roll… and the afternoon light from my west-facing window is lovely in the winter!


There are a bunch of different variables with each medium that you use. So for example… when painting with gouache on paper, there aren’t as many variables as say… collage and acrylics. That doesn’t mean that it is easier or harder, just different. The variables include the characteristics of the medium {gouache}, each individual color in my palette, the watercolor paper I’m using, each brush. And yes, the working environment, humidity, the ratio of water to paint, etc. etc. etc. You get the idea. I figure that I cannot paint what I want to paint if I don’t understand how everything works together. So I test, I practice, I experiment, I set up hypotheses, I isolate what is and what is not working. It is a long and involved process — to move up the learning curve.

My logic as a self-taught artist is that I want to know as much as possible about WHAT to expect. The more I know, the more experience I have, the more I can move the work in a particular direction. I cannot completely control the paint — that is what is so DIVINE about gouache and watercolor — the aspects that we cannot control! When I practice like this, free-form, I am gathering more insight as to HOW the materials work/interact.

Gouache on 9x12" Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper {cold pressed, fine grain}.

I like the impromptu aspect of work like this — the happy accidents that occur when patterns and shapes and colors meet! I especially like to watch the paints interact and find this process rejuvenating and centering. Here’s another page I painted in this free-form style.

Abstract layering and mark-making with gouache.

If you are curious of this type of painting, I invite you to join Tiny Adventure where we are working in watercolor or gouache. I designed the workshop to shift the focus to the process and the experience of painting rather than placing all of the weight on the end result. This will help you loosen up your work. We make marks and experiment with the variables. My goal is to help you play, generate ideas and keep your creative wheels spinning. 

Making art is not simply the act of following a recipe. At first, it might feel like that - put a swoosh here, a splash there, but gradually, almost imperceptibly, you will start feeling that a deeper experience is unfolding. Not in an otherworldly sort of way, but in a real way. You will start to engage with what you are doing. But to get to that point, you'll need to build a consistent creative practice and get to know your materials .To learn more and register for Tiny Adventure, go to the workshops page!