The Art of Experimentation



A group of my girlfriends recently hosted a Crafternoon: which is where a bunch of us crafty types get together and share simple crafty project DIYs with each other.

Our final project was simple: coloring a page from a coloring book. Some of us decided not to start because we had to catch a train back to the city. However, I really wanted to start mine because I loved the koi fish print that I had found in one of the coloring books that my friend Kahena brought.

This particular coloring book, Japanese Designs, Coloring Sheets, Art for Everyone by Artists Loft has very large, thin lines with a lot of space for coloring. The only coloring materials we had on hand were Derwent watercolor pencils –- which are great for this type of coloring book — but I was not very experienced with that medium, there was no time to watercolor the drawing, and no one had remembered to bring paintbrushes.

I am a bit of a perfectionist, which sometimes can get in the way of experimentation. Trying not to freak out about how it looked – I quickly scribbled in the koi fish lines with the Derwent pencils, even though it looked like someone had made big crayon streaks everywhere. And, then it was time to go. I still wasn’t finished. And, unsurprisingly, watercolor pencils really need water in order to look finished! So, I folded the half-finished scribbly drawing in my bag, intending to complete it that night. Three weeks later, I found it sitting on my table. I had a choice: stash it away in a drawer to deal with later, throw it out, or try to finish it.

Part of me just wanted to throw it out. There was a big crease in the page because it was folded for three weeks. And, the watercolor pencil marks still looked like crayon streaks even when I started painting them with water. It just looked muddy.

I’m not a watercolor expert. I’ve often heard that watercolors are one of the hardest mediums to master. That little perfectionistic voice inside started saying “it will never look perfect, like a real watercolor artist’s would.” But something stopped me from throwing it away. I decided to try some experiments instead.

  • I put some additional pencil lines over top of where the colors hadn’t blended, and just painted over it with water.
  • I lightly drew some marks with yellow and green pencils around the drawing for contrast, and painted those with a water brush.
  • Most importantly – I had fun with it and decided not to worry about it being perfect. It’s a coloring book page after all, and I’m not Picasso.

I had a realization that sometimes I don’t try something or experiment because I’m worried about it coming out imperfect. But, this is the only way that we really learn how to get better. Formal training and instruction is great, but experimenting will often teach us a lot more. It’s not always going to be a masterpiece when you experiment, but it will be a great learning experience, and fun too.

I challenge you to try something you’ve never done before this week, experiment, and enjoy!

About The Paper Pinup

Hello, I'm Laurel! I live in upstate Manhattan with my boyfriend Charles. I'm passionate about papercrafts, art journaling and sewing as "craft therapy" and bring a fresh and irreverent approach to my projects. I'm also a swing dancer and love vintage style from the 1920s through the 1950s.

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