Be an Amateur!

“That’s all any of us are: amateurs. We don’t live long enough to be anything else.”

– Charlie Chaplin

We’re all terrified of being revealed as amateurs, but in fact, today it is the amateur—the enthusiast who pursues her work in the spirit of love (in French, the word means “lover”), regardless of the potential for fame, money, or career—who often has the advantage over the professional.

Because they have little to lose, amateurs are willing to try anything and share the results. They take chances, experiment, and follow their whims. Sometimes, in the process of doing things in an unprofessional way, they make new discoveries.

“In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities,” said Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki. “In the expert’s mind, there are few.”

Amateurs are not afraid to make mistakes or look ridiculous in public. They’re in love, so they don’t hesitate to do work that others think of as silly or just plain stupid.

The real gap is between doing nothing and doing something. Amateurs know that contributing something is better than contributing nothing.

Inspired by “Show your Work!” Book by Austin Kleon


A man paints with his brain and not with his hands.


Having the right materials will enable you to say what you want in Watercolor painting.

The large brush is useful to paint background washes, while the small one is necessary to paint the details of the face and hair.

Interesting Dry Brush Details on John Singer Sargent’s Watercolors

John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) worked in watercolor throughout his career, but it wasn’t until he was in his forties, already famous painter, that his interests in the medium accelerated.

Exploring here the use of Dry Brush technique to express almost any subject on paper.

The term dry brush is actually a misnomer, as the paint on the brush is really damp.

With dry brush you use just a small amount of paint on the brush, working on dry or damp textured paper and dragging the brush across it to create broken areas of color or interesting textural brushstrokes.

By holding the handle low so that it is almost parallel to the paper, you will achieve the best results.

The technique is especially good for painting things like the bark of a tree, a course beard, hair, water and so on….

Here some great examples from Sargent’s masterful watercolors.

Venice: Under the Rialto Bridge – 1909 / Water
Simplon Pass: Avalanche Track – about 1909-11/ rock retails
Bedouins – 1905-6 / head scarves (kaffiyeh)
The Garden Wall – 1910 / The texture of the wall
The Garden Wall – 1910 / Textured description
Simplon Pass: the tease – about 1911 / the lawn’s suggestion
Simplon Pass: the green parasol – about 1911
Fabric details
Greenery details


The first component to all pure Watercolor painting is the wash.

A wash is a Color laid into an area too big to be accomplished by a single brushstroke.

The wash can be done on either wet or dry paper with different outcomes.

If the paper is wet, the wash will flow faster and smoothly (imagine painting smooth texture of sky).

A wash on Wet paper

Laying a wash on wet paper will leave no visible brushstrokes.

Cover the surface with Clean water using a Large brush.

Mix a Large puddle of color on your palette.

Always mix more color than you think you’ll need, since stopping halfway may cause patches and uneven results.

Maintain the same tilt of the board while applying the wash.

When making a large wash, paint a stroke, then attach another stroke beneath it.

Before the first brushstroke has time to dry.

Quickly reload the brush and paint the next horizontal stroke, touching the bead edge of the previous stroke.

It is important to work quickly and with the same speed, always reloading the brush with the same amount of paint and water.

A wash on Dry paper

A wash that is laid on dry paper will have controlled edges.

If you want your wash to maintain a specific shape, apply it on paper that is completely dry.

Make sure that the board is always on a tilt and that you always start the wash at the top, using horizontal brushstrokes.

Always use the Big Brush, making sure to put enough paint on it and work quickly.

You can combine different colors, creating marvellous Variegated Washes with different colours mingling together.

Artistic Inspiration – Mary Whyte

There is no “right” technique or style to painting people. The way I paint is only One way.

With earnest effort and hard work, you will find Your way.

Painting Portraits is a special breed of art. It requires sound drawing skills and general understanding of human anatomy and how it works.

Nonetheless, it is not enough to be a portrait painter. First and Foremost you must be an Artist, a maker of images that appeal to the Senses.

– Mary Whyte

Share your work

“The impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.” —Annie Dillard