Kerrie Woodhouse

Whimsical words and watercolour

Seeking tranquility? Surrender control

Series of the MonthKerrie Woodhouse

I was rather uncharacteristically brave this month and leapt out of my comfort zone.  Doing something a little different - even a little scary, is a way to shake things up and breath new life into old habits. 

We stretch and grow at the edges of our comfort zones.


This is the first series I have ever done that does not begin with a pencil sketch. I began with paint and water and let the first washes dictate the way the painting would be.  As it turned out this month, I had things both on and off the easel over which I have little or no control - don’t we all?

As always, art seems to mimic life. Or perhaps it is the other way around...


I have been feeling rather proud of myself for undertaking a whole month of direct painting. It is a great exercise. It forces you to see a subject in a painterly way - as a collection of coloured shapes. To pay attention to how those shapes relate to one another to judge their relative proportion and position, to build one on top of another until an image appears.


The first brush stroke is the hardest. But like starting anything new, it is best to just begin. Be bold. Let it unfold. With a pencil sketch you have the opportunity to erase and a line and make it right. With direct painting, for the most part, once the mark is made it is made.


That's not just the case in painting. Most of what we do in the world we can't undo. We have to continue to move forward because there is no going back. This is not a bad thing. Second guessing past decisions and wanting to undo them is pointless. No need to waste energy on the past, use it where it counts - in the present moment.

Each day is a new day. It begins with a clean slate. We cannot change what already is but we can build upon what is already there.


This month has also been a lesson in patience. Once the first washes are down you have to wait. You can't paint over the top of watercolour until it is dry. I really enjoyed coming to the studio in the morning to see what had happened to yesterday's washes and to see if today's eyes saw anything different in the painting compared to yesterday’s eyes. Since there is no going back or undoing much in this style of painting, it is better to take your time thinking about what mark will best bring out the subject you are starting to see on the paper.


It certainly requires a great degree of surrender and faith in the paint, the water and your ability to make something of what is there. It's rather like finding things in the clouds. There is a great freedom to splashing on those first few washes. So exciting to watch the paint and water work its magic. And a terrific lesson - the more you interfere the more you spoil the magic effects. It is better to trust the medium to do what it does best and blend and merge and flow in the best way possible. Now that's a life lesson too, I'm sure.


Much like life, you might start out with a plan - you take some sort of action. In the studio, it is choosing the paint colour, the brush stroke, or dropping on the water. In life, we make choices like stepping outside the front door, starting a new job, striking up a conversation with a stranger. But once we have taken that first action we have little or no control. It is time to see what happens next, to trust in ourselves that we will respond appropriately, handle what comes next and make the best of whatever may be.


Whether it is painting or life there is a balance to be sought between effort and surrender. Effort is required to begin anything.  Thereafter we can find far greater ease and tranquility in our lives by accepting what we cannot control. Allow what will be to be - trust that the universe is unfolding as it should.

Let go.

Let it flow.

Try something different. Surrender.
— Rumi

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