Three years ago Tonia and I spent the better part of a week in France. We went to meet a wonderful artist, who lives not far from Giverny, near the location of Monet’s house and famous gardens. Sadly, we picked a Monday to visit, and the gardens were closed. I stood on a bollard and managed to sneak a tantalising peek of the famous bridge spanning the famous pond of water lilies, but that was as close as we got to the home of the famous artist.
It was a lovely day, and we made the best of it, wandering up to the church to see the great artist’s final resting place. Hollyhocks were in bloom all over the village, and we filled our cameras with images of the flowers. On the way back to the car I stuck my hand through the mesh fence at the back of Monet’s garden, and plucked ripe seed heads off some of Monet’s hollyhocks to plant in our own garden. It was very naughty, I know, but they were right there, and I couldn’t resist. I wish I could say that Monet’s hollyhocks are now growing happily in our garden here in Wales, but none of the seeds took. What’s left are our memories of the day and those photographs.
When we began painting flowers in my watercolour class, I remembered the pictures from Giverny, and have been striving to paint those glorious flowers. My first attempt is on the left; the latest, worked in class yesterday, on the right. Of the second it can only be said that it’s slightly less crap than the first.
What makes me proud of this work is not that I’m learning, slowly, the mechanics of applying paint to paper. What makes the process worthwhile are the lessons in failure I get each time I pick up a brush. In his book, Watercolor: Simple, Fast and Focused (Practical Art Books), Mel Stabin writes, “If my watercolors are more successful than yours, it is because I have failed more often than you have.” With a host of failed paintings now under my belt, slightly less crap is good enough.