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  • Writer's pictureRe:Jen Zen

Unlearning Drawing Inside the Lines

One of the first tasks we are given as children is to color inside the lines in a coloring book. It is often used as a developmental milestone for motor skills and spatial abilities. And for many, coloring inside the lines is the difference between skilled and beginner art.

Not so with watercolor.

Allowing your paint to spread outside of your linework can be one of the hardest things to do. Instinctually, we panic. We reach for a tissue and repeat a mantra of “crap, crap, crap, crap!”

But learning to let it go can be the best thing you do.

Now, of course, there are certain times where you will want to preserve your light colors and won’t want colors to overlap, but that’s not what I’m talking about. What we are discussing today is allowing color to be varied in a painting. To let the color of the background blend softly into your subject.

Some styles are defined by their flat, simple washes. And that is perfect the way it is.

But learning to “unlearn” separation can make your art engaging and adding the impression of detail simply by having more variance in your colors.

It is one of the hardest things to do in watercolor. It goes against years of training on “basic art skills”. But if you can do it, there’s nothing to it.

The next time you start a painting, try holding your brush far down the handle. Try not to hunch and remember to not tighten those shoulders. Let that paint go. Don't try to get it "perfect". And see where it takes you!


Some of my favorite “outside the lines” artists:

Naoko Oba

Prashant Sakar

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