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  • Writer's pictureDavid Keuter

Stripping Away the Habitual

I always try to have my watercolor gear with me. I’ve got a pretty stripped down kit that fits easily into my backpack. 

I love these tools. Just touching them begins to put me into a different frame of mind. No matter what's going on in my life, I can count on them to transport me. It is astounding to me that these simple tools have this power. 

I can have this experience anywhere. A hustling bustling metro station, a park or garden, my dining room table–it doesn't matter, the effect is the same. Things slow down, the world gets quiet even in the noisiest of places, my senses are heightened, the world becomes larger, surprises abound. 

The blue in a man’s jacket echoes the blue on the sign to his left. Perfect triangles are formed by the negative spaces of a chair and table legs, one side of a tree forms a perfect contour while the opposite side is amorphous and becomes one with a neighboring tree. 

I take this in, the brush hovering above the page. All of these surprises, relationships, would have been missed had I not stopped to look, to paint. 

But something else is happening as well, another awareness. How is it that a touch of red has a seismic effect on the paper, can make that object seem so much nearer? How can a flick of the brush so convincing convey a figure on the beach? A flood of pigment suggest all the myriad leaves of a tree.

A mark on the paper becomes something else. It has two lives. Its life as a mark–a smudge of pigment delivered with a certain weight and a certain velocity, and the life of what it represents–the edge of a nose, a leaf on a tree, sunlight striking a building. 

Painting is dancing between observing, interpreting, inventing. 

This little watercolor kit is an advanced technology. With it, I begin to strip away a lazy and habitual way of looking at the world I inhabit, I feel that I become a maker of worlds. 

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