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  • Writer's pictureRobert Hopkins

Keeping it simple, silly...

We are all familiar with the adage "keep it simple," yet in practice, we often stray from this wisdom, succumbing to the allure of complexity. I find myself currently ensnared in the web of overthinking, hindering my ability to engage in the simple act of painting. The question arises: How can one escape this complexity trap?


Fortunately, the solution is straightforward – a return to the basics before venturing into more intricate endeavors. In the realm of watercolor painting, a reliable technique to simplify your artistic process is the "line and wash" method. This approach, championed by artists like Peter Sheeler and Nil, advocates for a fusion of basic sketches with uncomplicated watercolor washes. It's akin to a paint-by-numbers concept without the numeric constraints.


Peter Sheeler, renowned for his exceptional "line and wash" paintings showcased on YouTube, serves as a prime example. His works are characterized by simplicity, clarity, and occasional humor. While there's a level of detail that only a seasoned artist can achieve, following these steps can bring your creations remarkably close to his.


Here's a step-by-step guide:

1. Capture a screen print of Peter's painting (remember, this can only be shared freely with a friend, explicitly forbidding any commercial use).

2. Display the cropped screen print on a high-quality computer monitor with optimal brightness values (e.g., Apple 5k 27" monitor @ 600 nits brightness).

3. Secure your watercolor paper onto the monitor with painters tape, aligning it with the displayed image. Maintain a 4:3 ratio for the cropped image, matching the size of your paper (8x10 or 11x14).

4. Trace the image using either a pencil or, cautiously, a pen. Patience is key when using a pen, given its lack of erasability.

5. Once traced, transfer the paper to your painting workspace and commence painting.

6. When creating a gifted artwork inspired by another artist, sign it as "Sheeler/Your Last Name" to acknowledge Peter Sheeler's influence and prevent any copyright concerns, especially if the piece is intended as a free unsellable gift.


By embracing this method, you can simplify your creative process and, in the spirit of collaboration, share your appreciation for the artistry of others. Take inspiration from Peter Sheeler's latest YouTube masterpiece – perhaps not a magnum opus, but undoubtedly a visually pleasing creation.

Peter Sheeler, YouTube, December 2023

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