Near Madera Canyon, December 5, 2008, watercolor 8.25"x5.125" (21x13cm)
I picked up a 'how to' watercolor book a while back. It illustrated all these techniques that my instructors pretty much forbade me from using, like glazing, because (in the hands of an inexperienced student) they muddied colors.
And in the book, they'd do this thing, like putting down a coat of paynes gray before putting in some other color, to dull the color and make it look like atmospheric perspective, or shading. My teachers would have been appalled -- for one thing, Payne's Gray was strictly prohibited. (For another, we were supposed to pre-mix and put down the color and value as it is intended, not use layers, which was considered to be somehow polluting the purity of the original stroke).
But, I tell myself, I'm a big boy now. I can make my own rules. No longer a penniless student, I now own a tube of Payne's Gray -- I can use it if I want. There's more: I also now own one of my mentor's paintings... and he glazed. Man, did he glaze.
In this book, there was one particular exercise of distant hills with a castle on it, which I attempted. [My results were ... not unlike a painting by Bob Ross's least apt pupil.] I did the work to understand the concept. But, I didn't care for the result. In particular, I disliked the look of those "distant hills" with their two blurry layers, one of paynes gray and one of blue.
Yet, when you're out in the field, and there's this thing you want to do, and all you've ever seen for it is the one thing you don't like. So, you try to do something different, but no matter how you try, it comes out just like the thing you don't like. It's like when you're going down the road, and you see this pothole you want to miss, but if you keep looking at the pothole instead of the clear spot next to it, it's a fair bet you will steer your tires straight into that hole. And wince.