Kids always want to know if I make mistakes. I try to explain that there aren’t really mistakes. Unexpected things may happen during a painting, but I adjust and follow what has happened. This is sometimes referred to as a “happy accident”. A solution is found during the painting process. This particularly pertains to working with watercolors. Because they are transparent, the option is not available to just paint over something. Rarely is the solution to simply start over.

But kids don’t want philosophy. They want to know that you make mistakes like they do. So, now I tell them about a real honest-to-goodness mistake. A big one.

For the most part, I do the paintings for my books in chronological order – start at page one and work through to the end. While working on the last page of Tuesday, I forgot how to paint skies. Tuesday is full of skies. And I forgot how to paint them. On the last page. It was excruciating.

Attempt 1:

A word about liquid mask. It is a rubber cement-like substance that is applied over areas you don’t want to be painted. Those white spaces above have been masked off. Mask is evil stuff. It discolors and abrades the paper. Nevertheless, I chose to use it extensively in Tuesday in order to build up the many smooth, flat layers of color in the skies without having to paint around all the stuff flying in those skies. I used masking, less so, in the next book I did, June 29,1999. After that, I gave it up.

As you can see, this sky is a mess. The paint is too heavy, it’s blotchy, there are waterlines. Awful. I spent a good part of the day trying to convince myself that it was really okay. Finally, I started over (after ripping it off the board it was stretched on).

Attempt 2:

Not as heavy, but still blotchy. And the warm tone the blue is gradating into looks like mud. I was stunned. I was in denial for a day and then (rip) started again.

Attempt 3:

Even worse! I began to put in the trees and paint the weathervane because I could not have messed up again! But I did.

Attempt 4:

This one worked. I still don’t think the sky is perfect, but it was close enough.

Kids love this answer.

(For perfect skies, see June 29, 1999)

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