The Flow of Water

May 14, 2020
Stoic Stoicism Philosophy Patience Epictetus

The Flow of Water

Watercolor is a fascinating medium. It has that quality where the more you try and control it, the more difficult it is to control. Werner Heisenberg would appreciate this uncertainty of control. I find it to be the ultimate medium for exercising patience. It’s a bit like woodworking in that regard. Whenever someone asks me what I’m working on in the wood shop, I usually respond with “My patience.” I’m usually only half kidding. You have to be patient with watercolor.

It’s a simple medium. Most people’s first introduction to painting is in watercolor. We usually first encounter it as children. You only need a couple of colors and a bit of water. It cleans up more easily than acrylics and oils. There are no special tools or chemicals. It’s very portable. You can have a full watercolor kit in your back pocket. But it’s simplicity is the most challenging part.

“Watercolor is a master’s medium.” - John F. Carlson Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting

Watercolor is probably the hardest medium to master. Acrylics and Oils are more forgiving to those learning. They can be reworked, scraped, and painted over. Watercolor cannot. Watercolor forces you to be deliberate. To think of each stroke before you apply it. Each stroke you lay down is final. At the same time, you have to work quickly before it dries, or in some cases, you have to be patient while it dries. You have to think through your process and your layers. You have to paint in reverse, light to dark, background to foreground. Of course there is also the uncertainty of control.

Life is a bit like watercolor. Our choices are usually final, flowing down the river of time. Life and water will flow, with or without you. Finding that flow and following it, steering here or there to shape how you flow through time is all you need to do.

“What should we do then? Make the best use of what is in our power, and treat the rest in accordance with its nature.” - Epictetus

Trying to understand the flow of life.

- Zach Downey

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