There are two schools of thought on creating watercolors. One is the spontaneous or intuitive approach, called the “pour and pray” method by some people who disagree with it. The second is the planned approach, in which artists choose to impose their form, interpretation, perception on the subject. There are respected artists from both approaches.
Fran Larsen argues that with intuitive painting one is letting the paint do the work and thus the artist is not learning anything. Artists make choices, and with spontaneous painting, artists let the paint make the choices. Valid point.
Lawrence Goldsmith in “Watercolor Bold and Free” wrote: Watercolor owes its success to the artist’s ability to improvise. ...The artist who can grasp a situation and make profit out of it has a prize talent. ...Beyond that (a general plan and color scheme), you are wise to leave things to chance and to rely on your resourcefulness. (p.133) Another valid point.
John Singer Sargent even likened painting in watercolor to “an emergency.”
I have to say that I greatly enjoy the “pour and pray” method. I like being free and spontaneous, and then making something out of it. Might be part of my rescue fantasies. After all, even with spontaneous painting, artists choose what to keep and what to cover up. But I think my paintings turn out better with planning and thoughtfulness. So what to do? I tend to let the underpainting be intuitive, and then impose a planned order on it. I also experiment with planned, wet-into-wet underpaintings that look free and intuitive.
Here are two “pour and pray” paintings. I literally poured paint on in semi-wild abandon and then “found” my subject in the result. I then put in some defining lines and shapes to bring out the subject. Most of the paintings on this blog were planned, so you can see which you like better.
Dancing in My Red Dress