Places Left Untouched: the importance of leaving empty places in your painting and in your life

I hate snow. I dislike the coldness of it and how it erases the lush greenery that I love so much. Yet, for some reason, while in the comfort of my warm studio, I rather enjoy creating snow with watercolor.

There's something unique about painting snow because it really doesn't need to be painted at all. When it comes to painting with watercolors, white isn't painted; it's simply paper left untouched.

Let's use my latest painting as an example. All of the pure white on this painting is an area where I haven't swept any paint onto the paper. Take a close look at those places left alone: the snow built up on the tree, the snow on top of the fenceposts, the snow on the black-shingled roof of the small shed, the shed's window panes, the footprints left by critters.

You can be certain that leaving white space requires some strategic planning. If I want pure white space to remain, I must decide ahead of time what places I will not touch with paint, and then I protect those places with either masking fluid (as in the footprints) or by remembering not to touch them (as in the little snow-covered roof). Take a closer look and notice what places have been untouched.

As I was finishing up this painting, I thought heavily on the importance of leaving untouched spaces in our lives. It's so easy to fill up every minute of our days with commitments. Everyone wants a little piece of our time, and we often give it away without even thinking about the end result. We overextend ourselves, overdo what we are capable of doing, run our bodies ragged, and leave virtually no time for the beauty that comes from nothingness. Yet it is nothingness that makes everything else stand out so strikingly beautiful!

Be kind to yourself. Cautiously go about your day, preserving places of solitude and empty space. I promise, both you and your art will become a masterpiece.

Until next time, just add water.



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Artist Sharon Larson

S. Larson Watercolors

Long Grove, Iowa