Water. Paint. Ratio.

The language of watercolor is poetry. The naming of colors is a history I’ve never learned. Colors help us classify animals, minerals, and plants. A language of colors is classification. A science of color.

The definition of color reminds me that it is actually light. Waves. Movement. Defined by my eyes.

The artists and the DIYers create a new spectrum of names. Of words. Of thoughts. Sometimes color names are local. Regional. Reflective of a climate. Sometimes they are the raw materials of an environment. A mortar and pestle grind pigments from the ground beneath the artist’s feet. 

A story unfolds of where you live. Reflected by color. 

A color with a good name is memoir. 


Ruta’s Dream

Rose Ashes

Rosso Magenta

Night Raspberry

Gerda’s Pink

Ponder (a grey)

Emotion (an aqua)

Rose Madder Deep

Burnt Sienna

Blue Gray Deep

Cerulean Blue


Painting is the language of fantasy. Values, shapes, shades, and forms take the place of words. 

Learning different painting techniques slowly unfolds a story. Stroke by stroke with paint and pigment. Saturation.

A short story is told in hues.

A novel is told with layers. 

A library builds of paintings. 

The language of drawing–a bit different–is very much the language of fiction.


Disappearing lines



Atmospheric perspective

Gestural line


Vanishing point

The pigment to water ratio is meditation. 

The language of a mood. 



Warm, cool, hot

Wet, dry

I have a special love for botanical drawings that capture all the phrases of a plant’s life.
A memoir in paint and lines.

My hands can’t do what my mind dreams.

What I see. What I think must be easy to do, but is, in fact, quite difficult. Much like the books I want to write. What I dream up and what I try to conjure never really comes together. Sometimes I don’t have the study space to make the mess I want to. I’m trying to plan for that someday. Some days I make do.

I’m not sure how to draw or paint in a way that would stop me in my tracks if I saw what I’ve done hanging on a wall or in an airport or a school. Anywhere public really. I’m trying to get there. I miss wandering art galleries and museums. Some days. Somedays.

I create circles and tear drop shapes with layers of paint. I’m practicing lines. I’ve watched some painters use a lot of pigment onto the page, and they pull or “lift” the paint off the page as they try to control what happens to the water pigment ratio.

I didn’t know what that meant until just this summer. It’s a way of absorbing the paint onto the brush, so you can control the water. I did it by accident beneath three waterfalls in one of my favorite mountain chains. It took me almost a year of practice to be able to do it. Maybe I just needed to walk fifteen miles like I did that day to give me a loose enough hand and lack of precision. I wasn’t so focused.

Every single watercolor teacher I’ve listened on the interwebs tries to convince listeners that you have to embrace the lack of control. Don’t let it frustrate you, they advise. They try so hard to convince you that this is the beauty of watercolor and that it should not frustrate you. I feel like they spend a lot of time talking you into why it’s amazing, and I’m like, yo. I’m here. Let’s get to it.

I’m not the audience for this advice; the chaos of water and color is why I’m in love with it. What I’ve loved from the start.

I’ve been trying to make my way back to writing.

This is the thing. Here’s the thing.

Names of pigment I love to whisper.


Red Ochre


Deep Smalt

Used in a sentence:

When I try to explain the labor conditions of adjunct teachers, it feels like a pit of red ochre I have to climb out of or it will swallow me whole. Some days I’m lucky if I can turn my thoughts from minium into sentences. The deep smalt tastes like smoke and burnout.

None of those sentences make sense, but I love the way they sound.

Watercolor is the first thing I’ve learned to do where I am aware of building muscle memory. I’m aware of what isn’t possible as I am learning something for the first time. It’s made me more empathetic. It’s made more empathetic towards myself.

I’m currently working on a project where I practice painting lines, small boxes, shapes, and curves. Drills that somehow look like something whole in the evening hours. Then I write a quote that helped me through the day or something that I’ve learned. To call it an art journal is generous.

Here’s what I quoted yesterday in the journal. Words that help me after a really long week of smoky skies, waves of rage and acceptance for the beauty, my life, all the things I hope to either notice, paint or type someday. Some day.

These words? They help too: 

I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

About Alyson Indrunas

Always learning about instructional design, educational technology, professional development, adult education, and writing.
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2 Responses to Water. Paint. Ratio.

  1. What an absolutely gorgeous meditation on life as it is and as we create it on the page, canvas, or screen. Thank you.


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