Playing “What If”

“Still Life-98”
watercolor, 15 x 22 inches

As you already know, I have been working on many different versions of this same still life.

Nothin’ new, you say?

I would beg your indulgence for just a moment. Playing “What If” is no boring pastime. It is the sure path to discovering something new, something unusual . . . . .and certainly the path to finding one’s personal voice in painting. Y’see, when the artist has nothing to lose and it doesn’t matter what others think about a piece, that artist is much more willing to take chances and try things that may not make sense or to take risks when more ‘serious’ approaches would cause risk avoidance.

As this painting was finished today, there was a missing element in the lower right foreground. It was here that the risk was staring back at me and mocking me to go ahead. The pattern of “dotted i’s” on the green vase needed another repetition and that lower corner needed some of that neutralized green to balance things. So, there it is. Could I have spoiled the painting? Yep. Was I taking a risk (can’t erase here with all that surrounding texture)? Yep. Does it make sense or seem ‘real?’ Nope. Did it work? Yep.

I think, frankly, that little silly touch is actually funny. The entire tone of the painting (mood) is sort of tongue in cheek. The entire painting is constructed of “what if” shapes and colors and values. Reality is suggested when it couldn’t possibly be that way. So, the doodling around with an old theme, just messin’ with ideas to see what would happen exposed some new approaches having to do with repeating patterns, gradations, shapes and color intensities. I learned more today!

Isn’t that what this painting business is all about? Growth and learning?

12 thoughts on “Playing “What If””

  1. That little green in the foreground is too funny and perfect! I didn't get it until I looked at it full screen and then I had to giggle. It's a stunning piece too.

    I'm happy to say I received my Watercolor Artist magazine issue in the mail with your article. I enjoyed it and hope they have more articles by you.

  2. I love this painting – the inner glow you've captured as if everything is made of a light ceramic that has a light inside it, shining out, is beautiful. The addition of the little i is perfect!

  3. Mike I'd be interested to know how you achieved the red to lime green gradation in the left hand foliage of the plant. This is something that has interested me for a while and I managed to crack it with a new innovation that I created. You may be interested to see what I'm talking about here:

    http://johnsalmonwatercolours.co.uk/charger/charger_index.html

    It has supplied me with lots of opportunities to experiment and just play to get some most unusual effects which would normally be impossible with watercolour. Be interested to see what you think.

  4. RHC ! That inner light, as you call it, is really nothing more than surrounding very saturated, pure color with neutrals (grays). It is an old trick to make the color come to life. You prolly know that already, but maybe there are a few readers out there who will want to know.

    Glad you appreciate the little "i" . . . . .it still makes me giggle.

  5. Now, Mr. John!! Have we ever got a lot to talk about!!

    I was wondering if anyone would notice the gradations. As an expert at it, you picked it up right away. Thanks for noticing and your compliments.

    My method is to have a BIG tank of water . . .around two gallons, and another smaller tank of fresh clean water. The gradations were made the hard way, though. As you so carefully explain, immersing the brush to the right depth to acquire the correct amount of water is a matter of feel and experience.

    Thanks for the heads up on your charger. I can see many husbands around this country being directed to "make one for me, puleeeeze?!" 🙂 I am going to get after it as early as next week! Can't wait to play with it to see what it will do.

  6. Mike, I really like this version! Finally got my hands on the magazine. Enjoyed the article. Hope it brings lots of recognition and workshops your way.

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