A Breakthrough

“Straddling the Mean”
Watercolor, 22 x 30 inches
This last week was a big week in my class, entitled “Watercolor Beyond the Obvious.” It is a ten week long course with multiple goals: to paint a series of paintings around the same subject, to learn about and apply the elements and principles of design and to get past mental barriers preventing success. The class is lively with lots of lecture and examples presented, while the participants paint two 22″ x 30″ paintings each week and bring them for critique. Each class session features over 40 paintings for the class to see critiqued.
The above painting was a preparation for class to illustrate the design principle of Harmony. It also was used to introduce the idea of the Golden Mean and how it might be applied in composing a painting.
Using M. Graham’s richly pigmented watercolor paints, this painting was developed using the red and blue green complimentary colors . . . . .opposites on the color wheel and showing a possible way of relating the opposing / contrasting colors and values via the small colored lines across the picture plane. On the red side, the blue green, blues, and greens were employed in the little line strips to relate to the other side of the painting where the same colors appeared in the rectangular shape. And, conversely, the strips within that shape were colored in the colors that appear in the big square shape on the left. The objective was to relate the two sides.
George Post, a famous California Regionalist painter from the past taught his classes to “paint relationships.” That is bucket full of words which sailed right over my head the first time I heard them. But now, after many years of painting, I could not agree more! Relating dissimilar things by emphasizing their similarities, or imposing similarities, as I did in the above painting, is what Post meant. It helps bring a unity to the painting and offers the artist seven different avenues to approach imposing some sort of relationship . . . . .through the use of line, size, shape, direction, color, value or texture. As you can see, line and color were used to impose something of a relationship between the contrasting spaces in the above painting.
It was a big lesson for everyone, including me! It took me many years of painting to come to this understanding so I could express it in words and show it visually, too. A breakthrough!

7 thoughts on “A Breakthrough”

  1. In true abstract fashion, this one looks good as a vertical, too 🙂 I can't imagine painting 2 full sheet watercolors every week of the same thing – for weeks – but I imagine (if your head doesn't explode) you learn a lot and have your own breakthroughs!

  2. Rhonda . . .I have painted 117 of the same still life set up. If one focuses on the elements and principles of design, the ideas never stop coming. Too many painters are stuck on thinking that subject is what carries a painting. It's not what we paint, it's how we paint it. And that is the name of the game in making 2 full sheets every week . . . . .not intended to be masterworks . . . just experiments.

  3. Thanks for asking, Jane. Yes, I do plan to write a book about painting and design. Now that I have retired as president of NWS and given up my business consulting, I will probably have the time to put in some serious work on the subject. I have a lot of preliminary work to go through, such as deciding on the tone of the work and how I wish to present the ideas. I have a feeling that some parts of the long series of still lives will play a part, but I have yet to decide if that is a certainty or not. Wish me luck that the muse comes to visit and sticks around for a while!

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