Planely Scattered

“Planely Scattered”
watercolor 30 x 22 inches

The title today relates to what my life is like at the moment: Lots of different things going on, very little of it to do with painting.

Scattered, for sure. Distracted, yes, but my thoughts, dreams and actions all are centered around moving pigment in a related way to cause a viewer to entangle him or herself in a visual conversation with a painting.
Decidedly, a painted appeals to us on very deep, often unidentifiable levels. Questions like, Why do I get a feeling in the pit of my stomach when I look at this? Or, What is it that makes me want to touch this painting? Why doesn’t this look like a ‘regular’ watercolor? This piece makes me relax. Why am I so curiously inspecting every inch of this painting?
These should be questions that us painters should be able to answer easily and create the visual stimuli necessary to ensnare them. We are the creators of the work, we should be able to steer the viewer to feeling something.
Often, in lectures to those who will listen, the ideas of what makes a ‘good’ painting are openly discussed and argued. There are three things by category, but those three things involve volumes of explanation. They are “”Content”” . . . .that which arouses our feelings and sensibilities, or a story . . . . .””Design”” . . . .The relationships between the marks on the canvas and/or paper, or how all the painting parts fit together . . . .and “”Technique”” . . . .how the paint is applied and is technique in concert with Design and Content. They are all inter-related in one way or another. That is, the technique and design must support the content. However, if the content is extremely strong, and the design equally as strong, technique can often take a back seat . . . or not be as important as the other two areas.
I am often asked what is necessary to be accepted into juried shows. These three items must be in concert to win that admittance. It may seem daunting to the novice painter, but the study of these aspects of making art is what this journey is all about. It really is much more complicated than just making a pretty picture. To grow and to learn about ourself and all that we can do with art is a high calling. It is a step into our higher self.
Not that there is anything wrong with ‘pretty pictures,’ mind you, but how many millions of them are out there? To put one’s self onto the track of learning all the above aspects about making art is to put our minds to the purpose of being our highest self. I would say that is worthwhile, wouldn’t you?

Watercolor En Plein Air

“Three Graces”
watercolor, 15 x 22 inches

For many years I painted watercolors outdoors with friends. Some worked and some didn’t. There was, however, a certain energy about the paintings that made them very recognizable from studio work.

Perhaps that energy is a result of the difficulty of painting with watercolor outside. I consider myself confident in executing an outdoor piece, but I must say that in spite of my confidence and speed of delivery, there is just something that keeps me in the studio. Plein air painting is a giant pain in the rear, if you know what I mean.

While I have worked out the kinks and the difficult processes of setting up and operating in a ‘studio’ outside, in the wind and blinding light, it is still a love / hate relationship for me.

While in Yosemite, I made, at least, one plein air piece per day . . . .and usually did a studio piece each day, as well. This piece, of the ‘three graces’ (I think that is the name) was one of those incredible days where every wash behaved, every color did what it was supposed to do and the wind only come along at the finish. Out in this meadow, near the base of El Capitan, the light sparkled on the edges of this giant set of rocks, while in the crevices the light hid in mysterious darks. The light coming through the yellowed trees at the base of the rockwalls were luminous. It was a blast to paint! But inside all of the processes, more lessons came forth which reminded me what I should be doing in the studio.

One of those lessons was to paint vertically if I want great washes. Having gravity naturally pull the pigment laden water down the page reveals granulations and effects one can never cause on a piece of paper, no matter how expert the painter might be. So, I am doing exactly that. I had forgotten how important it is and allowed the comfort of control to take over. Invariably, the discomfort of a painting getting ‘out of hand’ is when the great stuff shows up.

On to the next one! Let the paint flow downward.

Blood, Sweat and Guilt

Watecolor (unfinished) 22 x 30 inches
You may wonder what I am doing.

Truth known, I have been trying to finish a painting begun and painted 80% of the way last spring. It is still not done, but I am hard at work making adjustments. There are value revisions, temperature adjustments, edge modifications and all sorts of niggling things which need to be sorted out in this piece. As complex as it is, I may be flirting with the dreaded “overworked” look.

Having been again on the easel for a week, it is nagging my consciousness and am considering looking closely at it to see what I can learn from it and considering starting all over again.

Yes, you might well be correct. I might be nuts to do that. Something just isn’t singing out to me in this one,though. But I thought you’d like to see the progress and the struggles (and blood) of a suffering, frustrated painter attempting something far over his head.

I’ll let you in on another secret: It has been leaning against my studio wall since May (almost 6 months) 80% finished. I have been (yes, I am really saying this) reluctant to finish it for fear of ruining it. (There! I said it! The confession is out. Guilty !)

Finally, I had to face the truth: It can’t lean against the wall forever. It can’t go on unfinished; it would be worthless and end up in the trash. So, if that is where it is headed anyway, why not jump in knowing you might ruin it. It is already worthless!

So, here it is . . . .not quite resolved completely . . . .can you see my sweat and blood on it?

Foreign In My Hands

“Wet Island”
Oil on canvas panel, 8″ x 10″
This little piece was done in about 90 minutes after digging out all my plein air equipment following a 6 plus month haiatus . . .(izzat how you spell it?)
Last year I participated in the local museum’s sponsored plein air event to raise money for the museum. It is a lovely event, though I wasn’t able to help the cause at all . . .no sales last year. I promised myself I would improve and do much better this year, but, alas, I let time get away from me . . . .and lo! it is upon me again!! I am not so sure that it is because we artists are flakey by nature, or that it wasn’t until a few mornings ago that all the dates for the event firmed up. but one thing is for sure. I am NOT READY! That means it feels like I am the rankest amateur in the entire group of 31 artists!!
For the last few days I have been working hard (labor!) around the house . . . .a close by forest fire prompted the work . . . . .to try to make things less apt to catch fire if a windborn cinder fell upon us. That meant cleaning ALL of the various organic stuff off our roof (Many surrounding trees here.) Three days of labor . . .no kidding! . . .scraping and sweeping and cleaning between every wooden shingle!
Anyway . . .I HAD to go paint today. We are leaving on a ten day vacation at the end of this week and this plein air event is demanding paintings before I leave . . .and I can’t give them something I painted last year!! Nope! It has to be stuff painted THIS WEEK!! Yikes!! So, I went to work . . . .physically spent from the last three days work and not caring if I produced much . . .but I HAD to do it. To limber up, if nothing else! So, the brushes came out and I went to work . . . . .but it was as familiar as Greek worry beads in my hands . . . have never held them!! . . . . .after painting these tight watercolors for the last few weeks, oil brushes felt foreign in my hands!!
So, here is today’s efforts, dear readers. A long time ago, I promised myself I would post all my efforts, good or bad. I already know this is amateur as hell, but feast your eyes anyway and know that failures are actually necessary in an artists’ life . . .they spur us forward and help us learn on the way. Cheers to failures, eh?!! 🙂

Busy Week!

“Bistro Provencal”
watercolor on Arches paper, 15″ x 22″
Life does get in the way once in a while . . . . as it should, I suppose.
I have had my head in the clouds for six months with painting . . . a wonderful state to be in, by the way. My real estate business is calling to me, so I must respond . . . . . .the teaching term has begun, which will keep my mind in another place until it is is finished . . . . . .then there is another matter, to which I must pay attention.
My watercolor work has been accepted in the most prestigious watercolor show, if not in the world, the USA. The painting was sent off last week to New York . . . .but this also means I cannot turn away from watercolor . . . .for many reasons, I must answer the call to get into next year’s show, also. This means intensive work and study in order to have a selection of pieces from which to choose next November. So, this piece is a limbering up exercise. . . . a new beginning, if you will. I have much work to do between now and November . . . . and am keeping my fingers crossed that I can rise to the occaison then.
If it can be done, I will be pushing oils as well, but may not be posting as often as I would like. Keep watching. There are surprises waiting for you and for me.
PS . . . .Am not sure that this painting is properly color adjusted. Am using a very hi contrast monitor today, so the color may be incorrect. Will check later when I have my usual monitor at my disposal.
PPS . . . there is a glitch in the space formatting today . . .Have had this trouble before, but cannot resolve it. Sorry for the compressed paragraphs.

Making it Difficult

“Your Table is Ready”

oil on canvas panel, 8″ x 10″
Sometimes, I need a thorough head examination!
This daily practice piece should have been spun out the door before I began it. Why? Let’s just say that something this complex should not be in rhw queue for a daily trial. Just look! All sorts of angles, perspective changes, vague and subtle value changes (thru the windows), repeating patterns, textures and a ton of other things to entertain and dazzle any painter for more than a day. But I did it anyway. That’s why I should have my head examined!
Simplification is so necessary in painting, yet it is as though I go to sleep sometimes. Sometimes I just ignore the obvious and make it difficult. Go figger!

Play Is Practice, Too

“Sunset ii”
oil on linen panel, 6″ x 8″
(please excuse the glare of the paint strokes)
There are times when there just isn’t a single twist of seriousness in me. Those times come up from time to time and prevent me from concentrated focus. Maybe it is fatigue or a mental stall. Perhaps it is just a need to disengage.
Yesterday, I watched a video that came in the mail on Friday. My back was having muscle spasms, it was cold outside. So I sat with a heating pad on my back while I watched Richard Schmid do a painting. I had never seen him paint before. While I have his book, this was an education. And it was a sharp needle that injected pure confusion into me. Confusion because I found myself questioning all that I have been doing. So, while I wanted to paint today, I could not get serious about making a painting without slipping into being Mr. Schmid. I suppose that is what we artists do; we become influenced by other artists.
So, instead, I played with the paint. Just tried a few things with color to see what would happen. I even caked on the white of the sun. In a frame, this little ‘game’ painting sure gives off light. It was fun. And . . . . . . .I learned from this too. So, playing isn’t always a waste of time. Brush mileage is brush mileage, right?

Working Process

“Can You Believe It?”

watercolor on treated paper, 14″ x 17.5″
Design is an elusive subject. First, there is the issue of “like” and “don’t like.” I happen to think there needs to be a different set of words; “works” and “doesn’t work” is probably more appropriate. It removes taste from of the notion of design.
When building a painting . . .and it is a process of constructing . . .parts have to be built upon one another. Also, trials and errors have to occur because the process of design is occurring at the same time the actual constructing is happening. I happen to depend, largely, on two major tools in my processes. Those are sketching first and developing a series of paintings. In my experience, the best stuff comes out after the blunders have been processed in ‘not so hot’ paintings.
This “November Challenge,” on which I have been working, has been no exception. All sorts of considerations appeared after the first painting . . . .and the second. The end result was an intimate view of a conversation between two women, where we can nearly sense the exclamation in the words and the dubious feeling of the listener by looking at the painting. No commentary necessary. I had to modify the tilt of the head of the listener, imply facial features without being descriptive, have the speaker press the listener a bit more through her posture and position in the picture plane . . . . and set out a design that offerred visual entertainment on a number of other levels. Those levels range from color balance, abstract pattern, textural surface implications, value structure and a host of other things to make this idea work well.
Again, I put it on treated Arches watercolor paper with matte medium. This affords a paint manipulation possibility that is otherwise unavailable with regular paper. This project is now finished. It has certainly shown me that the development process is an intense and tedious process to arrive at what I would call an excellent painting . . . .I am not sure I have spent enough time on this to attain that, but must move on to other things. It has made me dig and think much more deeply than ususal. And that is a good thing!

Too Many Hooks!

watercolor, 15″ x 22″

The challenge lain was to do a contour drawing of a person or people, over lay a grid pattern from some unrelated source, then paint the piece, being sure to show the influence of the ‘grid’ and to embue the character derived from the drawing. It has been so long ago . . .last Wednesday maybe??? . . .that I have forgotten how much time I have spend on this piece!

What an incredible diversion from everything else in the world!!! This was a great challenge, but there were just to many hooks on which to become snagged . . .and some I had created myself. One of which was to work on a soft, hot pressed paper. Mind you, this paper doesn’t accept color well, so you get what you get, whether or not you intended it to be that way. That was another hook. The other one that I handed myself was that of a value composition . . .to plan it and stick with it . . .(I do that in my work anyway, but it made for another ‘purpose’ on this mission of insanity). Then there was this amazingly complex drawing with waaaay too much in it. (I become very tight when I spend hours on the drawing!)

Having committed my self to complete this project, I had hoped to do so with honor . . .that is with a fine finished piece full of mood, solid composition, evidence of the grid, emotional content . . . . .and, oh yes! Did I mention stunning color, brushwork and incredible examples of radiant transparency? I think I did say ‘insane,’ didn’t I?

So here is a full week of effort. Stiff. Off purpose. Blotchy. And everything else I can dream up and, to summarize: yuch!!

So it is done. I accepted a challenge (mostly to honor Myrna Wacknov.) Maybe I’ll have another attempt later, but first, I have to remove about six of those ridiculous hooks. What was I thinking???!!!