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!

Gems of Wisdom

Yesterday, I happened upon Diane Santarella’s name in association with a gentleman, whom I have watched for years, William “Skip” Lawrence.

Being the person of curiosity that I am, I Googled Diane wanting to know more about her and her art. This act led me to two blogs . . . . .actually, more than two . . . . of Diane’s and Skip’s.

Departing from that line of thought for the moment . . . . .it has been my observation in my art life that there is much introspection occurring in the good artist, whether or not it be conscious. Coming up with ‘who am I’ for the artist is not an easy process in this society because we have so many distractions beginning with TV and probably ending with working to survive. The mass media has led us Americans down a path of cheap, easy to come by images that are usually shallow and don’t have much to say about the creator of the image. So, the authentic, honest artist must strip away layers of years of ‘indoctrination’ about conformity and acknowledging the accepted, conventional wisdom.

All that said, I have spent twenty five years trying to strip away all that stuff and back in 1994 was introduced to Skip in a one week workshop. Not that I wanted to paint like him, but was most curious about his ideas and how he might have stripped away the fluff of indoctrination and put his own, authenticity on the line. It wasn’t long after that workshop that I saw something in Skip’s painting history which made me sit up and take notice: Absolute Growth. That is a biiig deal in my book because most workshop instructors are about “How to Paint Like Me.” They do little to change out of fear that their followers will leave them. So, growth and change, in my eyes, is an act of outright courage. It is an outright confrontation of the fears which follow many artists.

Like many workshop instructors, Skip led the masses in how to paint the traditional watercolor images for some years . . . .he even published a book with those images in them. Then there was a sudden shift. And that shift has evolved into one of the most frank and authentic bodies of work I have ever seen come from a water media artist. He has consistently moved to higher levels of newness every single year! Moreover, he stands by his work and his ideas without waver.

Back to the subject of the blogs by Diane Santarella . . . . . .put in short verbiage, it appears she is the mirror image of Skip in her own authentic approach to art and living. It is a rare soul, these days, who seems to be able to articulate his or her presence in the events of living, and Diane is one of those rare souls. Mind you, I use the word ‘presence’ with conviction because there are few of us in life who can BE PRESENT in the moment of what ever is happening. We, as human animals, seem to add our ‘stuff’ to what ever is occurring, be it interpretation or part of the events of the past or combinations of both. Diane, on the other hand, seems to be present in every moment of her life and acknowledges the realms of possibility which lie in each moment. No small state of mind!

It seems to me that Skip and Diane have a unique place in living out their respective artistic lives: They are infatuated with each other (and they are married) because they can both SEE the absolute beauty and the reality of their presence in the moment. What each adds to those moments, via their art, is so vastly original and exposed that there is no BS in their world. No wonder their lives are so intertwined.

How glorious!

Here are a few links to follow if you are interested in Skip’s thoughts about art and Diane’s words and art. Obviously, I found both to be quite compelling!

http://dsantarella.blogspot.com

http://www.blogger.com/profile/00699936117444218506 on this page are seven links to as many different blogs.

http://skiplawrencestudionotes.blogspot.com/ Skip’s studio notes

A quote from Diane: “Ultimately, if you’re going to do something personal, you have to look at your own mind, your own heart, to do it, Not out the window.”

And another Santarella Gem:: Approach each moment fresh, use your knowledge and skill as an assist, not a crutch, to discover the possibilities within each action, each choice.”

Someone once said, ‘Every moment is a gift. That is why they call it the present.”

And, in case either Skip or Diane stop by this blog . . . . . .thank you both for being so real and having the courage and wonderful audacity to offer it to all of us!