Too Many Hooks!

“Conversation”
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???!!!

Stopped In My Tracks

Myrna Wacknov has a delightful new blog which is very instructive for all artists, no matter the medium. She happens to be an expert watermedia painter and is extraordinary in portrait work and figures. She issued a “November Challenge” which called for a contour drawing cut up with a grid of odd derivation then to paint it. I took the challenge and expect to have my painting completed toward month end (No point in rushing things . . . since I have plenty to do!)

So here is the drawing with the grid outlined in blue line (watercolor pencil that will disappear as it is painted). After hours of development of the drawing, the grid and getting it onto a piece of hot pressed watercolor paper, I stopped dead. I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure how to go about painting it. I was stuck!

As you may know, there is much much more freedom to make errors with opaque media, such as oil or acrylic or gouache. Watercolor doesn’t provide such liberty. One needs to plan a lot in order to complete complex paintings such as this one. The best device I have found to work out of such a planning puzzle is to do value trials . . .sketches. And do more than one! I will complete nearly 20 before I make my choice of which plan to follow . . . .it’s called exhausting one’s alternatives and picking the best one for composition, mood and content. (Yes, it is much more than just a picture that looks like a photo!! Much, much more!)

So, here is all I could get done this morning before heading out of town for the day. I think there are 8 or 9 different ideas here. I used Tombo pens in three different values on a big sheet of tracing paper. I made a single quick sketch on paper, then traced it enough times until the big sheet was full. Then it is just a matter of concentrating on how and where the lights, darks and mediums will be placed to achieve different emphasis.

Click on the photos to get a closer look.

Answering The Call

This is a new start from yesterday. Instead of drawing with pencil, I used a staining pigment and paintbrush to rough in the shapes of Van Gogh’s Olive trees.

Here, I put a heavy line to work to accomplish two things; 1. to establish movement and rhythm accross the page and, 2. emphasize the bottom of the trees to hold the eye in that part of the image.

This is the progress of shading and bringing a little olive color to the trees and making some calligraphy in the clouds to repeat the same rhythm as in the trees. The rest is more calligraphy of lines of different widths and colors to show shadow, texture and more rhythm in the piece. It took some thought, but it was fun to do!

“Homage to Vincent”
watercolor, 22″ x 30″

This morning at 2:30 AM my eyes sprang open unexplainably. This happens now and then, so it isn’t a big deal because, usually, I go right back to sleep . . . . .unless something is nagging and nagging and nagging at me. Then it is simply absurd!

Well, maybe not so absurd after all. It is noon time and I have been up since 3:30AM answering the call of the ‘nag.’ (No, I am not speaking of my beloved wife!)

Every winter, I teach a class called “Watercolor Beyond The Obvious.” (Otherwise known as WBTO). Around this time of year, I begin rethinking how and what I teach in that course. It is ten weeks long and focuses on several art aspects at once; learning design and how to use it, painting in series, opening one’s self to making breakthroughs, clearing away those famous ‘yips’ that artists suffer from. Mind you, learning of design in ten weeks is far from completed in that amount of time, but the participants get a good solid introduction to it with much new experience (painting practice).

Yesterday, in the shower, which is where most of my sudden shocks of creative clarity come to life, I got another shock about what to do in this coming WBTO. My post yesterday was part of that inspiration.

But in the wee hours of this morning, I was awakened by this revisiting of my idea for a painting series that I began yesterday. Yesterday’s painting was supposed to be a tribute to Van Gogh . . . with some use of line and texture, but I got sidetracked with a yellow sky and yellow color statement . . . .rather than line and texture. So, the ‘nag’ awakened me with a constant review of what I had painted and what needed to be done instead. For an hour I laid there attempting sleep. Finally, I gave up and went to the studio. . . . . .and painted something else (that’ll show that mean old nag! I’ll do what I please!) . . . .when that was done, I laid down for a nap at around 5:30 AM.

You guessed it. She was still shaking me awake to go do it! So I did. I am tired, but I have a smirk on my face. I actually had fun. Maybe that was the point of it. Ya think?

Notes to Self

“Placing Opa”
Notes and sketches in the sketchbook

There is little time to paint today considering all that needs to be done for open studio. But that doesn’t mean I am not thinking about it.
In a small village called Montpazier in the Perigord region of France, I snapped photos of an old gramma shopping for the day with her companion. This is a daily occurrance in Europe. Walking to town to buy the day’s groceries is the norm.
(I call her Opa). She is stooped with age and is obviously fighting back pain as she has her hands supporting her lower back when she walks. To me, the image speaks loudly of the human condition. I want to paint her . . .the scene. But design must first be done to get the max from the image and to keep it simple.
So, instead of painting, I can sketch for a few minutes and make notes to myself for when I can spend the time to paint. Eliminating details and having the overall shapes say what needs to be said is my goal. Contructing her on the canvas will be the key to the mood of the piece, as well as her placement in the overall design. What mood to I want to project? That is the question I must answer before painting.
So, here are my thoughts regarding placement. Eventually, I combine the shape of Opa with a younger woman pushing a baby carriage for more interest and contrast. I think it makes for a more interesting idea. You can see how I arrived at the idea of putting the two together. It was a process of trial and error and suggestions from each sketch.
You can also see the right angle of light crossing the pathway. Opa’s head will be in the vertical part of that light in the final piece as the center of interest, well to the right of center.

Looking For New Stuff

“Imported Olives”
oil on linen on panel, 8″ x 10″
As a painter looking to grow, I am always seeking ways to get the paint on the canvas in a more appealing way. I find myself browsing in places I otherwise would not . . . .such as the Good Will store . . . .to find interesting objects, too. Yesterday, I found a few things. These came from another store. I found them interesting because they presented new challenges. A ball of string . . . .very interesting texture and the size appealed to me as a possible interesting contrast object in a painting. This lop-sided, goofy shaped dish with its unusual markings and colors offerred some other possbilitities in the area of shape and pattern. Then, as if I had come to this market with this purpose in mind, I found myself looking for something tall and slender that would offer a compositional balance. When I saw it, I immediately knew it. But what a dumb thing it was!! A jar of olives? Fer gawd’s sakes!! And a ball of string? What possible relationship could these two things have? Welllllll . . . . . .the colors of the label offer great interest against the warms of the olives and the ball and bowl. And the rectangular shape of the label in the painting will make a nice counterpoint to the curvilinear shapes in the rest of the painting.
“What the heck!” . . . .”Go ahead and paint it. The only thing I have to lose is a small piece of linen . . .and I can always paint over that, if I want to.”
So I did. It is in a frame in my living room (where most of these end up to dry and to continually watch and re-evaluate). And I can’t take my eyes off it!!

Tropical Mosaic

“Tiled Pineapple”
oil on canvas, 20″ x 16″

First, I made the underpainting with Cad Orange and Cad Red and made a mental note that this would be a blue green painting lots of tropcial colors.

The idea was to make a painting design built upon the pattern on the skin of the pineapple. Looking closely, there is almost a spiral upward of rows of small pentagons. Within them are protrusions, and spikes and dents and all sorts of repetitive tracks.

You can see immediately why it was so labor intensive.

Someone out there has a home in Hawaii or has a tropical decor and would like this painting in an honored place. Please contact me via email if you would like to consider acquiring this piece.

The Time Has Come . . .

“Taking a Stab At It”
Watercolor on paper, 15″ x 22″

The time has arrived after much deliberation, consideration and excitement . . . .to make the commitment. Yup! I have decided to commit to making a painting a day . . . .every day except Sunday.

This may not seem like much if you aren’t an artist, but I can assure you that the commitment requires putting just about everything else aside in order to meet the promise.

Why, you ask? Simple! To compress a lot of experience into a short time. To force the learning process. To create new art. To GROW . . .and grow quickly.

You may know me as a watercolorist. In fact, that I am. But let me be very clear about something; I am an ARTIST before all else. Yes, I paint watercolors . . .and darned good ones. Some might say that they push the edges of the medium to an extreme. I agree.

Something has been eating at me over the last several years: The oil paints I have in my taboret drawer. I recently came across Kevin MacPherson and a few of his delightful plein air pieces. As well, I had ordered a new set up for plein air painting with watercolor. The one I purchased happened to be almost the same set up that he uses. I took it out and tried oil painting with it one time. I was bitten!! And I was bitten hard!!

Then, while exploring the internet for plein air painters, I came across a website featuring painters who had made a commitment to a painting a day . . . .and then my bite got much, much worse. I could quickly see how much growth these people had mustered in a short period of time. So, here I was. . . .madly going out to paint almost daily in the late afternoon and getting up early to paint in the studio.

Meanwhile, I was still going to class, teaching “Watercolor Beyond the Obvious” and doing my level best to continue in my still life series (another post for later) and creating some interesting abstracts for the more serious genre of studio born watercolors. I will use the one above as the piece to kick off this blog.

I fully expect to remain loyal as a watercolorist, you can see the work on the website by clicking here. But you can also expect to see me pushing into the next world of oil.

I’ll be posting oil paintings daily here. Watch for them!