Scatter Brained?

Planely Scattered-72

“Planely Scattered”

Watercolor, 15 x 22 inches

Begun as demonstration for making textures, this piece was brought to the studio to see if it could be trained into something interesting.

Concerns:   1.  It must be a balanced and unified composition,  2.   Thee should be a strong color harmony and, 3.   It must have a sense of shallow space.   These were the goals I set out to accomplish . . .with nothing from which to copy. Abstracts, or non objective paintings, are challenging to the artist because there is no model to follow.  Everything that happens to the painting must come as a result of careful thought to ensure that every mark fits  into the context of all the other marks already made.   That statement also goes for ANY painting of any subject.

As you can see, most all the colors in the painting are grayed down or ‘unsaturated’ in order that there be a clear sense of fitting with all the other colors in the painting . . .save for the area called the center of interest.   Similarly, the shapes must follow the pattern or character of all the other shapes in the painting, in this case geometric, flat shapes.   Had I put in a curvilinear shape among all the other geometric shapes, it may have stuck out, or seemed as though it did not belong.   As with all paintings, we attack the project with high hopes of success, but move forward with the sort of abandon as though we don’t care.   Some would call this attitude one of courage.

My mantra with all paintings in progress is this:  It’s only a piece of paper !!

As long as I remind myself that no one is going to get hurt, if I mess up, and that it is, indeed, only a piece of paper, then I can dream up just about anything I want to do without worry of bad result.

I pull out a spray bottle full of dark sepia paint . . . . I step up to the painting table, spray bottle in hand, wondering;  how dark is it?  What if it splatters?  What if the sprayer drips?  My answer to all of these questions is the same:   We’ll see !!   The fact is that the artist cannot expect great things to happen to the progress of a painting if fear will prevent him from doing some things.  In short, as artists, we must be willing to fail.   We must be open to allowing the unforeseen to show up and challenge us.   We must open ourselves to being willing to repair if something “bad” happens.

This demonstration was to show class participants how to make various sorts of texture and how to use them.   In the course of the demonstration, different marks were being made all over the paper . . . with each mark came the statement that “you cannot make a mistake!”   That is to say that mistakes are not possible!   A very wise artist once told me “If you make a mistake, repeat it several times in the painting.  Then it won’t appear as a mistake!”

That brings up one last thing . . .the idea of repetition.   This is something every artist must understand and how it affects unity in a painting.   Just know this, repetition with variations makes for interest and helps hold the sum of the parts of the painting together as a single unit.

On Composing

Preliminary Sketches
Composition Idea
Figuring the Large Shapes

The demo in my last post came out well. In my humble artistic opinion, it had less to do with the act of painting and a heckuvalot more to do with the initial planning and composing.

I won’t say that “anyone can copy what they see” because that is simply not true. But seeing is not always the best means of making something extraordinary out of a bunch of ‘things.’ Namely, trees, cliffs, colored succulent, rocks etc. It is much more a task of arrangement of shapes, shapes, values, colors, textures etc. It is in the arranging or composing those elements together that wonderful things happen.

It begins in the early sketches and assessing those sketches for design flaws, then, re-doing the sketches to account for the flaws, re-assessing and making still more changes. In that assessment process, I find that I must remove my thoughts from the subject and move to considering how the various shapes combine to form three to five large shapes and how those large shapes interrelate with the rectangle of the canvas or paper on which the painting is made.

That recent demo (last post) went through this very process. Once I was happy with the large shapes which connected the edges of my rectangle, I could insert and fit the ‘reality’ of the subject into it. It took some cramming, shortening, shrinking, expanding, squeezing, eliminating, adding . . . .well . . . .you get the idea . . . .the subject had to fit into the composed arrangement of large light and dark shapes. Looking at the sketch above, it boils down to an abstraction that is interesting to look at in its own right.

For you painters who are less experienced, the large dark shape that sprawls across this page is actually a combination of many items . . .trees, grasses, succulents, rocks, etc. It is in the act of painting that the artist must use caution and value control to insure that the large dark shape is still expressed through that combination of ‘stuff.’

It may seem like hard work to those who “just want to paint.” But, I believe that the disappointment which most often follows rushing into a painting is a big price to pay. . . . .especially, when we artists put our treasured sweat and tears into the act of painting. It is worth the effort and time to work out the composition first, then set about getting it all on to canvas or paper.

Demo Announcement

Yep!! That’s me . . .out in the field near Eymet, France.

But that is not what this is about. I am giving a big painting demo Sunday, Jan 24 at the Hoover Community Center in San Jose. Start time is 1:30 PM. . . .ending at 4PM

Look up Hoover Theater or Hoover Middle School in San Jose. The center is part of that complex and faces Naglee Avenue.

I would like to give an address, but, darn it! I don’t have it. So, the next best thing is to get to the Hoover Theater at 1677 Park Avenue in San Jose, stick your head in the door and ask where the community center is. There will be people there to direct you.

Sure hope you can make it.

P.S. “Big” Demo means painting a big landscape on a “Big” piece of paper. 😉

Taking Chances . . .Again

“Backwash”
watercolor, 22 x 30 inches
Having just received a shipment of new paper (never tried this type before now) from England, I just HAD to take the most unfamiliar type and put it to the test . . . .or, shall I say, to many tests?
Waterford paper, made by St. Cuthberts Mill in the UK, is quite beautiful in its whiteness and its textures. The finish they make on cold press and rough are really lovely. But how well does it take a wash or glaze or . . .how does it work wet into wet . . .or if the paint is scrubbed in with a bristle brush? How well or easily does paint lift? And what of the edges? Can the image be manipulated after a base layer has been laid down? What becomes of the paper surface in vigorous lifting? And, what happens to the color when the sizings and chemistry of the paper’s structure mix with various pigments?
The heavy package arrived from England late last week. I had never seen shipped paper packaged so well! It arrived without a single sheet being even slightly tweaked! I couldn’t use it right away because I was working on the last painting posted . . .remember? The one that was taking all the time with so many glazes. Maybe the distraction of wanting to paint on that wonderful new paper was enough to cause the slaughter of that painting. I know I *wanted* badly to get to it and try it.
So, here is the very first piece . . . .Waterford 200lb cold press. That’s right: two hundred pound! Yummy paper. I took every risk I knew of to challenge the surface and try to find the achilles heel of the paper. I washed, glazed, scrubbed, lifted, scraped, pushed, tarnished and did everything I could to see what would happen. And, WOW!! It responds so beautifully and continues to show off the glorious character of the paper itself. The transparency of the colors works better on this paper than any I have tried to date. The white water with a slight cool wash just glows in this piece. (P.S. The lower right corner is orange in the photo because of a lighting goof.)
In all, I am extremely pleased with how well this paper responds! Now to find a source for it here in the USA.