Figure Perspective

“Parisian Promenade”
watercolor 15 x 22 inches
I have found there is much to learn about putting figures into a painting . . . . .
Figures can and do put a substantial amount of perspective and depth into a painting if they are done right.   What may seem as necessary, such as various body parts and details, simply does not apply.   That’s right, details and anatomical correctness doesn’t matter.   The human mind does that for us.   Ratio of head size and height seems to make a bit of difference.   
There is two things I have noticed about this painting that makes me think twice (or three times) about doing the painting over again:   One is values.   Notice how the values of the scene itself diminish toward middle tones.   Yet, the figures have very stark, almost strident, value contrast with the surroundings.   I think the figures need to blend in more.  That is to say that the figures need to feel as though they belong to the value range in which part of the painting that they sit.
Color, also, plays a part.   Color saturation of the figures needs to settle in with the rest of the  surroundings, too.   In this painting, the colors certainly call attention to the figures, but that isn’t the purpose of putting the figures in this painting . . . . .it should feel like a complete scene . . . not a stage on which there are action packed players.
The last thing that makes a big difference is the heads all need to be at the same level, relatively.   Notice the figures in the foreground;  they all stand on the same level ground.  It is as if the viewer is at the same eye level as those players.   Those that stand on the white surface have their heads slightly above the eye level of those figures in the foreground.   As those figures (on the upper deck) recede into space, their bodies become shorter, but the heads remain at the same level. . . . .which gives the impression of distance.
I am off to the studio to try a remake of this painting to see if I can make the necessary adjustments.

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?

Today’s Demo

“Rocks and Carpets”
Watercolor, 22 x 30 inches
This was the demo today. It is a fairly complex painting with challenges in linear perspective, atmospheric perspective, compostion, value structure, color and texture.
I attempted to show and discuss the thinking process in developing a decent watercolor painting, the preparation and planning to establish a strong composition to a ‘standing room only’ crowd of around 90 to 100 painters. it was exciting and fun!
As most of my readers know from reading this blog, and seeing the paintings posted here, I try very hard to go out to where other watercolorists visit rarely, if ever. This piece was more of a traditional watercolor painted so the audience would relate with the scene, as well as the structure of the piece. I attempted to show how the elements and principles apply in realism, as well as abstract painting.
If you were there, I hope you enjoyed it . . .and I hope you will comment here. All in all it was a fun afternoon, but I have to admit that it took several hours for me to ‘come down.’ I get nervous about these sort of things, even though I paint a lot.
This demo kicked off my ten week course beginning tomorrow, “Watercolor Beyond the Obvious.” More about it later. Thanks to those who came today. You were a terrific audience!

Testing Limits

“Chestnut St.”
Unfinished– watercolor 22 x 30
When are we NOT LEARNING how to paint? Do we ever stop learning? Should an artist only paint what he or she knows? If I am the person to answer, I would say absolutely NOT to the last question. It is ALWAYS about learning!

So, what should an artist be stretching to learn after painting for 22 years?

Let’s start here: How about learning more about one’s capability? What about testing one’s self to remain in control no matter the circumstances at the easel? What of practice to smooth off rough edges in a project or series? How about testing “What Ifs” in color strategies? If you are a watercolorist, how about painting on wet paper and hurrying the process so the paper doesn’t dry? Or, what about a challenge to finish a full sheet in 90 minutes and driving one’s self a little bit nutz in the effort?

All of these things are about stretching. They are about experiencing circumstances out side of the comfort zone more often . . . . .so when they really do arise in a serious painting situation, the artist is more comfortable in working through the ‘emergency.’ It is in these times of horsing around to find out what happens that an artist gains precious experience.

So!! You tell me. Which is more valuable? A wide range of experience, or a few successful paintings done in the artist’s comfort zone? Do you suppose there is value in being able to anticipate the outcome of something the artist does, either by accident or deliberately? Of course there is! It is called mastery of the circumstances. And the only way one develops mastery is to try different stuff and create challenges. In other words, expand the comfort zone. So what if the painting tests aren’t masterworks?

The above painting was done on wet, saturated paper inside of a time limit . . .in a fairly large format to cause me to hurry to keep up with the drying process. I had fun in the challenge, didn’t finish, messed up perspective, but found some lovely little passages that made me want to do this again and again.

On Glazing and Mist

“Elkhorn Neighbors”

oil on stretched canvas, 16 x 20 inches

This painting is a breakthrough to new territory for me: the use of glazinng and also painting a convincing illusion of haze or atmospheric mist.
To date, most all the oils have been painted ala prima . . . .or directly. The great thing about painting watercolor effectively is that one must learn to mix value, as well as color. That skill has transferred nicely to the oil world and has helped in the setting up of atmospheric perspective. In this painting, however, so much was necessary to establish a sense of space and forms disappearing up the background hill that repeated adjustments of value and color (cooler tones) had to be progressively overlaid on dried coats of paint.
I am finding another world in oil painting . . . .one full of variables and methods, not to mention substances and mediums. It is a maze, indeed. And while I am foolin’ round with this stuff, I am still plugging away at my watercolors . . . . . because . . . . .well, (ahem) it’s “Home” to me.