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!


Color Illusion
Those of us who are painters know that color is judged in the context of the colors surrounding them. That is to say that the way we, as humans, process color every color looks different when surrounded with other colors.
This illustration above is from an article in a Discover magazine blog which is a MUST READ
While you look at the above color spirals, you might be interested in knowing that the greenish and the blue spirals are exactly the same color!!!!!!
Yup! Blue green is the color . . .sort of a teal color, actually. Someone in that blog isolated the colors in photoshop and, sure enough, they are indeed precisely the same color. The color is influenced by the magenta and the orange stripes. Amazing, eh?

Precious Ambiguity

The Set Up

The Drawing . . .andWork In Progress

The Painting . . .
“Precious Ambiguity”
watercolor, 15 x 22 inches

As a person with an analytical mind and a nature for curiosity and understanding through logical process and detail, I have had to build the right side of my brain. That process hasn’t been easy. My nature is to crisply copy what is in front of me. And doing otherwise has been more than difficult.

Merging shapes, distorting ideas and color for the sake of making something a bit ambiguous is a process which must be learned. That goes for losing edges, creating color harmonies, assigning values . . . .all stuff which is outside of “reality.” For the person of logical mind, these things can be daunting to learn. But, if making art is the goal . . .and fine art at that . . . . .then they MUST be learned.

Someone once said, “Irritatingly precise – Charmingly incorrect.” I think that says a lot about making art that is magically attractive. Those four words hold much wisdom, I think.

The above process shows how a piece is developed to deliberately create ambiguity and hold a viewer’s attention. It is a terrific way to create ‘shapes’ that would otherwise not be possible via sudden epiphany. In this process (also see last post) the overlapping of multiple line drawings makes for serendipity discovery. And, believe me, it is confusing, but truly fun!

Manipulation of Technique, Design

Three Different Moods
watercolor all are 15 x 22 inches
I am still working on the “Miroir d’ Eau” painting of people on a grand reflecting surface (Last few posts). Progress is slow, but it is mostly about practice.

Meanwhile . . . my classes have begun and I am in that space of dreaming up different ways to show painters ‘how to’ and to help them capture new paths of thought in their work.

I am spending more time emphasizing the interrelationships of Content (subject), Technique and Design and how those relationships affect the mood outcome of a painting. Of course, I have been demonstrating different techniques to some of the classes . . . .recently, painting into wet or damp paper . . .to achieve different edges and textures of the paint. That technique, with variation, and the manipulation of value arrangements, color and edges can express many different moods.

In the paintings above, the drawing has not changed (except just a little bit, unintentionally), but dominances of intensity, hue and temperature have definitely changed. See how the emphasis has shifted from the top of the painting to the bottom? See how the process of moving from painting ‘things’ to constructing an overall atmosphere can completely shift an idea? See how limiting contrasts can affect the mood? And how the increase of contrast can move the mood, too?

Isn’t it interesting how such different feelings can be generated without changing the actual drawing?

My Two Cents Worth

watercolor, 30 x 22 inches
This painting came as the result of an invitation from David Lobenberg to join his watercolor class last Friday for some joint teaching and demonstration. This was the demo.
David’s entire class has been working on this truck . . . no easy subject! . . . . and all were excited to watch Dave and I sling paint and attempt to come up with some sort of painting. What a wonderful time we all had! His class is enthusiastic, energetic and talented! Lots of laughs and plenty of conversation about painting and art. I wish I lived closer. If I did, I prolly would be making a pest of myself!!
Thanks for the great welcome and lively participation to all the members of Dave’s class! You made me feel very much at home!

A long Term Project

“Still Life # 62”

Waertcolor on Winsor Newton Paper, 15″ x 22″

About two years ago, I undertook a project to learn more about design and shakeout a possible assignment project for my classes. The objective was to paint a single still life set up without changing the point of view or the actual positions of the objects. . . . .and to paint the same set up 20 different times. In short, develop a series. I went off the deep end and have painted over 60 pieces in the project because I had learned so much from it. Ideas for different paintings keep showing up, so I paint them. It is a great way to force oneself not to be enslaved by a subject, but to call up the creative consciousness.

A few weeks ago, my classes began (thus little posting here). This painting is as much for myself as it is for the classess. The groans are loud as they hear the project and what they are to do with it . . .make 20 paintings in ten weeks of the same still life. The objective is to force the painters to think about and try different things with the elements of design; Line, Size, Shape, Direction, Color, Value and Texture. (If this interests you, there are some interesting articles on my web site to read.

My day job has been in the way a bit, also, but my intent is to come back ‘swingin’.”

So, this was a nice diversion . . . .but it was more about keeping sharp at watercolor and reacquainting myself with my methods after a long layoff with oils.

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.

A Twitch in My Right Arm

Quickly! There is a disturbing itch developing near the crown of your head. Scratch it!!!

When you scratched, did you draw blood or make a wound of any kind? Obviously, not. Since you inflicted no damage, how much pressure did you use? In what direction did you scratch? How many strokes did you use? Did you use fingernails or finger tips? Did you satisfy the itch? Yes? If so, how did you know when you were finished scratching? When it didn’t itch anymore? How did you know that?

My guess is that we all developed this reflexive and second nature skill through tens of thousands of ‘itch scratching’ occurrences. In other words, a whale of a lot of PRACTICE ! You know exactly how to scratch and don’t even think about it much when you do it . . . right? Of course!!

Color mixing and learning about color characteristics and applying that stuff in a painting is much more than pulling the ‘right crayon’ from the box. It really is about understanding the color relationships you are building into the painting. It is how this color is going to react with the other colors in the painting.

But . . . . . . . How does one KNOW about relationships and how a color will react with the others next to it, away from it, mixed with it, surrounded by it etc? How many books have been written about color? How many opportunities to practice mixing different greens have you,( the artist), taken to fill reams of canvas or paper to achieve that “knowing” of when it is right. How many different colors on your palette are possible to use in the mixing of greens? How much PRACTICE have you put in to learn it? Are you waiting for the right moment when you need that certain green to figure it out? Or, are you developing the skill quietly by yourself so, when the need arises, you can deliver it in spades?

I am preparing a first time three day workshop on Color Relationships to be given in Murphys, California near the end of this month. 25 participants will be there to learn more about the utility of color, color harmonies and color relationships. At least, we will be able to put out enough knowledge to make any painter “dangerous” with color if they develop and PRACTICE their skills AFTER the workshop.

How does one explain color harmony? Comments anyone? What about color relationships? How does one explain that? How does one awaken the thinking muscle about color when one is the teacher? I have ideas and would be interested in yours. Drop me a note or comment. Meanwhile, our house is still ‘the gallery’ for open studio. I am cleaning house again today and fussing with details and more outdoor clean up to get ready for tomorrow.

I am sure you would be interested in knowing my right arm is under severe “twitch observation” since I have not been able to find a moment to actively paint. The twitch is from brush neglect! And it is painful!!

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.

Developing an Idea

The first idea. But it needs development . . . .

The second idea is better, but the light valued shape does

nothing for the figure.

The third idea is better . . .much better, but needs simplifying to say more about the figure.

Finally, the figure is set into the right value structure to bring all the attention on it. After all, this isn’t about the surrounding scenery. It is all about the mood of the figure.

“Decisions, Decisions”

oil on linen on panel, 10″ x 8″