Tooting or Complaining?

“Bandits at 3 O’Clock”
Watercolor 30 x 22 inches

I suppose this is the only place one can come to toot their horn a little bit. Maybe a place to complain a bit now and then, too.

So here’s both!
(Complaint) I haven’t painted much for what seems like months! Yes, I have put a little teensy amount of time into a very complex watercolor which, I expect, will take months to finish.
(Complain #2) Time is getting away from me fast! Too many “duties,” if you know what I mean. Those are things that MUST be done without question . . . .time limitations don’t count.
(Toot) San Diego Watercolor Society’s Annual National Exhibition accepted one of my paintings. (Ahem! Toot! Toot!) :p) That would be the above painting. You can see the title.
Some of you may not understand the title. Let me help a little bit. First, click on the painting and it will expand much larger. Second, most guys I have met love to “watch the girls” from whatever vantage point they have (obviously!). Outdoor workers are not exempt by any stretch of the imagination. And there are ‘code words’ among friends to alert anyone else in the group that a good “sighting” has been made.
“Bandits” is jargon used by US Air Force pilots for enemy aircraft. The clock time is the position in the sky of the ‘bandits’ with the cockpit being the center of the clock. In this painting, the alert has been sounded. You can figure out the rest from there.
Other than tooting or complaining, I just wanted to check in and say Hi to you all out there in the sphere of cyber.

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.

Itching Continued

“Intersection at Walnut Ave.”
oil on linen panel, 8 x 10 inches
Yesterday, I scrambled to get to Walnut Ave. to paint the light and the tree covered street. This street is historical in that all of the homes are old Victorian “painted ladies.” The street is like stepping into a painting with neatly trimmed landscaping, blooming blossoms and dappled light everywhere.

I picked a difficult one, yesterday. Dappled light is something I have never done before . . . .so I can see I have much to learn.

This piece presents one of those interesting space division challenges . . . .and am not sure that it really works that well. What I have in mind is a much more subdued sort of lighting, but the way the sun was reflecting off the pavement yesterday was dazzling. I had to use every bit of the little I understand about aerial perspective and color, as well as edges, to make this little painting work.

I have resolved to visit again, perhaps today, to consider a different angle of attack and a different composition. I still itch to capture that which is in my mind. I may never quite get there, but the practice is most precious. I can feel a few gains in understanding from yesterday’s experience. I hope I can capitalize on that.

Resolving an Incubating Painting

“Yellow”
watercolor 22 x 30 inches
After sitting quietly covered in a corner of my studio for almost 9 months, I have finally resolved and finished the complex painting, “Yellow.”

I have been preparing for another workshop to be given to the Sierra Watercolor Society this coming week. Intense preparation work such as I have been doing for the last several days triggers deeply anchored urges to paint. Making visual aids and pulling already painted examples together is an almost mindless task. When I moved the cover aside and discovered this painting still waiting (yes, discovered is the right word. I had nearly forgotten it.) for me to resolve the problems. I pulled it out of it’s hiding place and looked at it. Suddenly the solution struck me: It was that relationship thing again. Colors and values had gotten away from me! There was so many parts in this painting that, while needed to support the overall idea, their relationships to each other had to be revised.

The buildings and banners against the large wall had to drop back in aerial perspective and required much closer value intervals ( less contrast.) The purity of the color of the middle ground had to be preserved in order to hold the eye. The yellows needed to ‘yelp’ but had to also fit with the rest of the painting. The signal in the upper right corner was too distracting and had to be toned down, yet brought forward. Shadows needed darkening and an overall value pattern / composition had to be established.

With the help of a violet gray glaze over some areas, shadow darkening in places, a little bit of judicious lifting, edge softening and refining and tonality adjustments in some of the yellows, the eye moves through the painting in a very predictable and satisfying way. There is balance in the piece now and a sense of belonging of all the parts. This one was a tuffy!! (At least, I think so now . . . . maybe it will be different in a month or so.)