Haste, Balance and Adjustments

“Hobby Horse Dreams”
Watercolor 18 x 24 inches

Today, just as I am readying to depart to an NWS board of directors meeting, I kept noticing that I had a problem with my last painting.

This time of year is always difficult for me because it is a time of hurrying to complete many things in short time allotments. Open Studio at my home will be held October 9,10 and 16,17. The haste to accomplish all the framing and preparations to make that event happen without hitches is always a challenge.
As usual, I framed pieces I have painted in the last year. This piece, which you saw in the last post, was standing in its frame in our living room . . . . . .and while it stood there, it was as if a big hook and yelling voice was attempting to catch me. The piece was out of balance!
See the last post and observe the left 1/4 of the painting. That area was morose, dark and the only area like it in the painting. That area seemed as though it did not belong with the rest of the painting (striving for unity!). Also, the white shape seemed to be too far biased to the right . . .that is most of the weight of the shape was on the right. Something needed to happen to this piece! Something subtle yet effective enough to upset the current unbalanced nature of the piece.
I had to remove it from the frame, mat, glass etc. Then it had to go back to the easel for adjustments and some needed new elements of line. You can see the vertical / oblique wavy lines were added . . .but no change in balance. The Blue ‘dart’ was added to help direct the eye, but the piece was still out of balance. ( I wasn’t just guessing. I knew what had to happen: the left quarter needed a hint of white to pull the eye back toward the left and to compensate for the right biased weight of the big white shape.) The lines and dart were needed elements for interest.
Darn! Wasted time! Not really.
Having learned the hard way too many times, it seems to me that a good painter never rushes to conclusions in finalizing any painting . . . pending shows or whatever the reason. I have, several times, framed paintings and put them in a show only to be embarassed by what I completely missed seeing. Good paintings need time to be digested and reconsidered. More often than not, after a few weeks of resting, a painting will reveal its inner workings and problems as the painter relaxes from the angst of the act of painting. I believe this to be part of the natural order of making art. You just cannot rush it. Many students find they cannot paint well in workshops. This is part of the reason. Good composition requires reflection, observation and thought. . . . . . and not just for a few minutes. Those tiny adjustments can often make or break a painting. And they may not reveal themselves for long periods. It is a matter of being patient and letting the mind dwell quietly on the composition. The painting process is not always won by the swift, but to those who remain in the struggle to compose carefully.
Moral: Put your pieces up in a corner where you can see them for an extended period before the “Finished” declaration is made.

On The Words of Others

An attempt at painting “Opa”
“Oh, that’s nice,” she said insincerely. “What is it?” Someone else asked. “It looks like a gorilla,” said another. “Izzat supposed to be a person?” spoke someone.

The artist quivered and shriveled back into his shell and said quietly, “Well, I guess I will never try THAT again!” And he didn’t. And that was the end of that. Afterwards, all he did was the ‘easy stuff’ where it was comfortable.

He made the mistake of listening to someone else . . . .the wrong voice.

Too bad!! That person might have developed a terrific skill had he not listened and persisted in spite of the words of someone else. So many of us hinge every activity and attempt in life on the words of others, as though their opinions were more important than our own personal beliefs or ideas.

I am, at this point in my artistic development, not very skilled at figures . . .especially if I don’t have a model to work from. Some of it is unfamiliarity and lack of practice. Some of it is the lack of experience with a new medium. This painting of “Opa” is an example of that stumped development. (The sketches in preparation for this attempt appeared a few days ago. Scroll down and find them.)

Mind you, I am not one to shrink from challenge or experiments. Further, I know that failure is more of a friend in my education than easy successes. As I painted this attempt and fully experienced the DISAPPOINTMENT in the outcome, I found myself recalling the succinct and very wise admonition of another person to whom I have listened carefully before; Winston Churchill. . . . . . .

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“Neva! Neva! Neva Give UP!


Saturday Attempt

“Mist in The Air”
oil on linen on panel, 8″ x 10″
Today is Saturday. There is no way I can be at the easel for longer than 20 minutes when Diana is in the house. Her presence is a continuous distraction when I am trying to concentrate. Hell!! I have been distracted since the day I met her!!! ;p)) One just can’t avoid that uplifting, positive energy she brings to every day. I often say, “she packs the sunshine where ever she goes.”
I was hoping for an experimental approach today that would reveal some truth to me. No cigar. No truth today. Some days the truth vending machine is just simply stopped up. I suppose the pressure of the work that needs to be completed for open studio is starting to have an effect. I am not listening to the brush or giving my total focus to the colors and textures today.
In the daily painting project, there is always tomorrow. Saturday is no different, except there will be no posting tomorrow . . . .it’s Sunday. See ya Monday!

Swept Up In It

“Red Teacup”

oil on gessoed masonite, 8″ x 6″
Funny how one suddenly awakens to being conscious of one’s own curious mental state. I have been swept up into the world of small still lifes without ever having purposely allowed it to happen. My gosh! Aren’t there myriads of things to paint other than vessels of various kinds? After a haircut yesterday, I found myself wandering in an import shop and buying up a bunch of second rate glassware and a few items of pottery . . .teacups mostly. After I bought them, I couldn’t wait to get home to paint them!
Whaaaaat? Uh-oh! I have caught a still life bug! This probably happened because I was house bound for a couple months caring for my injured wife. I only painted stills because it was convenient. I couldn’t leave the house. But now . . . .I get all squiggly inside because I love to look thru and attempt to paint distortions in glass! Eeegads! What happened to all that masculine, outdoor, plein air stuff, Mike?
I suppose being too busy with other aspects of life prevents me going off to spend half a day or more painting. This morning, I rose at 4AM to complete this piece. No, I didn’t set an alarm. My painting ‘jones’ woke me. (yes, I have it bad!) I have to be at an all day art ‘show’ at the museum to talk with folks and maybe sell a few paintings . . . .and for a little while tomorrow, too. So, I had to get this painting done before the day’s activities began.
So now you know the story behind this painting. There will be more of this glassware, I assure you! And just look at how rich and delicious that red teacup is! What is it about red? It hums!

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!