Tuesday, October 25, 2011

moving ahead slowly

first overworked reflections
final, I think, reflections (maybe too dark?)
   I only had small amounts of time to paint today between other obligations (painting IS the main thing I do but some days you wouldn't know it...) so along with briefly working on the foreground grass texture in my big commission, I moved slightly forward on my Yupo fall studies. I rubbed off and re-painted the foreground reflections in the first one I worked on, and I placed more of the brightest colors in the second one. I think I'm getting the hang of working with the Yupo substrate. It is really hard to give up the 'layers' process and just paint the final colors right away, but it's a great exercise for me. I still have a lot of greens and blues to add, but I like the freshness of it...so far, anyway - hopefully I won't overwork it massively.
The results of the second 10 minutes of work on fall scene #2

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

always learning... staying humble.

My "wrecked" Yupo - I lost the fluidity of the reflections.
   I really messed up that fall scene - bother - the foreground got WAY overworked, and I really thought I had it, too. Hubris, that's what it is when I think I've got everything under control. And then I remind myself that too much control is what wrecks a fresh watercolor. Since it's on Yupo, I think I can just wipe it off and start again on the reflections, but it's too late to do it tonight. I had chorus this evening (we are starting rehearsals for the Christmas concert), and so didn't get in my after dinner work session. So here's the mess that faces me tomorrow...

Detail of tree texture example, this is about 2.5" x 4"
 I had my watercolor technique class this morning - I am really loving teaching. Since the fall colors are still out, I picked a scene that shows the fall trees near the shore, and we worked on filling in the background colors like a sideways-moving wash, letting gold, orange, pale greens and darker greens blend/bleed together with soft edges as we filled the entire "block" of trees. Then, simplifying the whole area into just three tones, we studied the richer colors for texture, and then deep blue shadows to define the tree forms. Here is what I painted as an example of "how to" - you can see that just small sections are done - I just had to get them started with the technique of "pushing paint" and scribbling/scuffing with the brush to delineate the abstract textures and forms of the trees. This study was done VERY quickly (under pressure with them standing around me watching >yikes<) and so it wasn't about the strict tree shapes, but more about the brush technique of being free with the scribbles and textures.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Procrastinating before getting to work on a commission - it is SO easy - there are emails to answer, phone calls to follow up on, I think about my plans for the day, make a fresh cup of tea - when all I really need to do it get downstairs and start working. So I did: I finished the drawing for the new piece and NOW I'm just afraid to take the next step ... I go do some inventory work, change the CD, feed the cats, think about these new frame samples I received in the mail yesterday... just bite the bullet and sit down and PUT PAINT ON PAPER!
   The hardest part is thinking that I'm going to wreck it (after spending two hours on the drawing) but really ... at this point, I have my ways to fix most ANY mistake. AND I find if I take the time to get my mind into the painting - I mean get right into the scene: the colors, the day that it was - step through the looking glass and BE there - I don't make mistakes. (well, sometimes a wet brush goes flying out of my hand or something, but other than that... ) This image is a conglomerate of a beloved scene- from a mother to her daughter who now lives abroad.

   So once I got at it, it went smoothly - the first "layers" are on and generally everything is looking good. I'm trying to be BOLD, like I tell my students - and just go for the right color right away. This painting is much bigger than I normally work, but some clients just don't get it. They see my small work, love it, and then contact me about a larger painting. >sigh<  So today I got all the basic forms and first colors down, not bad.
   (whenever I type "today" I always type "toady" and then have to backspace and fix it to say "today". I kinda like 'toady' though... some today's are rather toady...)

Friday, October 14, 2011


...so I finally finished this commission I was working on - and it made me feel accomplished in a technical sense... I mean, I was working on details like the shadows under the fronds of day lilies, and the texture of a split rail fence, the reflections and sparkle on the lake, achieving atmospheric perspective as the water's ripples stretched into the distance, tree texture... all that stuff that makes one of my paintings look "real" (whatever that is)*. It was getting to be 3:00 on a Friday afternoon and I really wanted to be done with this one today so I just kept myself chained to the drafting table (metaphorically) and powered through. I don't like to think about painting that way, but sometimes it just is.  However, it's not like I think this painting is just work... I think it really came together and is a sweet little painting, in spite of the fact that the customer took three years to decide she actually wanted it and then two photo shoots, three compositional options and four months later... TODAY, as of 4:30, I can say I am done with the boat painting. woot! (Well, there's still the framing...)
   Anyway, about feeling technically accomplished (or maybe "able" is the better word)... because I kept working on it for a series of hours, I saw the painting emerge almost entirely today. *The "real" comes through with the 'balancing' that happens after all the details are studied: the final work I do after all the sections are complete when I sit back and squint my eyes to take away the details and decide that, for instance, this green is too pronounced, that area needs to be darker, or that yellow is too intense, these ripples need more definition, etc. I actually slobber over (with a brush, of course) detailed areas with additional layers (some call them glazes but that always sounds like something you do to a piece of pottery, NOT a watercolor) of color or value to make it all work together - such that all my details, although important, don't take over the unified composition. It was kinda cool to see it emerge from its parts into a whole (because this commission had elements from many different photos) and as the values settled in at the end, real-ness was accomplished.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Yupo - start fresh.

   OK, I ordered some new art supplies to jump start my creative process this fall - I'm trying out some YUPO, which is this great new (relatively) completely plasticized (poly-something) "paper" (substrate, really...) that I have seen other artists get some really interesting effects on... it provides a totally different surface for watercolor - pushes one toward more instantaneous work - and I really want to loosen up, although continue in my small format. 
   So when the huge sheets arrived (whee!) I just chopped up the first one into, like, eight pieces (which is still pretty big for me...) which came out to ~ 8 x 10, and marched it right over to the drafting table and grabbed a photo reference and started putting paint on it to see how it worked. It was a mind blower - every brush stroke left a texture (no smooth washes with this stuff) and I found you really can't glaze over: when you put color over another color, it just picks up the bottom layer and re-liquifies it... but this is good, it will make me get the right color right away! and work more directly. I'm always telling my students to "be brave" ... so now I have to. 
   So I messed around with that 8x10 sheet a bit and then decided to chop further - so now each 8x10 has been further chopped to 4 x 5, which is perfect for my work. In two days, I have overworked (completely!) one image (but learned a lot about what I can and can't do with it) and I am relatively content with the second image. I'm planning a series of peak foliage scenes - trying to keep the colors really fresh and maintain a regular brush rhythm. I'm using a #4 Robert Simmons white sable round - best brush in the world, points up like perfection. This image still needs some finishing touches in the foreground - I'm still learning how to make colors flow - but it's not bad for my first go.
   Look around you - take a second to feel the wind on your face.