Saturday, January 30, 2010

Bellagio Cafe

Two posts on one day! Woo-hoo! Speaking of which, posting sort of helps me keep moving along when I don't feel like doing art, lets me break projects down into increments that are less overwhelming, and the bs I write about them actually helps me figure out problems before they become permanent. Right-brained as I might wish I was, the left brain organizes my scattershot efforts.

This is done from a photo taken in Bellagio, Italy at lunch time when the cafes started to get crowded. This town on Lake Como is known for its wealth, shopping, and that George Clooney has a villa there. The streets are quite steep and narrow, making this seem an appropriate piece for a long and narrow piece of paper. I don't usually draw things out in this much detail, but my plan is to be more out of control when painting it. We'll see how that works out....... to assist me in this effort, I will be using for the first time (drumroll) my new paintbox from Craig Young of England, which is a luscious maroon color, and my floppy big red brushes from Alvaro Castagnet of Australia. So, I have handicapped myself in at least two ways in order to keep this painting from getting too tight....good luck to me.

You can see this is meant to be held in the hand, and there is not a lot of mixing space in the palette so that has to happen on the paper -- alla prima.


22 x 30 Watercolor

This is an image I've had in mind for some time; I've done little sketches of it, and even started a large oil which may or may not be taken further. It is, of course, youngest son Peter; the photo was taken 4-5 years ago as he was begging to quit the violin (Gasp! After 12+ years!), and his interest was lagging in piano, all in favor of his new love -- jazz guitar. Pete eventually made me see that it wasn't about the instrument, it was about the music, and that would definitely be continuing, progressing. Double entendre with chord progressions. Triple with the stages a boy goes through at age 15 while on his way to becoming a man.

As for the painting part, it is still in the ugly adolescent stage -- when you want it to go to its room and come back all finished. I have been removing paint from the face, as it became too colorful, and I wanted the shapes stronger. The parts that look all speckly are covered with masking fluid, something I don't normally use, but I wanted that big dark to have solid mass and not be too brushy or putzy, which would've happened if I had to paint around all those lighter shapes, frantic to get it in before things dried.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Beach Bums

22 x 30 Watercolor

This didn't exactly turn out as expected, but that's what I get for diving in before I have the background figured out. One of my teachers always admonished us to incorporate ALL shapes in a painting, as everything needs to relate and fit, and leaving something go until last was not the best idea. As I view it on the computer, I see a dozen things I would've done differently, and would change if I could, but it the deadline came and now I cannot touch it until I find out whether it is accepted into the show. Which it will not be, I fear, because the photo is not all that great, either. For better or worse, it is done. The obvious moral to this story is "don't procrastinate." Because then somebody might have had time to fix, fiddle, change, figure out, start over, and come up with a catchier name...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Anatomy of a Painting - Part 5

First, let me apologize for all those posts ending up in one day's email yesterday. That's what happens when I have to catch up all at once. Since I'm going out of town next week, I suppose this will happen again, but I'll do my best to paint and post while on the road.

The painting has begun. Not a bad start, nothing I want to run to the sink and scrub out. So far the color is clean and fresh, if timid. I am trying to let colors bleed together, as this helps to avoid boring, flat single-color itemization of forms. BUT, I keep forgetting to paint through the outer boundaries so as to weave the subjects into their environment. That's the problem; I can't quite figure out what shapes will be where, and if I don't paint outside the lines soon and let the figures bleed into the background, they'll end up looking pasted on. I must be hoping that a bolt of lightening will strike and guide my hand somehow, and intuitively the background will just paint itself. Huh.

The next goal will be to try to get some darks in there somewhere, so that I have the full value range represented, and can key future decisions based on more than the wimpy first layer. At the same time, I want to avoid my customary ham-hand, reckless throwing of too dark, too bright color; I want it to LOOK that way, but I want to do it more slowly, more intentionally. So that's tomorrow's task. This thing is due no later than Weds, or Thurs. if I pop for express mail.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Anatomy of a Painting, Part 4

OK, now I'm in trouble. I'm sure it is understood that this phase is not about acuracy of forms, it is only to try some color combinations. But clearly I don't have a clue about color here. The top one was my first attempt, and I had this idea about the Italian flag colors, etc., and ended up just being way too literal with the colors that things actually were, instead of putting on the artist hat and taking charge. So then I tried again, limiting myself to some blues, greens, ochres and only a few warm reds; belatedly I remembered (!) that my intention was to leave a majority of the paper light. How easy it is to forget when you're messing about with wet paint! I am a slow learner; I have to keep pounding away at an idea in order to really get it into my head so that I remember what I was about. I guess it's lucky I didn't start on the "real" one yet. But tomorrow is the day, no matter what.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Anantomy of a Painting, Part 3.2

Artists often use something called thumbnails (rough sketches as small as a thumb) to make composition and design questions about such things as "How does a viewer's eye travel through?" or "Which arrangement feels more pleasing?" Here are the two versions side-by-side, as small as I could make them for posting. Call the one on the left "Cropped" and the one on the right "Feet." Below are diagrams of how I think the movement of the values works (green= middle/gray value movement, red= darks.)

What I want to know is, do you have a preference for one over the other? I'm having trouble making up my mind. I can always paint as in "Feet" and cut it down later, but the parameters do affect painting decisions enroute. So, please vote for Cropped or Feet and let me know!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Anatomy of a Painting - Part 3.1

Ok, here we have white as the majority, gray as the next, and black for accents (although I got a little carried away.) This is more in keeping with my current preferences in watercolor: a high key, lighter value painting overall. This does not mean that all that white will not be painted, it just means it will be light value color.

So, am I ready to hit the "real" painting? Not quite. I still have to fool around with a color sketch, or I will fall prey to my tendency toward a crazy quilt of disorganized color.

Perhaps this is a good time to discuss why I do all this advance planning. One art friend thinks I over-analyze and pick it to death before I even start. Might be true, but I think the other end of the spectrum (just jumping in and praying for a good result) is just as foolish. One of the reasons for doing all this preparation before painting is that, with many problems solved ahead of time and a guide/map to follow, I can concentrate on my favorite part of painting-- a loose, juicy paint quality. Also, watercolor is often called "unforgiving" because it doesn't lend itself easily to corrections or changes as with oil, pastel or acrylic. If folks using these mediums find themselves boxed into a corner, they can just scrape it off or paint over it. Watercolor can be scrubbed off or removed with a variety of tricks, but the surface exacts a price, which is usually fresh, clean color. Since that is what I like the very best about watercolor, it makes sense for me to do what I can to avoid problems ahead of time.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Anatomy of a Painting - Part 3

So here's a sketch using only 3 values of white, gray and black to try out what it will look like, composition-wise. White-out is apparently a different color than the white of my paper, but close enough. It looks busy to me, fussy. There is no real predominance of any one value, and IMHO one color needs to be a majority, another less so, and one should just be accents. That would feel more organized to me, a more pleasing arrangement. Oh... just noticed that this is cropped version, so I had better take a look at it as drawn out the other way as well. Looks like another value sketch is in order, this time with feet.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Anatomy of a Painting - Part 2

Here I've drawn out the new version, and this time I have included the feet and cut the space on top, and I have straightened them out. (The paper is white, I think the warm center color is a reflection from my orange fleece). Once again, I was in a hurry to just jump in, and then I realized I still had not made any kind of plan for background shaped, values or color-- which was my mistake the first time around. And I should have done this before I drew it out on the (not cheap!) 300 lb. paper. Even though the exact size and shape is not written in stone, the mere existence of edges affects choices to be made while painting. So, back to the sketchbook for some visual thinking.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Anatomy of a Painting - Part 1

22 x 30 on 300 lb rough Fabriano Artistico

Once again, I have let a deadline creep up on me for entering a juried show. Some view being accepted to the larger national shows as a real big deal; others view such shows as cattle calls and more expense ultimately than they are worth. Either way, it is the way of the world of watercolor, where one can allegedly see the very best of what's being done in the medium. It is a way to get your art, your name, and your availability as a workshop instructor out there for consideration. It is a fact that repeated acceptance at this level of exhibition increases the value of one's art. Award money can be as much as $1000 for top prize, and so on down. Sometimes you can even sell a painting and avoid the expense of return shipping.

The above is a painting I started a while ago from a photo taken in Italy. I am considering this image, if not this painting, for submission to a show -- if I can get my act together in the next week and make this painting happen. I did not put a lot of advance planning into it, and now I can see that there are other options for composition and color. While not to say that this is a bad start, it's just that I can tell I was just wandering around in it, being timid and disorganized. I will continue with it if only to use it as a walk through for a new painting from this same image. This is something I do frequently, paint more than one of the same thing, sometimes at the same time. This gives me the opportunity to take a risk, try something out, and learn from it.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Two Guys

Trying to do as many different faces as possible, lifting sources from magazines and newspapers, and just trying to get something going in application and color. However, I forgot that gel pens bleed when you paint over them.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Year

Time to try again to be accountable. The goal has not changed, but I have learned a bit more about my own proclivities-- like procrastination. For instance, despite the date of this post, it is REALLY 1/6/10 and I am six posts behind..... not to worry, some things are in the works and if I must triple-post to catch up, I will. If I've learned anything from last year, it is that days get missed, a lot of posts are less than great, but there is still tremendous benefit in continuing to try. And so I shall.