Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Three Guys Reprise

22 x 30 " Watercolor

This is the 3rd time messing about with this picture, a/k/a Holding Forth, a/k/a Beach Bums. One of those things you just have to get painted, so you can move on. I started darkening the background again, one thing led to another, and it's like that book "If You Give A Mouse a Cooke" (he'll ask for a glass of milk, an dthen he'll want a napkin...). It's finally in the frame, hanging outside, just in time for studio crawl. The funny thing is, this was started about 10 months ago, and I don't think I paint this way anymore.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lago di Como: wish I was there...

11 x 14" watercolor

Don't you wish you lived where there was a table on the terrace for sipping fine Italian wine while overlooking beautiful lakes and mountains?

Two days 'til Studio Crawl. At this point I start scouring the studio's nooks and crannies for whatever I can find, and despite my promise to myself to not pull out everything -- good, bad and ugly -- I still seem to do this every year.

Monday, September 27, 2010

...And Now for Something Completely Different

5-1/2 x 9" watercolor

The local colleges have started up their drawing co-ops for the semester, and I plan to take advantage of the opportunity to work on my drawing skills with live models. I was very rusty, my sense of proportion and perspective completely missing in action. This is the best of the bunch, probably because I settled down with familiar materials and a tried and true approach. However, if this is going to benefit me as I hope, I will have to bite the bullet and stick to pencil or charcoal, without the luxury of resorting to a couple of fresh washes for a quick fix. Why do I want to work on drawing skills? Because my personal "vision" involves using watercolor in a more expressive, less literal way, more as an augmentation for the drawn line -- and THAT needs to be a whole lot more expressive. No more filling in coloring book shapes; I can certainly draw with accuracy, but that's not enough of a reason to make art. I think Ijust might be at that crossroads I didn't used to understand.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fish Market Fruit Vendor

14 x 11 Watercolor

Still working on learning Castagnet's lessons, particularly dry brush, strong values, and related color. I find it helps if you can find subject matter that is similar to his subject matter, so that when you paint yourself into the proverbial corner, you can look at his work and see how he might have handled things. Here, the subject is RED. Still more JMF than AC, though, as I just couldn't let go of the detail... I might have to try this bigger, see if I can do more swashbuckling and blurring. I think it would translate well into a larger format; not all of them make the jump to being a bigger picture. Sometimes it is just MORE of a not-so-great picture...

Meanwhile, I am allegedly preparing for the Studio Crawl this weekend. Some 35 of us open up our studios to the public for touring, kind of like a parade of homes deal. Some artists view it as a meet & greet, some see it as a sales opportunity or even just a way to grow one's mailing list. Me, I see it mainly as a yearly pivot point around which to gear my efforts to get my act together somewhat, dig through the painting pile, frame a few things, and most of all, to clean my studio. When it's all over is my favorite time; I get to think about painting for no good reason at all, and it's a wide open proposition.

Stop by and visit if you're in the area. #11 on the list.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Commons Daydreamer

11 x 14 " watercolor

Castagnet was wont to shout "NO MORE PRETTY COLORS! NO MORE PAINTING DUCKS ON THE WATER!" and so when I came across this in my Boston pictures, I couldn't resist. I see what he means, though. Saccharine subjects seem to cause one to fall into a certain approach. Hard to leave simple well enough alone. Never, ever going to paint willow trees again, if I can help it.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Should We Ask For Directions?

14 x 11" Watercolor
14 x 11 Watercolor

Tried to do a few quick pieces using some of the things from Alvaro C's workshop, mainly dry brush technique and rigger lines... Castagnet uses dry brush on his figures' legs to show action and movement, says they're too static otherwise. I think maybe it works better when the figures are at some distance and then it operates like architectural shorthand, but I'm not sure I'm a fan of this in every instance. The long slanty shadows are a also a Castagnet convention, and while I like how they activate the foreground, it does feel like I'm just using somebody else's trademark device. Did have fun with the rigger on the Trainspotting picture, though; felt like all those busy marks on the left helped to balance the main figure pushed to the right edge of the picture. I can hear my mother's voice in my head, though "Why did you paint that? Who is that? What's this about, anyway?" and my answer would be "Dunno." Most of the time I really don't know why something catches my interest. For practice, it really doesn't matter anyway. Both of these scenes were from Boston last summer, the one above is in front of the Public Library, and the other is near the art museum, where the T stop is above ground. What exactly is a trainspotter, anyway?


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Madonna Moderni: Mother of Our Times

13 x 11" mixed media

This will hang at the Spirit Room as part of an exhibit with other artists from FMVA entitled "Playing With Proportions" beginning October 2nd. I have always been fascinated with how artists throughout history have altered human body proportions in order to communicate certain things. For instance, the Egyptians depicted Pharoh as a flat, 2-dimensional being with an extremely stiff gesture, while slaves, animals and other unimportant beings were actually made to look quite realistic. And with Byzantine-style Madonnas (which I have "sampled" here) the whole business of depicting God required certain conventions. No more simple, humble human shepherd boy; instead, while God may be part human, being a god trumps all, and we better not forget who's boss (that, and the fact that the East had overrun Europe....) Instead we get gold "otherworldly" backgrounds, odd elongated body parts, and children look just like adults-- only smaller.

This got me thinking about the proportions of an idea instead of a thing, that our thinking about
some things may have grown oddly out of proportion to what the former thinking had been.

Then, I started thinking about how it is said that today's youth are taking longer and longer to grow up, depending upon the hearth and home of their parents. Adults, but children still. However, NOT just like us. They communicate differently, more quickly, in less depth, and without visual cues, gestures or nuance as we understand it to be.

Perhaps evolution will adapt their body parts to reflect their worship of a new god. Hence, Madonna Moderni.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Cafe Rivoire (Florence)

11 x 14" watercolor

I think this is a picture I took when i was deciding what finishing was needed -- so the actual piece is somewhat different, a wash on the faces, etc. This painting is currently hanging at the Plains Art Museum as part of a preview to the Studio Crawl, an event in which the public is invited to tour the studios of 30 some artists in the Fargo Moorhead area. After my workshop experience last week, I can't get over how many hard edges there are in this! And what, exactly, might be the focal point here?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dog Walker with Briefcase

11 x 8.5" watercolor

Another of my efforts during the Alvaro Castagnet workshop, one he did a bit of "surgery" on during group critique. Apparently he thought my figure was wearing a suit, so he decided to emphasize this by adding a tie and a briefcase, because he thought the idea of a businessman way out in the WI woods to walk his dog was hilarious. Thereafter, he put a businessman in a suit in every painting he did "surgery" on. Although there was one poor student who got swim fins and a snorkel put on her figure, because AC thought it looked like an alien and he should at least convert it to a human in scuba gear.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dillman's Lodge

14 x 11" Watercolor

Hesitant to post this; it was our first plein air effort during the workshop. After being quite enthusiastic about splashing about with the trees, my energy and attention span flagged with moving down the page. Foreground is especially woeful, would probably crop this if it were ever going be framed. It is presented as is, however, in an attempt to be painfully honest and to learn from my mistakes. However, there are some things to feel good about. My goals were 1) to create the feeling of the WI woods, 2) to use no tube greens and to mix very little green, and 3) to practice dry brush technique. I think these things were accomplished well enough.

Maybe one of the most valuable things I am starting to understand is that every effort just cannot be great or even good. To expect or aim for this is to invite paralysis and fear. BAD PAINTINGS MUST BE MADE IN ORDER TO MAKE GOOD ONES. And that's the truth.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Alvaro Castagnet Workshop

11 x 13"

I painted this, but it is a copy of one of Alvaro Castagnet's paintings. Because it was raining out, we stayed in the studio and walked through his process, using one of his paintings. I did not quite complete it, the front guy/ focal point is lacking necessary final detail, but you get the idea. I think of Castagnet as "the Swashbuckler" because he really doesn't screw around, doesn't mince or fuss or get bogged down in detail, even when the scene may be quite complex. Learned a lot of good stuff last week; wonder if/when it might show up in my painting.