I often ask my students what subject matter they would like to paint and living in Rhode Island, of course the subject of ocean came up.
Here is the tutorial I created on the subject. The key to painting waves is to think of how the sun is hitting each and every wave. There are dark areas and there are light areas.
I had to paint this painting twice for class. Both came out a bit different. One is more pastel and detailed and the other was created with a larger brush and bolder color. If I painted it three more times, I could paint it three more different ways!
This in there lies the key to finding one’s own artistic style. I highly recommend trying the same subject matter multiple times. As you become intimate with every nuance of an image, it becomes easier to manipulate. You can make changes based on the insight you’ve gained.
The more you truly understand, the stronger your artistic muscle.
One of the final projects of my watercolor class I teach was home portraits.
I love doing home portraits because in looking back, they become little time capsules.
For instance, here is the portrait I did of the same house seven years ago:
We had just moved in, the house was green, my kids were 5&7 yrs, we had our first cat Pina still with us and I had decided to do a little folk painting capturing all of the kid’s activities.
Seven years later, I painted the house the color I wanted, created the gardens I envisioned, my kids are now teens, our new cat is Willow. Times have changed. My plan is to keep the old paintings behind the new paintings in the frame. This way seven years from now I can look back and reflect again. I wish I had done a painting of my first house ten years before that, but I hadn’t thought of it!
I can’t talk about my home without instantly referring to my gardens. My yard is small, the house is –a cape. Not much out of the ordinary there. But my gardens are where I feel I have made my mark. It’s where I’ve turned my house into a home.
If your a gardener, you can’t help but take photos. There’s so much going on in the garden! It’s almost like I need to look at it through photographs in order to process it all. I also think that gardening is the largest inspiration in my artwork because it makes such an impact on my life. I absolutely love organic lines as well as the twists, turns and wiggles. Gardens are like puzzles of perfect chaos.
So here is my inspiration for 2019. It has been a fantastic year for flowers. I have moved every plant in my yard at least three times, but I am starting to feel like everything is now in it’s place.
Back I go – into my gardens.
In my acrylic painting class, I created a lesson on how to paint a sunflower.
I had two focuses. The first was to encourage the painters to use large paint brushes and the second was to get the painters comfortable with their paintings being UGLY in the first few stages.
Using larger paintbrushes forces the painter to not be able to paint in the details. In turn, the artist gets a looser more impressionistic painting. With the cameras we all own, it’s my opinion that us painters need to offer a different perspective than complete realism.
Next, was allowing the painting to be ugly. I feel like so many beginning painters try as hard as they can to tackle the subject matter in one layer, as best they can, for fear of judgement on how ugly the painting might be. The ego needs practice allowing for a painting to look strange and in bad colors. However, all those ugly layers create a wonderful foundation, so my mission was to get them to let the painting be. This is why I called this lesson the yellow lollipop. When their paintings were finished, I said remember the ugly yellow lollipop?
This was my tutorial and the sunflower starts off looking like a yellow lollipop. As the steps progress, artists use a negative painting technique to create the flower petals. This means instead of painting each petal with yellow paint, they simply have a large section of yellow on the canvas to which dark green is painted to create where the flower petals would be. Look in the tutorial. The sunflower looks like a lollipop until the green background color begins to define the petals.
I always do a complete painting at home and then I do the painting again in the class with the students. Doing the painting before my class allows me to jot down any ideas or observations that come up which I think makes for a better teacher. Doing the first painting before class also allows me to make the tutorial of the stages of a painting. I know when I started out, I loved looking at painting stages. It helped me understand the process.
The left painting was the first painting and the right was during class. There is something about doing a painting the second time that I love. It’s like, as an artist, you get to synthesize all your discoveries and reapply them differently. It’s the same subject matter but totally a different experience. I always wind up loving the second painting more. I’ts like catharsis. I got a do-over and made the changes I wanted to see.
I say it over and over again to my students. I tell them go home and try it again. Not many do. But occasionally a student will take me up on it and the results are phenomenal.
As we speak, my sunflowers are a mere 3 feet. It won’t be for another month until I can start painting my own sunflowers :)