Squirrel and Peacock

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Here are the last two initial Secret Garden studies.

These two allowed me to work out some ideas, but ultimately, they did not make the cut.  In my latest sketches, the peacock got a really cool building behind it and the squirrel got paired with a rooster in a completely different scenario.

Ultimately, I keep asking the question, would I hang this on my own wall?  Then I go about answering it.  Apparently I am more of an illustrator than traditional art maker . Over and over again I find myself feeling the pictures are not complete because the don’t tell enough of a story.  When I get to my final renderings, I want the viewer to have to look around and wonder.  That will be when they feel right to me.

As I am finishing up the new sketches, I am answering my own questions.  These initial ideas were a wonderful stepping stone to get me to some stronger compositions.

I’ll share my new sketches tomorrow!

Secret Garden Series – Cat and Fowl

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8 x 10″ watercolor study.

Here is a great example of how an image evolves if you continue to draw and sketch it. Below is my first drawing:

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After drawing this initial study, I felt like I wanted a more tight/ close-up composition.

Recently, I just started my third attempt at this concept which is already completely different.  I chose a different building facade, a different cat laying in a different position and different flowers.  If something has never existed before, you need to look at it in many different ways to finally know what it is you want.  It’s like an architect.  They have to be able to visualize an arch, dome, cube and cone attached in all sorts of ways, well before they break ground on a building.  However, they get to use computers. I’m using a fairly archaic mind ;)

Overall, I like the subject matter.  So the concept will go forward.  I may add fabric into the layout as well as symbols and secrets.

 continuing on …

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The Great Horned Owl

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Here is my first study. It’s of a Great Horned Owl. If you’re a nature lover and you’ve ever seen one, you’d know they are beautiful, graceful and quiet. Their eyes pierce right through you.

In yesterday’s blog post, I explained that before I start on my larger more serious paintings, I am going to create some little 8×10″ studies in order to work out the ideas I have rolling around in my head. This series will encompass all the things I love. I am choosing the animals I come in contact with here in New England. As fascinating and exotic as lions and tigers can be, they do not impact me the same way the small creatures in my local habitat do. One day I was riding my bike through the woods when an owl swooped down in front of me. I will never forget how spiritual this quiet interaction with a piece of nature impacted me. It was just the two of us staring at one another.

This painting is so little I cant fit it all in, but let me tell you the ideas I have for it. The building is based on some of the funky Victorians found in Providence, RI. I want to add a chandelier because it’s my fantasy garden, and of course I would have chandeliers! I chose a smooth green snake because their color is fabulous. I grow the Chinese lantern pods and somehow I felt them fitting here. It gives me an autumn-y vibe. There will also be some insects when the painting gets large enough to fit them in. I plan on adding a praying mantis. My neighbor raises them so I live with tons of them in my yard. I’m adding a green monarch butterfly chrysalis to represent metamorphosis. Plus, living by the ocean, the monarchs visit in droves during the fall as part of their migration to Mexico. Every autumn I look forward to their arrival. And here’s another fun feature I am planning. What looks like stars in the sky are really going to be fireflies. Sadly, I get very few in my yard these days, but this is my fantasy garden, so they will be welcome in great numbers!

The last thing I will discuss is my culmination of ideas. For so many years, I have painted what I see such as fruit, a beautiful flower bouquet, landscapes of places I’ve traveled. This is my first foray into conjuring images from my imagination. I mention this because how do you take a thought and translate it into 2-D? When you dream are you focusing on what people are wearing? what the sun angle is? What is in the background? For me – the answer is no! So taking an idea and putting it on paper takes baby steps. What is the duck standing on? What would gravity do to a flower? How about shadows? First, I have to figure out how to draw an owl before I can place something in front of it or behind it.

So that’s what I’m doing. Now I could have simply created thumbnail sketches. Fill sketchbook pages and work it out there. But I liked the idea of these tiny little paintings. I liked the idea of finishing each one even if I changed my idea on the concept half way through it. I’m working out color and composition. Plus new ideas spring up spontaneously during the process. When you draw an object over and over again, the lines become intimate. It gets easier the next time. It gets easier to manipulate the object. I think they call this muscle memory. It’s good stuff. so I’m giving myself permission to slow it down, think, pay attention and change my mind simultaneously.

We shall see where it takes me. Here’s to step one.

Reflections in Painting

reflection lesson b

I found this lovely painting on  the internet and thought it a perfect lesson in painting water reflection.  You get two opportunities to practice water reflection.  One in the background and one in the foreground. So I made a tutorial of how to tackle this painting.

reflection lesson

As usual, my watercolor class nailed it.  I throw all sorts of things at them and they not only execute the concept, but they deliver it in their own beautiful way.  Here were some of the interpretations of the lesson:

CLASS PHOTOS

Ok. You’re turn. Now you give it a try!

Into the Woods

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I am constantly hunting on Pinterest for lesson ideas for both my watercolor and acrylic paint classes. I found this lovely little watercolor of the woods and thought boy is this a great way to show students how to paint a subject matter that is visually chaotic.  When looking at the woods, I think most of us would not know where to begin.  Now I want to give credit to this artist, but the website is not in English. So this is what I found:

​[남일 풍경수채화 시범작품]

숲길 – 수채화 과정.

 watercolor on Arches (rough)

by NAMIL

* 그림과 영상이 마음에 드시면… 공감, 댓글 남겨주세요~

시청해주셔서 감사합니다~

This was a blog and there was a wonderful  progression showing how the artist tackled the subject matter.

trees woodsb

Guess what?  This progression works!  Some ideas to keep in mind are to paint the background lighter and the foreground deeper in color and have less detail in objects that are supposed to be far away and more detail in the objects closest to the viewer.

Here were two paintings I did while teaching the class:

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Thank you to Namil.  His demo made it possible to teach a whole class of students how to paint the woods.

Garden of Grackles

__2019-05-08 09.31.15bGarden of Grackles -watercolor 18″ x 24″

This painting is very special to me.

I have been blogging about my art journey for almost 8 years now.  Can you imagine that?  -8 years.  In that time I have complained A LOT. Sorry about that :)  My almost decade frustration has been not knowing what my “message” as an artist would be.

First, as an artist,  I had to figure out what art medium was best suited to me and which best expressed my talent. Second, what style felt right?  abstract? illustration? graphic design? botanicals? landscapes? still lives?  and Thirdly, most importantly, what is my message as an artist?

Eight years later I can safely and proudly say I am an experiential learner. Meaning, no one could ever tell me me the answer, I had to learn the hard way.  I had to learn by trying EVERYTHING and I’m sure I will keep exploring.  No one could say “Hey, you seem to shine when you do xyz” or “You really should stick to xyz subject matter”. I have painted with acrylics, gouache and watercolor. I have tried printmaking, pastels and mixed media.  I have painted still lives, landscapes, abstracts and everything in between.

I really struggled with my message as an artist.  Some artists don’t care. They are just happy doing what they’re doing.  But inside me all the existential questions lie.  Why was I born?  Why am I on the planet earth? What is the point of  being alive and dying?  Is there a point? What will I do with the life I have been given?  I have gifts how will I use them?  and most importantly, what can I give back to the world?  

As an artist I have always taken this last question to heart.  I was not born with a scientific brain to cure diseases.  I wasn’t born to be a world leader that will guide future generations. I wasn’t born with a medical mindset to nurture and heal others.  I was born with a particular gift of creating images.  I haven’t really seen a society who value’s this gift.  Not like they value notoriety, wealth and technology.  How do you answer the question of giving to your community, your planet and the world at large as an individual?  As a human, I can care about the earth, be politically active, raise responsible children, pay my taxes and do no harm.  But a give to the world by making images?  I’ve struggled for years with the guilt of feeling frivolous, redundant, obscure, voiceless and insincere.

With age comes reason.  Again it comes back to experiential learning.  I had to experience and search and search…. and continue searching.  And the answer is that it was always with me all along.  The school of hard knocks. I would not accept any other way than to search, knock on hundreds of doors, open hundreds of doors and close a hundred doors. I can say I’ve tried on one hundred hats and I think I’m at the point of finding one that fits.

This is a bit long-winded, I know, but now I’ll get to why this painting is special to me. It has taken 8 years of trying everything else to be clear in what is special to me.  Artists that gleam the attention of the world’s mainstream express their strong feelings about death, suicide, mental illness, sexual identity, war, human rights, activism, ant-capitalism, tribalism…. all sorts of -isms. I’ve tried them all, but I never felt true to myself.  Again, like I was wearing someone else’s hat.

My message is a lot quieter. It’s really quiet actually.  My loves are very simple and I can’t change that.  Lord knows I’ve tried.  I love my gardens, the critters that crawl within them, my bird-feeder, staring out the window, smelling nature, feeling it underneath my feet and I am obsessed with recreating it in COLOR.

This painting is special because I am owning this quiet little message.  It may not be loud, it may not be flashy and it may not get a ton of social media hits, but it’s still a message.  It’s a message to my tribe.  My tribe of flora, fauna and everyday backyard enthusiasts.  I for several years, have tried to run as far away as I could from this concept.  But  I have to own that inwardly, I am very quiet. I’m a bit of a dork actually.  I don’t mind sitting in my driveway for hours watching squirrels and listening to the birds.  And they don’t have to be fancy animals either. Blackbirds, robins, cardinals and seagulls, insects, woodchucks, skunks and bunnies – they do it for me.

Forever, I have painted what I see ( ie. a gorgeous bouquet from my garden or a beautiful scene from a vacation). This painting above is one of the first explorations from my imagination.  I simply thought about all the things I love and assembled them into a composition that does not exist anywhere other than my mind. That is very scary.  I think it’s why I haven’t really done it before.  I can’t blame the image on the circumstances or the environ. It’s on me.  I am telling the world what I love and it’s incredibly personal.  There’s the fear of what if people don’t like what they see?  But again I think that age and time give you the confidence to care not. There is so much freedom in not caring.

I made a painting and  “I”  love it because it has all the things special to me within it.  It’s colorful and happy and strong and unapologetic – in a very quiet way.

Bingo. That’s the direction I need to move in.

I’m feeling very comfortable in this hat.

LOL. So now I’ll get off my soapbox and show you the progression of the painting and some of my favorite parts:

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Thank you so much for being on this journey with me :)

 

 

Teaching Watercolor – Painting Glass

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Painting the image of glass is something beginning painters avoid.

Why would you want to avoid painting glass? Hmm, let’s see. First you need to capture the background which is showing through the glass. Next, you have stems and leaves that show through. Third there is refraction going on, so the stems might appear bent or not where you expect them. Next you need to capture liquid. Is the glass half-full or empty? Finally, you need to paint the glass itself and the reflections that bounce off of it.

So yes.  There is quite a bit involved.

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I came to watercolor class with everything else painted and ready to go.  I also sketched in some very simple guide-lines.

vase

The two glass bottles in this painting were done using two different techniques.  why?  So I could show my class there are two ways to tackle the problem.  I wouldn’t normally do this in a painting, but it does help to show.  The left bottle was done with dry-glazing techniques. Meaning I used many layers of light watercolor wash.  You use very little water so as to have more control.   The bottle to the right was painted using the wet-on-wet technique.  I painted the entire bottle with clear water and then dropped paint into the water which makes it spread where ever there is water.  The glazing technique gives you a more precise look and the wet-on-wet is generally softer and more flowing.

Now I’ll tell you the secret to painting glass in watercolor no matter which technique you use.

glass

There is no white paint in watercolor.  You use the white of the paper.  So if you want a white area, don’t put any paint there.  However, there is another technique you can use to create white areas.  The technique is called lifting.  Lifting is when you take a clean paintbrush, dip it in water, take the access water off so it is damp and then you rub the paint away in a particular area.  Watercolor is not permanent.  You can’t dry it and it’s there forever.  In some ways that’s bad, but in some ways it’s good.  By simply wetting your painting you can pull up or “lift” the paint off the paper.  Now look at the photo above.  See all the different places where I am simulating reflection by creating light areas.  I rubbed, scrubbed and wet those areas until the paint lifted.

The rest is observation and practice, which for most of us takes a life-time.  With that said, there’s no time like the present.  Let’s get practicing!

Back to My Roots

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From From My Garden,  16″x20″ watercolor 140 lb cold press paper

I just realized I have been posting the every-day-progression of this painting on Instagram, but never in my blog!

My blog is more like my journal or diary.  Maybe even my confessional? It is where I divulge my inner most thoughts, which many times can come off as self-deprecating  or even once in a while a bit witty and informative. I have all of those traits within me. I always think it’s best to be brutally honest because that is what is most sincere to others.  To see that we are all not perfect.  We all have struggles important to us even if they may not necessarily be important to others. We have ups, but we also have downs.

With that said, I have had an epiphany.  Did anyone else realize I have been working on abstracts in acrylic for over 6 years?  Personally, it’s been a really rough ride. I haven’t shown most of the paintings because I never felt like I could create the vision I had in my head.  Over and over again I would start a painting and feel defeated mid-way through. For six whole years. Day after day. I have probably 20 unfinished paintings in my basement.  It has left me truly wanting to quit art-making altogether.

But maybe it wasn’t that I needed to quit making art. Maybe it’s that I needed to change my art practice.

Before six years ago, I was a watercolor still-life painter.  That’s where I started. That’s what was intuitive to me.  I have traveled on a path of denying this. Trying everything else in my wake and de-valuing what came natural to me.  I blame this on being an experiential learner. Some of us won’t believe the stove is hot until we actually touch it. No matter who tells us otherwise.

I’ve had a six year stove-touching :)

I had to experience everything else I could do to know thyself.  Some think that’s why we are on this planet.  We didn’t come here to do what we already know, we came here to experience.

Well.  I am at the point that I am ready to value what comes natural to me.  I LOVE COLOR PERIOD and I really know my way around a watercolor box.

Since this awakening, which was about a month ago, I have been painting up a storm.  These watercolors are just flowing right through me. As soon as I’m done there isn’t ten minutes before I’m starting another. It feels great.  Like I’ve come home.

The painting in this blog is one of the first larger ones.  I’m working on another larger painting as we speak and then I’m also working on little 11×14 size paintings for more “fun/exploration”.  The little ones are my permission to not take myself so seriously.  That feels good too.

I am trying really hard not to look backwards and ask the question what do I have to show for the past several years?  I have to look forward and ask what will come out of me next? The answer I hope -amazingly bright colored pretty things :)

Now on to the ART-part of our programming.  I always think it’s fun to look at the progression of a painting. So here it goes:

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 I have questioned myself. Why florals? Ugh, still lives? How boring. Neither nature nor still-lives will ever lead you to something unique. Maybe I’m supposed to do or be something else? Would something else make me better, more well-known, more deep and introspective? Happier? Well I’ve spent some time looking for the answer to these neurotic questions .

After six long years, this is what I’ve learned. I didn’t choose floral watercolors. They chose me. A soprano is never going to achieve singing like an alto. They are a soprano. Singing like a soprano will light up their world. Meaning : Honor your skill set. Honor your strengths.

Surrender.

I have surrendered. So now let’s see where it takes me…

Watercolor Techniques: Glazing

Glazing 101 (9)b

For weeks and weeks I have been drilling my students “More water! More water!  Drop the paint into the water and let it ooze, swirl and flow….”   

Well this project is the complete opposite of that.

 

glazing

In order to get those thin washes of color, you have to work very quickly and with very little water in order to not disturb the layer of paint below it.

So, I called this class the “STICK IT TO MARY CLASS”.  Because everyone would not have to hear my water nagging and they could possibly provide proof that you could create a watercolor painting not using the wet-on-wet painting method.  I so wanted to prove my class wrong!

Guess what?  Doing a painting fairly dry with quick layering strokes or glazing – works (however,  I am not admitting that to my students!).

So here is how I laid out this project:

glazing 101b

First you lay-out a very loose sketch. Pretty much, make shapes for where different colors or subject-matter will be.

Second is color-blocking. This very much reminds me of old fashioned paint-by-numbers.   You block your entire image with very simple, very light areas of color. For instance, the yellow flower has shadows in it, but for color-blocking purposes you would simply add a light shade of yellow.  All those details will be GLAZED in later. Another example of this is the splotch of light purple in the upper left quadrant. It is flat and light.  It marks the space where I will later add purple painted details.

Third, you begin to move around the painting adding quick layers of color.  For me, I like to move around and apply the darkest shadows.  The color-blocking step already established my lights.  So, if I then add the darkest darks, I can easily establish the medium tones later.  In the top right corner in the left-hand picture you can see a block of orange.  In the right-hand photo, you can see how I added the shadows between the flower petals to make that part of the image come alive. It went from orange splotch to orange flower petals.

Pretty much, you keep adding layer upon layer, detail upon detail, until you feel like the image is complete in your eyes.

Here’s another example:

glazing 101 c

Can you see how the left-side image looks flat, blocked and like a paint-by number? Do you see how much dimension you can create by adding more and more layers of color?

Here are some of my students. They are at the color-blocking paint-by-number-looking stage…

Glazing students

I can’t wait to see how their paintings come out.

I hate to admit this, but as soon as our classes were over, I rushed home to finish my demos.  I felt like a kid in a candy store.  I just couldn’t resist adding more and more layers.  I didn’t get up from my seat until I had finished both paintings.  Secretly, I found this glazing method extremely addicting :)

In a nutshell, this is not how I normally paint.  I like to use tons of water on my paper so that I get chemistry experiments of paint combining in strange watery ways.  However, I am TOTALLY going to incorporate more of this glazing into my work.  I think the quick movement provided me amazing opportunities to add way more colors than I ever would have, the normal way I paint.  I will definitely be chasing this freedom in future paintings.

In fact, I’ve just started another painting today :)

Creating My Pottery Shadow Boxes

It’s been a long time since I reported on my pottery.

Since the new year, I have been working on more of the driftwood/cigar box assemblages I have created in the past. I have tons of little pottery pieces all over the place! In these images, the pottery has not been fired or glazed nor have I painted or included any of my beach finds yet.

Nevertheless, here are some photos to show the beginning stages…

I am obsessed with folk art. You can clearly see it’s influence.

I probably have 30 of these installations at various stages of completion. I will keep reporting on their progress. I like to work on things in quantity as opposed to starting one piece and finishing it before I move on. I can be more efficient this way even if it looks completely hectic :)

So there it goes. I’m plugging away at a ton of stuff. I am wheel-throwing a bunch of pitchers, mugs and bowls as well, but I forgot to take pictures of those :)

Nothing is complete. Everything needs something done to it. Some months are like that. Not days. Not weeks. Months!!!