A Bevy of Birds

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A Bevy of Birds  –watercolor 22″ x 30

Can you tell I had fun painting this painting?  Like I just couldn’t stop?  Well, why not add just one more itty-bitty thing?  lol.

This is my first large painting since I started working on my Secret Garden series.  What’s funny, is I am pretty sure I will not include this painting in the series.  I initially thought pottery would be a great perch for the birds I wanted to paint, but now that it is completed, I realize the painting has nothing to do with a secret garden and overall, it’s a BIT BUSY!

On the flip side, it’s a fun painting.  All the birds came out “cute” which wasn’t the plan, yet whimsy is my overall take-a-way.  I just couldn’t help it.  Pick one bird?  I  can’t pick, I love them all!  I also played with symbols of good luck which are hidden throughout the painting.  There is a #7, a shamrock, a silver spoon, a robin’s egg, a heart, a wishbone, a red apple and a lady bug.  There’s also a bumble bee and fuzzy caterpillar because why stop there???

bird painting

Yeah,  I think I went a little crazy adding as much as I did.  I should have added a kitchen sink for an extra chuckle.

Ultimately, I think I have a better idea for what to do with this image.  I should isolate the images within the image.

bird cards

See, like this. I made a mock up of note cards.  This allows your eye to take a break and focus on each object.

Like the rest of my life, I think I’m in control and going in the direction I choose.  If I have learned anything in my brief forty-something years, I AM NEVER IN CONTROL.  I just enjoy the detours and try getting back on the course I’ve selected.  Who’s to say I know what’s better for me than the universe does? 

I have NO CONTROL over the deadline, but one day I will finish what I set out to do and until then I will have a lot of cool things I encounter along the way.

Like the medium of watercolor.  I  have to laugh and just go with the flow :)

bird card

2nd Set of Secret Garden: Raccoons

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5×7″ watercolor sketch for Secret Garden Series

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This concept was one of the few that significantly changed.  The red door 8×10″ study was the original drawing.  The only thing I liked from it was the raccoon itself.  For the second attempt, I wanted the animals grounded in a more realistic setting. I think I over-compensated and made the entire focus the background.  For the third attempt I will probably crop the image and flip it to a horizontal like this:

crop raccoon

There is a turtle and a black crow that are supposed to be in here, so they will be added to the right.  I don’t like that the raccoon is in the foreground.  They are sneaky animals that like to hide.  So, I also want to set the animal back and hide it in a more garden-like setting.  There is a stained-glass window which will also provide a fun opportunity to add something symbolic into the image… I haven’t worked that out yet, but it will be an opportunity to add a subtle message to the piece.

It’s coming along, the ideas are flowing… It’s just not at the point where I’m happy with the concept yet… I’ll keep plugging away…

2nd Set of Secret Garden: Cats

 

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5×7 inch study for watercolor painting series.

Here is the comparison of the first attempts and my latest adaptation.   As you can see, this one hasn’t changed that much.  The concept is still the same, I’m just trying out different variables…

cats

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It does seem that my sole focus has been on figuring out the setting.  Creating that background.  I like the new layout from the 5×7 drawing, so I will keep it but my next focus will be on really punching up foliage and flowers.  After all, this is supposed to be a secret GARDEN!

Rabbit and Snail

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This rabbit study is one of my favorites.  I think I was able to conjure up a little bit of moodiness and mystery.

This is one of the 8 x 10 inch preliminary drawings for me Secret Garden series.

It’s also a great example of how the image changes each time I draw it.  The bottom drawing was the initial sketch and the top a second rendering.  You get to try different things out yet, improve on the areas you like.

This concept moves forward to the next stage…

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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 :)

 

 

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!!!

Painting People

 

I don’t know about you, but I find painting images of people scary and intimidating.  One wrong stroke and whoever you were trying to represent is instead someone no one can recognize.  It could be the smirk in a smile.  An eye being 1/16″ of an inch off… you name it, it’s hard.

As an artist trying to sell work, here’s another dilemma.  No one wants pictures of your kids, aunts or even your dog!  They are highly personal.  I hate to say it, but with images of people who someone doesn’t know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  There’s a good chance you think you have the most beautiful grandchild in the world.  But that can’t be, because the woman right next to you has the most beautiful grandchild in the world.  You catch my drift?

So in my watercolor class I wanted to address adding people to a painting.  However, I wanted to add the “essence” of people without getting too specific.  Here in RI, we are also very familiar with the beach. So why not do an impressionistic painting of people on the beach?

Before each class, I scour the internet finding more than one way to do a painting technique.  I know how I would do it, but is there another way?  A better way?  I came across this tutorial and fell in love with the technique.  If you are at all interested in painting people, give this a view:

Here’s another thing.  If I have learned anything about painting, it’s that there are tricks to everything.  And I want to know what they are!  When you have 50 people in an image, it would take a month to draw each person to scale like in the diagram above.  The diagram above is how a masterpiece should be created, but a quick watercolor study?  There has to be an easier way…

I found this tutorial and I love its simple concept (click on the image above).

RECTANGLE CARROT

In an impressionistic image, you can create a human by first creating a rectangle for the torso and then making a carrot shape for the legs.  A head of course is round, but either way it works!

In my class, we sketched some quick human figures and then got to painting.  The video tutorial I included above teaches how to create human figures using blue watercolor paint that you drop human skin tones into. So you in essence start with a blue man.  We worked on all spectra of skin color, how to add clothing and how to allow the drops of pigment to bleed together giving you simply the “impression” of a person.  While all of this is happening, the blue paint that you begin with, gets pushed to the exterior of the figure.  Can you see the essence of blue as a halo around the figure?  It makes for a more colorful and in-depth image.

I’m not going to lie, painting people is just as difficult as I thought it would be.  But that’s all the more reason to push through the fear and give it a try.  I’m the teacher, and I learned a lot!  I am going to continue practicing.  and maybe next time, I won’t be so afraid to put a person in my painting (and maybe my pet in hope that no one is noticing ;)

Oh Happy Day

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I am so excited to be done with this painting!  I have no idea why it took so long, but it took the majority of three weeks.

I don’t know… is it bright enough? lol

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I LOVE working large.  Seeing all that color gives me a burst of energy.  I think my favorite part is the leaves, well, close second is the sunflower.

I just got my mulch delivered.  I get so psyched this time of year.  It’s like I get to move from paper and canvas to earth’s canvas.  All the flowers in this painting, I helped bring into this earth. I planted them from seed, weeded, watered, nurtured and then you get to watch their beauty unfold.

Painting and gardening are very much the same thing.  Nurturing something until you can bring its beauty out.

ok. I’m officially done…  I can’t wait to start again!

Putting off the Inevitable

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Are there any other potters out there that truly despise glazing?

I let the rack pile up with bisque-fired pots, until I can no longer ignore them (like there might be an avalanche!).

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I usually wheel throw 6 pots at a time and then hand-build them into something more interesting. Next I take them home from the pottery studio and I under-glaze them. Under-glazes are very much like acrylic paints.  you can mix the pigments up and get pretty much what you were expecting.   Red + yellow= orange underglaze.  They go on while your pottery is still wet or the term greenware which means it has not been fired at all.

Glazes go on after the pieces have been fired once, which is called a bisque-firing.   Glazes are nothing like paints.  They’re more like chemistry experiments.  You cannot take a red glaze and a yellow glaze and expect them to make orange.  Each glaze is made from natural mineral compounds that do their own thing in a fire and each have different chemical reactions when combined.  A red glaze plus a yellow glaze could wind up creating a white/purple/brown reaction which is nothing close to a color wheel orange.  What I’m getting at is that all my knowledge as a painter is completely useless as a potter.  There are all different rules to the game and so much to experiment with and then hope to memorize for future use.

In a nut-shell, pottery glazes are highly unpredictable.  You either go with the flow and accept the good experiments with the happy little accidents or you fight to the death for control over the wild beast that usually winds up biting you in the rear and dragging you out into the forest (or the dumpster!).  I would be the latter.  I’m a fighter.  I’m always trying to figure out how to ignore all the knowledge that has come before me and try to do it differently  .I use under-glazes because I can control the colors I want to see, I use regular glazes like grout – filling in all the crevices with glaze and then wiping the rest off.    The inside of my pots is where I take the most risk.  I will mix 2-3 glazes and let them run and drip however they want.  This way each pot has highly controlled areas and an area or two left for some magic.

I’ve tamed the beast enough to occasionally get bitten, but mostly, I stay out of the forest of no return.  Crazy-fighter actually works for me.  For the most part I don’t have to dump too many utter-fails and I have created a unique style.  My own method-to my-madness you might say.

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Either way, glazing day still makes me flinch.  It’s do or die time.  For all my hard work, it is the one step which will make or break the pottery piece.  That can feel like a lot of pressure.

But, in order to succeed, you have to play the game.  So, I play.  I take the gamble and hope for some cool finished products. Plus, who doesn’t want to slay fantastical beasts?