Peonies from My Garden

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Peonies From My Garden  by Mary Ercoli Walsh -watercolor 16×20″ 140 lb cold press paper

I’m not sure which I enjoy more – putzing around outdoors gardening, cutting and arranging the flowers I’ve grown, photographing them or sitting down to paint them.  Hmm… I guess the answer is ALL.  I enjoy the entire process, every single minute of it.

Below is the progression of this painting.  Something to note is that I usual work one area at a time,  my paper is usually white except for each new addition.  With this painting I blocked out the lightest shades of all of the colors and then went back to darken each place that needed it. The technique is called watercolor glazing.

 

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I know the focus is the giant flower blooms, but my favorite part of the painting is the bananas and their shadows.  Funny, I debated even allowing them to stay in my composition, but I am glad I did. The shadows are just so fun and interesting.

Like a true child, as soon as I hit the half-way mark of a painting, I am already mentally thinking about what I want to paint next.  It’s almost like I am frustrated with how slow my hands can work because my mind is so much faster.  Luckily, I’m a grown-up and I’ve learned the importance of finishing what I’ve started and staying the course. However, the day a painting is finished I am so excited…it means I get to START all over again!!!

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

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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.

 

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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:

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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:

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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 :)

My new painting called “Close to Home”

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Let me show the progression of this painting before I start talking about it.

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I have this terrible affliction called insatiable stimulationWhat is this you ask?  

OK. I made this up but let me tell you the symptoms:  If my surroundings are not well-lit, sunny, happy, colorful and changing every 2-3 months I get agitated, depressed, restless and I want to physically move to a new home.  More poor husband.  Can you imagine your wife asking to move every 2-3 months?  He has learned to nod, smile and pretend he’s listening. I know he thinks I’m crazy and yet he still sticks around -God Bless em’.

So, it’s probably not realistic to move every 2 months.  I have had to create coping mechanisms to trick my system into thinking it’s in new surroundings without actually moving.  What I do is I gut my living room.  I empty it of everything and then I refill the room with whatever I own in a very different way.  For instance, this was my fireplace mantle at Christmas and this is what it looks like in January…

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I change the pillows, blankets, nick-knacks, table.  Everything.  And for about two months I lose that itch for new surroundings.

I tell you this long winded-story because it is the muse for my new painting.

I feel like I have kind-of run out of inspiration for a new room given my same-old tricks.  So I said to myself, “You’re an artist.  Create a new painting to give you inspiration for a new room”.  Duh, I can actually do this!

Now this new painting is a bit weird I know.  It’s incredibly bright.  A bit naive. And a bit wonky – (In a nutshell it’s me!). I had a hankering to cut paper like the artist Eric Carle of The Very Hungry Caterpillar child’s book.  Cutting paper is very physical and in reality it is carving away at negative space instead of creating a positive image.  Paper arranging allows you to move your composition around so that you can work on the spaces in-between images and make sure those spaces are just as interesting as your true subject matter.  Now when I say it’s me, what I mean is that it is incredibly personal.  I live in a little yellow house, the 4 birds represent my family unit, I am an avid gardener and environmental advocate, the two people represent the long hikes I take with my daughter and dead center is our lovely kitty-cat Willow.

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After painting all of the paper cut-outs, I truly had no idea what I wanted for the back-ground.  I sat with it for about a week and then I took a deep breath and decided to start with a grayscale under-painting.  My idea was to paint color over the under-painting but the black and white had so much energy to it I stopped.  It sort of reminds me of when the Wizard of Oz moves from B&W to color.  That is the most magical part of the movie. So I kept it black and white.  About 6 layers of varnish later and it’s one cohesive unit.

The painting is large. It’s 48 inches across.  It will be the focal point of my room.  But not until I become stir-crazy sometime in March.  I am content with my current living space, so I better not push it -LOL.

When that day comes, I will post a picture :)

 

Alphabet Eww…

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For some time now, I have wanted to create “alphabet soup” bowls.  You take alphabet pasta and push it into the clay.  After firing in the kiln, the pasta incinerates leaving its imprint behind.

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I didn’t have time to paint these the other day, so I spritzed them with water and covered them in plastic to prevent them from over-drying.  Well…. let’s just say they were the opposite of over dry ;)  I was bummed.  The pasta absorbed the water, swelled up and molded.   YUCK!!!  Would it still work?  Were they ruined?

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Apparently, the answer is NO.  They worked out just fine …whew!  I’ll keep you posted on how they turn out.

Other than that, I have been on a BOWL-BONANZA.  In March my pottery studio will be hosting “SOUP’S ON” to benefit refugees just settling into Rhode Island.  Last year we raised money for a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon. This year we are focusing local. It’s pretty cool when you dig in and find ways to actual help the causes you believe in.

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These came out a while ago.  Half-wheel thrown/half slab.  My teacher is calling my style thrown and altered.  That seems about right :)

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Remember my experiment with kid foam?  I made my own stamp and wanted to see how it would look in clay?

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Well, it worked.  It needs some tweaking.  When I try making a stamp again,  I will need to really think about positive vs. negative space.  You know, what areas do I want raised and what  areas recessed?   hmmm…this definitely entails thinking.

Yesterday I threw the largest bowls I have ever thrown – EVER!!! (like family popcorn size!)  Did I take a picture?  Of course not!  But trust me, they were YUUUUGE!  Throwing so many bowls at once has really improved my game.  Something clicked yesterday like it hasn’t clicked in 2 years.  You may start to see some improvements on my technical side – Oh, one can hope!  I’m going to keep at it. I’m still addicted to this muddy stuff –mold and all!

I LOVE LOCAL

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We recently invested in new countertops for the kitchen.  The old ones were a pretty fugly old formica.  I like classy.  I like pretty.  But I also like fun.

I decided for the counter barstools that we’d create something that celebrates everything we love about South County Rhode Island.

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I went with the National Public Seating stools.  Reason being – they are cheap and indestructible.  They are so well designed.  You can adjust the bottom height and back rest height.  They are metal which I am always a big fan of.  Let’s see my kids and husband break these!  Do you remember them from high school science lab?

Next I let my kids have at them.  I gave them a range of 4 colors for each stool.  The blue stool has 4 different blues, the red stool has 4 different reds…ect.

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They were pretty cool in themselves…. but not personal enough.

Next I we went through town and hit all our favorite stops.  Surf shops, diners, towns, bars, stores…we hunted for all the “local stickers we could find.  I next bought a 100 sticker pack of skateboard stickers…

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The back rests are what the finished project should look like – more local stickers than skater stickers.  The seats only have skateboard stickers because we have more collecting to do.  But that will be the fun part.  As we go to more great places, we will add on more stickers.  I love them so far.  It’s like a bright, happy piece of graffiti right in my kitchen.

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I even let the kids decorate the mailbox ;)

POWER TO MY POTTERY PEEPS

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I just love when I walk into pottery class and there are some of my pieces fresh out of the kiln.  It’s always like Christmas, every time!

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I made these two crocks by throwing the bottoms on the pottery wheel and hand-building the top rims.  It’s becoming my style to have a little of both techniques in each piece.  I use wooden textile stamps from Pakistan and Afghanistan to embellish the hand-built areas.  I also purchased some bright cone 5 glazes which I am finally having success with.

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Believe it or not, I have been taking pottery classes for over a year and I only learned how to make a lid two weeks ago.  You’ll probably find that my next 20 pieces will have lids now until I learn another skill!  I hand-built a Dahlia flower and glued in a glass cabachon to give it a little sparkle.

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Tweet. Tweet. Another strange piece to add to my collection! I had made this pretty little canister with a lid, but couldn’t figure out what to do with it….hmm stick a giant bird on top? Of course, it makes perfect sense.  My daughter now wants one with a giant platypus on top…stranger things have happened!

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In this photo there are two bowls and a vase I embellished with embroidery.

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They have a ton of grooves and patterns.  These were not out of the kiln yet. Hopefully next week I can add glazes to them like grout and fill in all of the grooves.  Right now they simply have a underglaze painted on them.  It will give the finished pieces contrast.

I also got the clay head with the glasses fired this week.  I haven’t been able to make up my mind on what I want for his body, so he’s floating around in the studio for the time being.

That’s all I got for pottery show n’ tell this week.  I’m feeling really good lately, like I’ve mastered Level 1 and can move on to more challenging work.  I’m throwing with larger mounds of clay too.

  I never imagined I would have made my way to ceramics. I’m so glad it found me.  I tell you.  I just love it .  It’s always my favorite day of the week!

http://www.becreativemary.com

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STILL FRAMING UP THE WAZOO!

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I am finally getting to the bottom of my picture framing pile.  My first 365 Art Show is May 4th, so I’m in good shape.  I don’t think I’d ever do a 365 again, simply on the principle of what one must do with all the work after!

The photo above is of  a large grouping of miniature water colors I framed in super happy mini-frames.  If you click on the photo, you can see them close up.  Just looking at them makes me yearn to get back to painting!

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I also spent a bit of time sanding old  and new picture frames to look weathered.  I love the old country farm-house look.  I think it pairs with my bright-colored paintings quite well. Here’s the finished product:

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Here’s another bunch of paintings I framed… a bit more modern…

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I have a wedding to go to in NY this evening, so my next challenge is to cram as many of these framed works as I can into my car and get them to The Framing Gallery.

I’ll be sad to see them go, they’ve brightened my day during these cold months.  It’s my hope they will find their way to other people’s homes and bring the same joy.

Plus, I need to free up my space so I can get back to being CREATIVE!!!

Have a great weekend everyone!

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Day 319 – PATTERN HILL Completed

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Pattern Hill  30″ x 36″ gouache painting on 140 LB Cold Press paper.

What a fun painting! Well, I had fun painting it for what it’s worth!  It has all my favorite components:

Color, pattern and I was even able to sneak in some of my hand-made stamps.

Did I mention color?

I love the movement created by the curvy black and white fence.  I like the herringbone pattern sliding down the hill.  I love the way the sky just says hallelujah gosh darn it! I just want to put on some running shoes and take to the road like Forrest Gump!

Well, that’s sort of it.  Quite plainly.

This painting makes me feel happy and energetic and don’t we all need a little of that?

Happy Friday everybody!

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