Secret Garden Series -#2 OWL

18 x 24″ watercolor – Secret Garden Owl

My second painting is complete. I don’t know if it’s the distraction of the pandemic, but it feels like it took forever! I’m very happy with how it turned out. I feel like it conjures up the feeling of a secret garden.

Here are a list of objects to find within my secret garden painting:

A Dharma wheel, a Mayan temple, a chrysalis, an evil eye, a praying mantis, a potion bottle, the queen of clubs, fire flies, a fiddle head fern, matches, and a ladder.

Also, I am adding a Latin quote in each painting. This painting says “ALIS VOLAT PROPRIIS” which means “She flies with her own wings”.

Here were the three little studies I created to come up with ideas and the comparison to the large final painting:

So that’s it. Next I will begin part 3, the rabbit!

A Few Extra Paintings of My Friends

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While digging through my stack, I came across these 3 extra paint studies (5×7″ &  8×10″ watercolors).

I have to walk away and not look at my work for a couple of weeks before I can see the picture as a whole.  Otherwise, I can still see each and every stroke and the changes I wish I could make.  A week or two helps.  It really does.

It is gray here in New England.  I feel like it’s been gray for weeks. I wish some of the technicolor of my watercolors would seep into my everyday surroundings.

That’s the great thing about being an artist.  I have the ability to make the sky a little bluer and the grass a little greener :)

2nd Set of Secret Garden: Birds

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5×7″ watercolor study for Secret Garden Series

This is the final 8th concept.  Birds. Birds. Birds.  My favorite!  At any given moment, I can stare out the window and be brought back to nature.

The challenge for me, is that birds are rather small and generally far apart.  How do you wrap them all into a strong composition? Here are a few attempts, but I have to say I haven’t found a concept I’m truly content with …

birds

Right now I am beginning another concept for birds.  I’m sketching a layout of pottery and then adding birds into the composition.  I’m hoping this is the winning idea.  It will be personal because I adore pottery making.  Now, to figure out how to add the Secret Garden element.  hmm…

 

2nd Set of Secret Garden: Owl & Snake

 

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3rd attempt – 5×7″

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2nd attempt- 5×7″

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1st attempt 8×10″

The Owl concept has not changed too much from it’s original conception.  However, there were some things I wanted to work out.  In the second attempt, I was focusing on enlarging the owl and trying out a different color scheme.  In the third attempt I wanted to see how it would look with old cedar shakes.

Overall, as I go forward, I am going to take this learning curve with me.  I am leaning towards keeping the building monochromatic so as to have the animals and flowers be the things that stand out and I will most likely enlarge the Owl.  Because I was working so small, I didn’t do much foliage, so I will beef that up in the next attempts as well.

As I get larger it is going to be fun to hide things within the painting.  I’m looking forward to that.

…onward and upwards!

 

2nd Set of Secret Garden: Raccoons

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5×7″ watercolor sketch for Secret Garden Series

racoons

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: Rabbits

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3rd  attempt -5×7 drawing for Secret Garden Series

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3rd attempt (5×7″) vs.  2nd attempt (8×10″)

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1st attempt

Here are three different studies of a rabbit for my Secret Garden Series.  I like the rabbit and I like the wall.  The rest can be worked out….  The next rendition of this will be somewhere in between number #2 & #3.  I cropped the image too tightly, so I need to go back to having a bit more space around the rabbit.  Also, it needs more vegetation!

Have You Missed It? I Sure Have!

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It’s been a long time.  Almost 6 months since I worked on my pottery practice.  How did this happen?  Well, in retrospect, I think it’s due to the art classes I was teaching.

Since Thanksgiving, I’ve had two family emergencies that really shook myself and my family to the core.  Things are slowly beginning to balance out, but in those moments, I always tend to have some real moments of clarity. You know, when shit hits the fan you take inventory.  Who am I? What am I doing?  Who’s important? What’s important?  What’s it all for? Why?

In an instant, I could see that there were some things I was doing because I “should” rather than because they align with my life journey.  I really REALLY want to be an artist.  From the bottom of my heart, I am trying to get to that place where it’s not a secret goal or hobby, but where I can make a livelihood from it. And slowly over months, opportunities trickle in that are – in themselves ,wonderful opportunities.  But they  do take me off my path. Excuses like “well, it’s the grown-up thing to do” or “but, the money is good”…  seem so valid.  Even though I have a quiet sadness for what I am not doing.  Long story short, pottery is a part of me – like the air I breathe.  Teaching prevented me from having the time to do pottery.  Which to me, is like not breathing.  I get so much joy from people taking home my pots.  I truly enjoy making them and I truly enjoy putting them into the world.

I’m officially stepping down from teaching painting and starting up pottery this March.  My idea is to make cookie jars or large vessels that resemble the characters that will be in my Secret Garden series.  So, there should be quite a bit of animals, pattern and color involved.  The above photo of silly faces are the stamps I am making now in preparation for March.

I’m looking forward to getting back on track.

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!

2nd Set of Secret Garden : Foxes

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For those of you not following my story, here it is.  As an artist, I decided to take on a year long project.  I’m titling it My Secret Garden Series.  Reason being, I’ve slowly deduced over many months and years that I have a great love of nature, gardening, animals, the mystical, the symbolic, color and fabric design.  How could I wrap them all into one project?  I came up with the concept of a secret garden where nothing has to necessarily be real. I could use my imagination.

For the past decade I have been painting still lives and landscapes based on real life. So this is a big leap for me.  I’m “making stuff up”.  The challenge is that the options are limitless.  I’m staring at a blank piece of paper.  What animals will I choose?  What flowers?  What architecture is in the background? Can I find a way to incorporate patterns?  What’s the story behind the image? 

The answer is I don’t know.  So I am slowing down and taking the time to answer the questions.

I like to paint large.  Generally no smaller than 24 x 36 inches.  This is because with watercolor, it allows each subject some space for me to really play with the water and paint.  You get more of those “happy accidents”.  So another challenge for me is that I am creating small thumbnail paintings.  My first painting attempts were 8×10 inches and now my second attempts are even smaller, 5×7 inches.  I could just do a ton of fast sketches in a sketchbook, but instead, I am taking my time, thinking things through and completing each little painting start to finish.

My thought is that it may be fun to sell them on Etsy when I’m done. The other idea I love is that they are telling a story.  With each attempt, I can see my thoughts and the changes occurring which will eventually lead me to my final paintings.  I’m creating a history.

OK. With all that out of the way, let’s start talking about my new secret garden studies and the changes I have made from the initial studies.  The picture below has my new sketch on the top and the initial sketch down below.

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I had absolutely no idea what to draw initially, so what came out – is what came out.  But after analyzing my original painting I thought to myself Mailboxes?  That isn’t too mysterious or secret-garden like.  I need to change the background.

For my second attempt I was very focused on changing the background.  And so I did.  What I see though, is in focusing so hard on changing that, I  completely forgot about the garden part.  So when I attempt a third round of sketches, I would like to have way more wild-life and vegetation and not so much focus on the “where”.  I feel like I got really “tight” in the second renderings, so I also need to focus in on loosening up my style for the third time around.

I wanted to address my self-critiquing.

  I hear from a lot of people that it makes them feel uncomfortable.  I guess the feeling is that I am being hard on myself and not appreciating the good that has come from my hands?  The word would be self-deprecation.  I just wanted to argue this is not my intention.  In art school we’d start every session over-analyzing each other’s work.  Artists thankfully are not robots, so nothing is perfect.  Considerations about line, composition, color and style are vital to improvement.  If my vase is lop-sided and that’s not on purpose, I’d thank some one for telling me.  Some days you just don’t see it.

Anyways, the reason I am blogging about my own analysis is not to throw a pity-party.  I want to share my thought process.  There are a hundred thoughts.  A hundred considerations.  Each artist comes at art making with different perspectives.  I’m simply trying to push myself harder and further.  You’d expect that from an athlete, so let it be ok for an artist too.  (It’s OK. I’m pretty tough.  I can take it ;)

For the next few days I will post my second attempts.  So stay tuned… Thanks!