Secret Garden Series – #4 PEACOCK

It’s soooo hot!!!!

I’m finding it hard to focus! I told myself I was making a set of 8 paintings about a fantasy garden and here I sit only just completing #4. I’d say I’m crawling… at least that is how I feel. I thought about this for a moment. For the past two weeks, I have slightly dreaded showing up to the canvas. Why is that? The easy answer is that I am a Gemini personality with ADHD tendencies, but a little deeper, I think it might be all the detail. These paintings are so loaded with detail, it’s like painting 17 different paintings within one. Because of this, I don’t get that instant gratification of making serious headway. The painting can look the same for many days. Boo. I like fireworks and race cars!

With this said, in times like this, I refer back to one of my all time favorite films “Field of Dreams”. I whisper to myself “…go the distance” and “If you build it, they will come…” The film was about building a baseball field, but really, the message is about having BLIND faith. Even when you don’t know the outcome, what your doing or why, listen to that little inner voice and JUST DO IT. Boy, That film came out in 1989. That was a while ago. I’m kind of laughing because apparently I have been whispering “go the distance” to my self for like 31 years. When do all of my dreams come to fruition???

Over and Over I am realizing that when these big 18″ x 24″ watercolors are completed, it’s the little vignettes that I love. For instance, my favorite parts of the peacock painting are these:

They don’t feel as overtly planned as the larger composition, yet I could have never created the ease of the animals location without the heavy planning of the larger composition. I’m calling these little vignettes “moments”. So after I finish the 8th painting in this series, I want to move to working at the smaller size of 16″ x 20″, have fewer subject matter and try to create “moments”. I just don’t know why simplicity is so elusive to me!

Here are the smaller 8″x10″ and 5″x7″ watercolor studies up against the large final painting:

I like viewing the evolution. This concept changed a lot, yet you can see small details like a butterfly passing by which made it to the final draft.

I almost forgot! Here are some details. Each of the 8 paintings will have a Latin phrase within it. For this painting, the phrase is “FORTIS FORTUNA ADIUVAT” which translates to “Fortune favors the bold”. I love that. Life’s too short. Be bold man. Be bold! There’s also a bunch of items hidden in the garden. For this painting be on the look-out for: a frog, an Egyptian ankh, a cairn, an infinity symbol, an umbrella, a letter, a monarch, a queen chess piece, a gold finch feather and the number thirteen.

I keep this visual on my computer. Like a kid putting a star sticker on the refrigerator, I get to add another visual to my completion poster. Ahh, that feels good!

Because I’m suffering from a little summer brain-drain, I am going to pause the button on this series. Just for a week or two. I am craving a new painting to put over my fireplace mantle and I have some amazing photographs from my vacation on Block Island that I’d like to play with. I’m going to flip to acrylic paints and canvas which will disorient my brain. I hope the disorientation can act as a small mental vacation. That way I can come back to this series refreshed and ready to start #5.

Amen. Aint no rest for the painting weary!

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???

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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

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 :)

Where Do I Begin?

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I found today’s post title very apropos. I’ve been working on these tiny 5×7 inch watercolor studies for months, but now it’s time to begin the large final paintings. Where do I begin? Also, my last post was March 2nd and since then, we just so happened to have fallen straight into a world pandemic. Where do I begin?

This sh*t is for real.

It begs the question, where do I begin?

I will spare you my personal hardships and trauma. There’s plenty. We all have are stuff…

Nope. my focus will be on distracting people who might just happen to have time now to look at things on their electronic devices.

My message to myself and now to you, is to search everyday for the beauty in the everyday. We all hopefully have windows. We may be removing humans from the landscape, but in doing so, it might just allow us to SEE. See things that are always there that we taken for granted, that we don’t pay attention to. The beauty that is always around us. The smell of the air, the feeling of the breeze, and the nature that surrounds us (even you city dwellers!).

In the last year I have finally put to rest the question of what. What do I want to do? What is my purpose? What do I want to communicate to the world through my art? It’s taken a tear-stained decade to answer the question, but like most amazing insights, they come when you finally stop asking.

I thought the answer so trivial when I received it, that it took me some time to get comfortable in my skin with it. To OWN it.

I love color, flowers, suburban animals and reminding people that all these things are around us if WE REMEMBER TO LOOK. It sounds so cliche I couldn’t accept it, but then as I sat with it, I understood what it meant to be an artist. It’s to elicit the activation of other’s five senses. To wake people up either by being blatantly avant-garde or sometimes through being quiet. I am not the kind of person to paint the Sistine Chapel black to represent my world view, but I do like to paint Happy & Cheery. Reminders that the things I love are right there in your backyard too.

And so I have begun to dive in. I learned from reading the books of one of my favorite artists, Shirley Trevena, to begin your painting with your favorite thing. The reason you wanted to paint the painting in the first place.

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So I started with the goldfinch. I loosely knew where I wanted to go and began to sketch in the other things I wanted to see. The Arches watercolor paper is 22″x 30″. That means there is a lot of space to fill. The theme of this painting series is Secret Garden. The theme of this particular painting is birds. Birds are small though. I wanted to feature birds but not have them lost in the garden. That is when I came up with the idea to add another love of mine, pottery. Perching the birds on vessels allowed them to be seen. Here are some snapshots of different areas of the painting:

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It’s slowly unfolding one day at a time. All things are unfolding one day at a time. Some days I might get a chance to paint. Other days may be devoted to more critical things. I’m not going to beat myself up. I am going too see what each day brings.

Hang in there. Find something personal that brings you joy. Nurture yourself. Enjoy what is already around us.

Breathe.

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: Peacock

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5×7″ study for Secret Garden Series

You simply can’t have an imaginary garden without a peacock. You just can’t!  One of our local farms has peacocks roaming freely.  I can’t help but follow them around. They intrigue me to no end. Gosh darn it, they are exotic looking and so much fun to paint!

Below are two different studies I have completed.  Newest to the left.

peacocks

I like the change of venue for the peacock,  but the Egyptian scarab is just too blatant.  I have started a third series of sketches and wound up changing it entirely.  I do like the blue and white wall painting though. Something like that will resurface in the new one.  That, and I’m adding a Siamese cat. Because let’s face it, I kind of have an Asian animal theme going on, so why not!

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: 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 Draft of Sketches

Today I submit my second draft of sketches for my Secret Garden Series.  I love working large, which is quite an investment of time and resources, so with this project, I have slowed down to take the time to really have a strong idea of a layout before I go big.  Below is a comparison.  The painted images were my first attempt and their size is 8″ x 10″.  My second attempts are the sketches to the left.  Here I have begun to make changes to the initial ideas.  The ones to the left are slightly smaller.  They are 5″x7″ inches.

As you can see, I only kept two images rather the same.  That means I am happy with most of these images.  The other 6 sketches not so much.  They now have different backgrounds and animals switched from one sketch to the next.  I am currently painting these 5×7 sketches and as I do, I am synthesizing and already coming up with changes to the next concepts.  I shall finish them up and then share my findings.

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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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