Secret Garden Series – #3 RABBIT

Secret Garden Series -Rabbit, watercolor 18″ x 24″

I am totally celebrating the completion of this painting!  I don’t know if it’s the hundred little details within the painting which are all mini paintings in themselves, the pandemic, going out to protest or helping my kids finish up school, but this painting was so hard to complete!

I think many people look at painters and think “I just don’t get it?  Why are you so obsessed with throwing paint down?”   I have family members that are bewildered.  They wonder how I can complete a painting and within hours I am starting another one.  Well, of course the first answer to this is passion.  When a person is lucky enough to find something they feel passionate about, it’s not work.  It’s pure joy which means most likely you will want to do it over and over again.  But the second answer is more specific to my passion.  I think my giddiness and excitement comes from the idea of a blank slate.

Staring at a blank canvas is exhilarating.  Actually, it feels a little more like a panic, but in a good kind of way.  There is nothing there.  It’s very personal, because from nothing comes something.  I liken it to forcing yourself to jump off the high-diving board.  I take the same deep breathe, pick up the pencil, and I don’t allow myself to turn back.  Now if I am being honest, sometimes it takes me a few days.  Sometimes I walk around the desk.  Sometimes I sharpen over 30 pencils.  I organize my paints.  Maybe pay some bills.  Find weeding that is absolutely essential…

At first I felt really bad about this.  Guilty actually.  I felt like I was wasting valuable time and procrastinating.  But slowly, I am finally getting it.  It is part of the process.  Because if I look at those uneventful days a little more closely, I am actually working.  I am envisioning and dreaming up what will be in the foreground, background, left, right and center.  I am thinking about the mood, the color scheme and slowly collecting reference materials.  This process isn’t tangible.  It’s just me being silent doing what most likely looks like day dreaming. But eventually it manifests.  Like an exercise routine that I appreciate only after I can see it’s effects, I have to force myself to show up, paint and push on.

So the blank canvas is exhilarating, but the other high-point is the completion.  I think that’s why I love photographing the progression of a painting.  Because I get to sit there for a moment and take it in.  There was nothing there and now there is something there; Creation in it’s purest form.  From nothing comes something.  It’s what I love about gardening to.  I dig, cut and push around the earth and then from a baron space, comes life.  It could also be said for parenting too.  They all give me intense satisfaction from creating.

I can already see that working on this series is going to bring me to a different series of work.  For within each of these paintings, I am falling in love with smaller simpler studies.  I wouldn’t have ever found them unless they were part of something bigger, so I am incredibly thankful for all I am learning in every moment.  Needless to say, this little bird is my favorite part of the painting.

Oh boy, I’ve been going on and on and I haven’t discussed all the things I hid throughout the painting!

If you recall, months ago I thought up hundreds of small objects and symbols I wanted to hide within my secret garden. I had tiny pieces of paper everywhere.  I blindly divvied them up into 8 bundles and as I am sketching the painting, I task myself with figuring out where to put the objects.  It’s definitely the child in me.  I feel like the secrets are what keep someone coming back to look again.  And then, there’s always the why.  Why is that there?  To me, it fuels the imagination.

I wanted to strangle myself when I pulled out one of the pieces of paper and I had written Excalibur’s Sword.  Really Mary?  Do I know anything about swords? and where am I putting said sword without ruining my painting?  It’s kind of where it gets fun, because that in itself, is a puzzle I get to solve.  So  first thing to find is Excalibur’s Sword!

Here are some other things to find:  A Swallowtail caterpillar, a House Wren, a compass, snake-eyed dice, a snail, a key , a toy truck, a lock, a White Ermine Moth, a Scottish Thistle, a red apple, a Rumi book, and the Eye of Horus.

I also mentioned I am adding a Latin phrase to each painting.  The phrase for the rabbit painting is  “Non ducor duco”.  Which means I am not led, I lead.  I love this quote.  But  for laughs, I juxtaposed it with a pointing hand plaque which suggests leading one in a certain direction.  funny right?  Geek humor.

For the first time, I am really feeling good about my work.  I am feeling personally connected to the subject matter which gives me sense of purpose.  I can also see a path forward which makes me feel at ease.  I guess I could equate it to becoming comfortable in my own skin and owning my voice and vision.  Long time coming….Can I get an AMEN!!!

2nd Set of Secret Garden: Birds

HB4116

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: Cats

 

HB4116

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!

Chickadee

This is one of the little 8×10″ watercolor studies that is getting scrapped.

For me, I guess it’s because it just doesn’t tell enough of a story.  I couldn’t answer the questions why are they there and why does it matter?  

I do LOVE chickadees and house wrens though. I love that I can look out on my lawn and not see them, but if I look just a little bit longer than usual, I realize they were there all along.  They blend in so well it’s hard to believe they are scattered throughout the yard!  For this reason, it sort of makes them difficult to paint.  If an animal camouflages itself in the real world how do you make it stand out in your fantasy world?

Here were two ideas for cropping to make a stronger composition:

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But alas, in the end, it was not enough to make it to the next round.  I will sneak the birds into a future study, but this scenario is a -no.

Candle extinguished. Voted off the island. Do not pass go and do not collect $200 dollars.

next!

 

 

The Sunniest of Flowers

    • In my acrylic painting class, I created a lesson on how to paint a sunflower.

I had two focuses. The first was to encourage the painters to use large paint brushes and the second was to get the painters comfortable with their paintings being UGLY in the first few stages.

Using larger paintbrushes forces the painter to not be able to paint in the details. In turn, the artist gets a looser more impressionistic painting. With the cameras we all own, it’s my opinion that us painters need to offer a different perspective than complete realism.

Next, was allowing the painting to be ugly.  I feel like so many beginning painters try as hard as they can to tackle the subject matter in one layer, as best they can, for fear of judgement on how ugly the painting might be. The ego needs practice allowing for a painting to look strange and in bad colors. However, all those ugly layers create a wonderful foundation, so my mission was to get them to let the painting be. This is why I called this lesson the yellow lollipop. When their paintings were finished, I said remember the ugly yellow lollipop?

This was my tutorial and the sunflower starts off looking like a yellow lollipop. As the steps progress,  artists use a negative painting technique to create the flower petals. This means instead of painting each petal with yellow paint, they simply have a large section of yellow on the canvas to which dark green is painted to create where the flower petals would be. Look in the tutorial. The sunflower looks like a lollipop until the green background color begins to define the petals.

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I always do a complete painting at home and then I do the painting again in the class with the students.  Doing the painting before my class allows me to jot down any ideas or observations that come up which I think makes for a better teacher.  Doing the first painting before class also allows me to make the tutorial of the stages of a painting. I know when I started out, I loved looking at painting stages.  It helped me understand the process.

The left painting was the first painting and the right was during class.  There is something about doing a painting the second time that I love.  It’s like, as an artist, you get to synthesize all your discoveries and reapply them differently. It’s the same subject matter but totally a different experience.  I always wind up loving the second painting more.  I’ts like catharsis.  I got a do-over and made the changes I wanted to see.

 

I say it over and over again to my students.  I tell them go home and try it again.  Not many do.  But occasionally a student will take me up on it and the results are phenomenal.

As we speak, my sunflowers are a mere 3 feet.  It won’t be for another month until I can start painting my own sunflowers :)

Pottery Update

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For the last three weeks I have been teaching three days a week which has prevented me from getting into the pottery studio to throw. It hasn’t stopped me though.  I have been hand-building at home.

Here are pics of more of the shadow boxes I am working on.  My idea is to meld the strange found objects I find on my local beaches with pottery.  What I hope to come out with is quirky, folk-art looking small works of art.

Here is the beginning stages. Later the clay-works will get painted and glazed.  The cigar boxes will get painted and there will hopefully be a few more objects in each box from the sea. But this is a glimpse into the idea phase. I try to find a creative way to use the beach objects. So my ideas start there.

clayh

Also my cell-phone holders finally came to fruition. I find these so helpful with 4 cell-phones in the house!phoney

For all you hippies, I had this sweet platter come out.  Love me some Beatles.

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Perfectly said.

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!!!

Teaching Glazing Watercolor Techniques

Each week I try to find a particular concept to cover during my painting class that I teach. For this particular week I wanted to explore watercolor glazing. There are two different ways to apply watercolor paint. One way is to apply clean water from a brush onto the paper and then drop pigment into the water. The colors bleed and mix together creating unpredictable color patterns and combinations. This technique is called the wet-on-wet technique (wet paper and wet paint).

The other technique popular with watercolor painting is called glazing. Glazing is a fairly dry painting technique. It is a method of applying a coat of watercolor paint on top of an already dry layer of watercolor paint. Because the paper isn’t wet, the paint only goes exactly where you paint it. The beauty of this is that you can color mix the bottom and top layer. So if there was already yellow paint on the dry paper, a quick brush of red paint over it would create orange when the paper dried and a brush of blue would create a shade of green. You can transform an existing image quite quickly and easily.

The artist has to decide when to use each technique. The rooster photograph I provided to my students offers the perfect opportunity to use both techniques.

First,each student fills the entire rooster image with clean water and drops in watercolor in different places. Where the pigments meet, you get beautiful what I call “happy accidents”. It is unpredictable but it’s what makes watercolor so pretty. That’s the wet-on-wet technique.

Next, the students are going to add the detail. Think of all of the feathers and the head. The details are applied sparingly and with very little water. This is when you use the glazing technique.

Below is the Rhode Island Red rooster photo I provided and two paint demos I did during the class. See if you can pick out the two different painting application techniques.

The rooster image truly allows for so many variations of glazing. In total, I painted the chicken 3 times and each painting is completely different!

Here are some of the paintings from my students. You’d think we had 15 different chickens running around in the class!

 

By far, my favorite thing about art making

is that no matter what, each artist provides their own unique expression.