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!

Secret Garden Series – #1 Raccoon

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Secret Garden Series – #1 Raccoon  watercolor 18″ x 24″

It feels so darn good to finish a painting!

Not to mention, it sort ended up how I imagined.  I finally got enough “garden” in there to feel “Secret Gardeny”.

Here’s a good visual of how I started with the small studies and now I am continuing with large paintings.  The small studies allowed me to work out a bunch of ideas:

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So now that I have completed the first large painting, I can better explain what I envisioned.

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Months ago, I had the idea to try and create artwork that marries all the things I am passionate about.  It’s taken years to figure that out, but here they are:  Color, Animals, Gardening, Flowers & Fabric.  Then, I had another idea.  What if I created my own secret garden where I could hide objects for people to find?  That to me, would make it more fun and “secret”.  The photo above shows tons of little pieces of paper where I worked out what objects I’d like to hide. I’m using them now as cues for each painting.

So take a look again, the painting has a bunch of things to look for.

 

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Find:  A puzzle piece, a dragon fly, a feather, a skull, blue berries, a teacup, a spider, a seashell, mushrooms and a lock.  I also decided I am going to place a Latin phrase in each image.  For this one, I selected “Memento Vivere” which translates to “Remember to Live”.  You know, like life is short so your really ought to go for it :)

I’ve heard twice now that this would make a great puzzle.  …Oh man.  Why hadn’t I thought of that?  It really would!  When I’m done with the series, I am going to have to search for how to submit my images to puzzle companies. That would be awesome.

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This is my favorite part of the image. If and when I ever find time, I’d like to go back and try this as it’s own painting:

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So that’s it.  File this one away and get cracking on #2 which is The Owl.  Off I go!

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.

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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.

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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

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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: 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!

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!