Water mediums abound. What does it mean to work in a water medium? There is of course, acrylics which are water based, but the water does not move the pigment. But then there are those mediums for which it is all about the movement of water. Water circling and swirling. Water carrying lighter color more quickly creating shifts of hues no human hand can capture. Water is a treasure to the artist to paint its life and use its spirit.
As I paint in my various watery materials I never cease to be amazed at what happens because of my hand– though often despite it. A subtle shift of a water loaded brush disperses color which twirls back and around. Dropping pigment into a pool creates ebbs and flows of a mini tide.Then of course there is all that can be done as the water dries for each stage brings forth another plethora of options.Learning these is the task of a watercolor artist.
And there must be the exploration into surfaces and the myriad of options at our disposal affect the learnings of the play in water and color. Hot press curtails the creeping flow making pigment seep to the surface of the paper more quickly. Large plopping rain drops create puddles for colors on cold press that may stay put but might slip into drips when the board is tilted. And gold leaf of course produces ranges of values in making back blooms.
Water- to be treasured as its life and properties reveal uncontrollable and uncountable realities. And of course we are blessed for our cold drinks and showers —-
For those of us who are so keyed to our environment that we are compelled to make it the root of our lives, we are at the mercy of those who need to dominate it. And in our culture work focused on words and left brain activity ( indoor work) tends to pay more giving those people great resources to alter their environment. It is a true conundrum. It is our right in this country to control our plot of land- no question. But that being said, we can not negate the truth that for those who are visually sensitive it can be terribly difficult to live with the choices of others especially the denuding of where we exist everyday. I have lived where I needed to jade my eye to negate the amount of material I am capable of absorbing- it greatly affected my work. I have learned to create moments of aesthetic wild so that my eyes can rest for I do not want to be jaded to the lighting, the values, the color, the ambiance that nature creates.
I urge my friends for whom the environment is so powerful to not diminish that sensitivity but find ways to build moments of truth amongst this ever growing need of others to control the environment. It is worth the struggle even if it causes physical pain. Pause before a spontaneous scenario and relish it.
Hiroshige teaches me about Maine Landscape Paintings.
As I work on a new gold leaf screen, I become inspired by the swirls in the gold and the texture in the substructure. The piece is of the outbound road from Schoodic. For 7 short miles we preserve beauty even if it is slashed by a scar of pavement. Humans seem need to own nature. Driving anywhere there is a view is the human needing ownership or at least use of it preventing others from engaging with it.
I revisit Hiroshige’s scenes along the Tokaido highway. My lesson? Daily human life can happen entwined and complementing nature not dominating and owning it.
My new project is going to be doing a series of screens celebrating the life along Route 1 for which nature is a celebrated back drop.
I hope we as a collective group of people who seem to all be inspired and moved by the views left, think before we throw up another building to own a view or post a private no trespassing sign.
This picture is one of 5 done in pastel of scenes along our still lovely Route 1 here in Downeast Maine.
How does an artist recreate a scene seen in passing? This is how I do it.
The scene I want to capture is one I saw this past fall as I was driving along route 1. I could not stop nor could I get back. When I got to where I was headed, I quickly sketched the scene trying to remember as much information that engendered the sense I responded to.
It was looking through birch at tidal falls but the sense was of turbulance everywhere.
First step is to start testing colors. Foremost will be the yellows of the birch leaves so i begin with these. I want at least 6 colors in the yellows so i find the quality yellow I want and build the palette around that one.
Testing the yellows.. need dark and lights
blocking in the scene and then choosing the colors in the sky. I want the sky to help bring out the leaves.
Here is testing the gray blues darks and lights .
Next is blocking in the clouds for the movement in these will swirl opposite of the falls. Getting the shapes of these is something I want to do very well.
To do all this without having the scene to look at means relying on knowledge of the physics and geometry of objects. Also I find samples around me readily observed near where I am painting. I choose some of the cloud colors on a day when the skies were similar to the day I want to paint. I observe the way birch trees grow in order to make sure those in the picture follow the nature of birch trees. I do not want something poorly drawn to detract from what I am trying to capture.
Before continuing the journey of this picture, I thought I would share a bit about how to set up one’s pastels. There are so many of them and each artist discovers his/her way of laying them out and organizing them. Like a watercolor palette, it is truly individual. But by looking at other’s one can get ideas and more importantly figure out what types of questions to ask oneself to determine how best to create your own set up.
The set up front left is on a wheeled cart so that it can move to let me out of the ‘nest’. Behind is where I keep track of sticks I have used up. Though pastels have paper on which the re order number appears, to do many of the necessary strokes it is necessary to tear these off. I have a notebook of all pastel sticks colors and numbers. I will compare these marks against those to learn their ordering number.
I move the trays around as needed depending on the picture. But the trays are ordered by value and color. Cool whites, for example, are all together as of course are warm whites. I have 3 trays of blues each one ordered progressively in value. These are near me for this picture especially the red blues. I am avoiding the yellow ones as they would grey the sky more than i want.
Only a little work was done on the picture today since we had to leave at noon for a family event. However, I started to define the lights, what warm colors worked on the horizon for the type of feel. Also, I played with the horizon line. In the real scene it is higher up ( these trees are at Raven’s Nest) but I am looking for a more intimate feel so dropped the horizon to feel ensconced. This will mean though, that we will be looking up at the higher branches not directly at them which will of course change how they must be depicted.
Carving out the rocks is next. Laying that in thinking of them as trapezoids helps build volume. Rocks are after all just geometric figures with more tucks and grooves. i use value and warm cool shifts to create the planes and remind me of how they are being lit by the low western light.
Recently I have been in shows in which a goodly number of an artist’s inventory relies on copies. There are 2 reasons for this. One is to maximize the amount one can gain from a given image. The other is to make available an image with which many want to live.
There is much confusion and discussion regarding reproductions, prints and copies. In the art world the designation of ‘print’ is reserved for artistic multiples or in other words, while creating a similar image each is distinctly produced resulting in a unique piece. The artist produces each of these. It is these works that are numbered.
A reproduction is a copy of a picture, it is an attempt to recreate the original image as closely as possible. Giclees and printer produced images fall under this category.
Each artist must determine whether s/he will make copies of work and for what reasons.
My only suggestion to customers is remember when you purchase a copy you are acquiring the story but the language the artist originally used to tell that story. A copy, no matter how sophisticated, never has the brush stokes of the artist. Never jade your eye to the depth language brings to a piece.
Whether one mixes greens from blues and yellows or uses greens from the tube, greens need to be warmed. Mixing greens for Eastern spring is fun. But I just figured out, not so much a formula but a Guiding Principal. I am a bit embarrassed it has taken me this long to articulate it. To determine which warm color to use to warm a green consider the color of the blossom of the plant. This is crystal clear in irises. The green beneath the very pale yellow under the blossom is a purplish color the hue of which looks to have dripped down from the blossom. I have 5 different irises in my garden and each of them a different variation of purple. Each color is part of the green make especially under the blossom.
While I am sure this is not Gospel truth that there will be times to change the warming hue, but it can be a start to create subtle shifts of spring greens.
This summer more folks are asking me why paint in so many different mediums. This pointed question has made me articulate an intuited tendency. Just as with my children, I work to bring out the best qualities and characteristics in a medium. This means learning and exploring what is unique about a given medium and helping it achieve its greatest potential. The past several weeks I have returned to watercolor which for a while, I must confess, has bored me. But giving up control and becoming the guide of the water has released unimaginable potential. While drawing, composing and knowledge of color nuances of the pigments create a foundation letting go and letting the water engender organic movement is a thrill!
Create white shapes which break the page up into interesting shapes ( this usually means shapes which are not geometric, do not fit into a geometric area are more interlocking).
Keep these areas dry for where there is no water no color will go! Use mask if you want to be able to be truly free with water.