Monday, July 28, 2014

Blue Moon Heron II Accepted into Watercolor West Exhibition

I had good news last week regarding Blue Moon Heron II. This transparent watercolor piece was accepted by juror Judy Morris into the 46th Watercolor West International Juried Exhibition. This is my first time being accepted into this exhibition, so I feel especially honored.

So why do I compete? This is a question I ask myself over and over. Today's answer is that it helps me understand my own improvement as an artist. In the past six months, I've had three paintings accepted into National and International shows, one acceptance into a state show, one painting purchased for a college permanent collection, and two paintings in a University exhibition. My interpretation of these accomplishments is that my efforts in the studio continue on an upward climb. I also am gaining more confidence in my own decision-making regarding my art. Always looking for approval from others can lead to stagnant work. For me, forging on in my own experimentation and interpretation brings me greater satisfaction, more fun, and (apparently) greater recognition.
Blue Moon Heron II
Transparent Watercolor, 22 inch by 18 inch

Monday, July 14, 2014

Lifting, Layering and Stamping--Giving New Life to a Static Painting

Last November I painted the version on the right of If Herons Dream. At the time, I was totally enamored by the two herons in the foreground. I also liked the simplicity of the barren areas in back of the birds. Creating this painting was somewhat stressful because it is transparent watercolor plus the method of application is not forgiving of errors. I entered it in a couple of competitions and it was not accepted in either show. So it has been sitting in a drawer for a few months until I pulled it out the other day and looked at it with a fresh eye.

If Herons Dream, After
30 x 22 inches, transparent watercolor
Although I still liked the composition and my subject matter, I realized it was quite static. That is really not my style. I started looking at the painting as a skeleton and my mission became filling it out, sweetening it up, making it move, and putting the MSG stamp on it. Now the upper image no longer lives in reality, only virtually. I'd love to hear what you think of the transformation.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

"Niggling" a Painting to Completion

"Niggling" is a term the wonderful artist Carla O'Conner uses to describe the artist's last touches to a painting. This is where you stand back and look for the parts that niggle or pester you and you know you have to dig into the tools and adjust the painting to make it stronger.

Encounter is a painting that I've been looking at for a few weeks now. I've had it propped up in my viewing spot, giving me the opportunity to let a lot of niggling take place. With the critiques from my art friends Ruth Armitage and LaVonne Tarbox Crone I have made both significant and minor changes.

In the last two days, I finally got rid of my layer of clear water. It took me awhile to realize that I wanted it there, but it didn't belong there. The herons are the story, and the nearly white water competed with the story. The incorporation the mucky wet area into the water certainly gives more power to the birds. I also worked on bringing more of the oranges down into the lower abstracts, softening corners and making the shapes more organic.

Another art friend, Kathy Tiger, who takes a philosophical approach to critiquing art, asked me what I thought the layers or strata I often use represent in my life. I'm still pondering that one!

Let me know if you prefer the before or after. (Click on an image to enlarge.)
Encounter, After

Encounter, Before

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Finishing Touches to "Encounter"--Before and After

My last post featured the latest painting in my River Series. I worked on the painting over months, and was anxious to get it out there on the internet for my followers and Facebook friends to give me their ideas about the painting. As always, I really appreciate the time people take to seriously look at the work, then critique the painting, telling me what works, and what might be changed. Sometimes I agree with another's opinion and sometimes I don't, but I always listen and let the idea gestate. As I spent time with the painting, I saw things I wanted to adjust and I went about correcting the things that bothered me.

The last couple of days I've put some energy into making the painting stronger. Here are my Before and After photos with a list of the adjustments I made.


Encounter, 30x22, Aquamedia

  • I neutralized/darkened the sandy/rocky beach, allowing it have more color harmony with the painting.
  • I tamed down the calligraphic whites, which I felt were too dominant. 
  • I raised the shoreline under the large heron and added a few gestural marks to imply water.
  • I darkened the upper legs of the small heron to push it back in importance.
What do you think? Is it improved?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Four Months--One Painting


Because I have been caretaker for my daughter and her children for several months, I have not found much time to spend in my studio. I did, however, find a few brief stretches of time to work on this piece. (Please see the brief video below to view the process I am describing in words.)

  • I began in early February with a drawing, then covering part of the paper with rice paper to create texture. 
  • Slowly, I added watercolor paint to the textured areas. It is always a wonderful surprise to see how the paint is absorbed, and how the colors adjust to this varied surface.
  • I painted in the sandy beach and water with a transparent wash and added my (now signature) stack of rocks at the top of the painting--also transparent watercolor.
  • Next, I began to add black shapes that would connect the top to the bottom, looking for geometric shapes to repeat and respond to the stack of shapes at the top. I used black construction paper to determine the size and shapes, then cut out corresponding painted and stamped collage material I had made with harmonic colors to the painting.
  • After gluing on the collage pieces, I saw that the colors on the collaged shapes were not vivid enough, so I used acrylic paint to enhance the colors.
  • Next I painted the top strata in dark green and black, while pushing the darks in the bottom strata.
  • Once I had most of my abstract done, I started working on the herons. My thinking on this is that the more realistic creatures take a different approach, and the background needs to work on its own, without the figures.
  • When the painting was mostly done, I took a number of studio sessions stepping back to carefully assess the values, movement, colors, etc. and make adjustments, mostly making the herons more powerful and bold. 
  • Finally the painting was ready for the "icing on the cake," some stamping on the top dark and the calligraphic work from top to bottom done with acrylic inks and paint using small bottles with a tiny outlet.
I have three questions you can weigh in on: Should the water layer have some texture (wave or ripple like calligraphy)? Does the vertical calligraphy need to be calmed down? What title would you give this piece?


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Encouraging Creativity--The Gift of Paper, Crayons and Scissors

Having two of my grandchildren with me full time has given me a new opportunity to think about the creative spirit we are all born with, and what encourages that creativity to flourish. What can inspire hours of imaginative thought and entertainment for both Hannah, age 3, and Noah, age 6, is paper, crayons, pencils and scissors. These two can translate any scribble or cut shape into the most imaginative stories and creatures. With a little glue and staples, they can put together crazy collages that excite them and make them proud of their originality.

Today as I watched Hannah drawing, using the piano bench as her work surface, I had a flashback to 60 years ago when the piano bench was my favorite play area.

Why am I an artist today? I give my mother a lot of credit for never holding back with the typing paper. Although she was of the frugal, Depression area thinking, I always got the biggest box of crayons with the most colors and I was never restricted with the use of paper.

A little paper, crayons, pencils and paper can have a lifetime effect.

What inspired you in your creative paths, or other endeavors?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

More Shows and Exhibits

Me with Donna Zagotta
While I can't find much studio time, I have been able to send images out to quite a few Exhibitions. My last post included the painting "Herons' Winter Dreams" which was accepted into the Northwest Watercolor Society International Exhibit. I was fortunate to be able to attend their Artist's Reception and Award Ceremony, where my painting received the Printing Center USA Excellence Award. What a thrill it was to meet the Juror, Donna Zagotta, and get a personal critique of my art. I was also very happy to have several friends from the Seattle area attend the reception with me.

With friends Kazy, Laurel, and Allison.
With Stitz, Laurel, and Allison.

Additionally, last night I attended the Opening of the Pacific Northwest Art Annual at UO. Again, I had family and friends come out to see my two paintings in that exhibit. I feel so well supported!

This morning I got the good news that another painting has been accepted into a national show.  This one is Red River Watercolor Society's 21st Annual National Juried Watermedia Exhibition. The juror, Michael Reardon, chose my painting "Sing Me the Legends." This painting is a sentimental favorite of mine, and wasn't truly "finished" until I reworked it last spring.

"Sing Me the Legends"