Saturday, August 16, 2014

Heading Off to Art Camp

To be honest, the title of the blog is deceptive. I do not need to take bug repellent, hiking boots, canteen, tent or sleeping bag. I will not make a lanyard or write home. I hope I won't cry every night.

What feels like going to camp is that dangling of the unknown. Am I up to the tasks ahead of me? Will I fit into the group I'm about to join? Will I be able to get swept away into the new environment? Did I pack everything I need?

What I am about to do is fly to Ventura, California for a two-week art workshop with the famous Katherine Chang Liu. This is unlike many workshops in that I will not be taught techniques or new ways to paint, rather I will be guided to know more about myself, why I paint, and what direction I'm heading. Here is the list of daunting questions I've been asked to think about in preparation.

Regarding the eight images I'll share with Katherine:

My idea behind this body of work in general (my content):
Questions I have about the work: 
What I am satisfied about my work in general:
What I am dissatisfied with my work in general:
Changes I wish to make, or challenges I want to give myself regarding my work:

On Monday I sent a giant package of art supplies to Ventura. I'm confident I have paper, paint and burshes. What I'm more worried about is having the small things that I'm used to having in my studio: special little scratcher things or a little bottle top to make circular marks. And more importantly, will I arrive with my creative, artistic brain ready to be activated?

My huge box of supplies:

After my two weeks, I will post and let you know how it went. Mostly I look forward to so many days in a row where art will be my primary concern and where I can paint, draw, write or think without interruption.

Here is a small cutout of my latest work. Just a teaser until I'm ready to post the whole painting.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Giving New Life to an Older Painting

Almost a year ago I painted the third painting with the "Food Web" theme. I liked parts of it, but felt that overall, it had less strength and certitude than I wanted. Like many "so-so" paintings it ended up in a drawer until this week. Out it came a couple of days ago for a fresh look. I wanted the background to have more oomph. I decided the blue separating the rock said nothing to me. I wanted the whole piece to be more vivid and fun.

I am posting the before and after, so you can take and look and decide if it now has the confidence a painting ought to have. I am also posting the two earlier "Food Web" pieces.

Before, Untitled

After, Before Columbus
22 " by 30"
Transparent Watercolor

Food Web,  18" by 22"

Food Chain, 22" by 15"

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?