Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Translating Mixed Media to Transparent Watercolor: Pros and Cons

Many painters I know paint the same painting or composition over one or more times. These artists usually feel they can improve the piece by making minor changes--a neater wash, a better likeness in a portrait, a stronger contrast, etc. That approach is not my M.O., so you might ask why I chose to "redo" a painting from one media to another. 

There are two main reasons. First, each painting competition has a different list of requirements for a painting to be eligible for their jurying process. There are a number of competitions that accept transparent watercolor exclusively. The second reason to recreate a picture is the fun of a good challenge. How can I paint a collage look without putting different papers on the painting? How can I create different textures? 

With Convocation and Convocation II (below) I was motivated to come up with a transparent watercolor painting for the upcoming Watercolor Society of Oregon's Fall Show which requires a transparent piece. 

Pros: The contrasts in the transparent piece are more dramatic. I like the sprayed background better than the streaked effect. The herons are technically better painted. The simplified grasses fit the painting better in my eyes. 

Cons: I could not recreate the lovely qualities of the lacy upper connector in the mixed media piece with transparent watercolor, working with ink to do calligraphy is much easier than doing it with transparent watercolor. Most importantly, I do not get the "rush" of creation with a second piece. It is a much more technical process. More a "how to" than a "what if" experience.

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Convocation, Mixed Media
22 in. x 18 in.

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Convocation II, Transparent Watercolor
22 in. x 18 in.

In the two heron pieces below, I was motivated by the challenge of taking a small mixed media piece and turning it into a large painting with the same excitement the first piece had without using other papers.

Pros: The second piece has a better designed bird, with nicer lines and subtleness. The painting on paper creates a cohesiveness much harder to render with collage. The transparent piece has made it into a couple of shows and has won an award. I could not have thought up Rogue Heron, I needed Take Off to produce the second version.

Cons: The dynamic force of collage is hard to obtain in transparent watercolor. There is a lot of lifting and carefully paining around areas to create the look of collage with t/w. And, again, it is not the same thrill of creating that I get the first time out.

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Take Off, Mixed Media
10 in. x 14 in

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Rogue Heron, Transparent Watercolor
21 in. x 28 in.

I would be very interested to hear from other artists on this topic. How do you feel about "do-overs?" How do you make the process feel "fresh?"


Ruth Armitage said...

Hi Margaret,
Interesting to see your pros & cons. I often tackle the same subject more than once, and also have attempted to translate a subject from one media to another.

I find that I often will change the value pattern or colors in the second (or third, or fourth) version. I try to think of them as completely different paintings, not reproductions or technical exercises.

I have had the experience of not getting the same sense of satisfaction from another version though, while at times I am even happier with the second or third iteration. I think it's always worth giving it a try though!

Liz said...

Like Ruth, I, too have tackled the same subject more than once, with mixed results (no pun intended). Because I feel like I "think" in mixed media, it's very hard for me to try to reproduce a mixed media piece using only transparent wc. But I think you've done a terrific job--the Heron painting, in particular, works equally well in wc. The blue painting in wc has a great freshness--the yellow square is brighter and works well, too. In the blue painting, you made a choice to embellish the dangling middle part and add an extra "tail"--so that changes things a bit, but it just becomes a new painting in the series. Anyway, I think you are SKILLED at both mediums, and I may go back and try more than one "do-over" of an old painting---as Ruth says, it's after the 3rd or 4th try that things start getting interesting..thanks!

Unknown said...

When I used to repeat a painting thinking I could improve part A, then I just screw up part b in the second one. I might try to repeat elements into new compositions but I gave up trying to copy my pieces.