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?"

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My 2012 Mantra--Look Within

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation." 

Every January I try to come up with a meaningful phrase /mantra to guide me through the year. I don't like the term "resolution" because a resolution usually aims at one particular behavioral change a person tries to make in their life such as "to lose weight" or "to save money." Resolutions are also famously doomed to failure. 

For me, choosing a mantra is a pretty thoughtful and serious process. I try to be self-reflective, open to recognizing my own shortcomings, and willing to be honest about my own ability to change. In the past few years, my mantras have focused on how I treat or respond to other people such as "forgiveness."

Late last year, I saw a post on Facebook quoting Lao Tzu. 

If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself, if you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have is that of your own self-transformation.

For some reason, this quote resonated with me. I kept thinking about the the things about myself that I really would like to work on: 

- I want to trust my own eye, opinion and artistic instincts about the art I create.
- I want my actions to be more in line with my personal beliefs.
- I want to be less judgmental.
- I want to be less hypocritical in my actions and words.

At some point I took this quote and created a little piece of art to hang in my studio, thinking it would be a reminder of what might guide my behavior. But really, this quote is way to wordy to be a mantra.

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In mid-January, after we returned from a trip to New York City, I finally came up with my 2012 mantra, 
"Look Within." The phrase has really lead me to be more self- aware and mindful of my actions. Since I adopted my new mantra, I have been awarded two big awards for my paintings. I have felt more confident in my studio. I have lost 40 pounds without "dieting." I have curbed my gossipy talk. (Mind you, I haven't completely eliminated it.) I truly believe that I am experiencing some self-transformation.

Least you think I've gone totally woo-woo, I don't entirely trust that my "self-transformation" is going to last forever. I waited until my pants literally fell off before buying new clothes and loading up my larger sized clothing for Goodwill; I only committed to going alcohol free for 2012; I still look for fellow artist's critiques and jurors approval of my work. 

But "looking within" has helped me think about my own actions rather than making judgments about others. It has helped me be mindful of what I put into my body. It has given me more confidence in my artistic ability. I'm no longer the person who thinks "so and so sure can't handle their booze," as I have my second beer.

I've waited a long time to share this with my readers because it is so personal. I don't want to be preachy, I just hope that something that has been valuable to me might be of some use to someone else.