Monday, September 30, 2013

You Never Know Where or When a Painting Will Speak to Someone

In 2005, this painting of my husband rowing on the Rogue River was in a Watercolor Society of Oregon Exhibition in Roseburg, OR. I painted it quickly, the day after we returned from a raft trip down the Wild and Scenic portion of the Rogue. At the time, I felt it really expressed something about our appreciation of the scenic beauty of Oregon and our relationship with each other. I ended up donating this painting to a fundraiser for the Umpqua Valley Art Association, and never knew where it ended up until I got an email last September.

A woman had seen the painting "A Moment of Reflection" in a dental office and connected with it. She told me about her husband's devotion to fishing on the Umpqua River and that she would like to give him a painting as a gift. The problem was getting a good photo for me to work from. After a few email communications I didn't hear from her again until last month. She had finally gotten a good photo and was ready to send it to me.

I spent time last week working on her painting, being very particular about the figure and the boat, because I know how important a good likeness of her husband is to her and how important the accuracy of the boat will be to him. She loved the image I emailed her, expressing her appreciation of my style and overall presentation of the figure and boat in the landscape. Today I packaged it up and mailed it to her, very happy that I could successfully paint a commissioned piece.

Commissioned Work
11 x 15, Transparent Watercolor

Monday, September 16, 2013

Why Go to Critique Groups? Before and After

There is a conflict for me regarding getting other artist's opinion on a piece of art. On some days I feel that I should be able to look at my own paintings and make my own decisions regarding my own art. But I have learned over time, that, as the creator of a painting, I can be blind to a problematic part of a painting. A new set of eyes can see something that allows me an opportunity to improve a painting.

So thank you to my art friends who speak up at a critique and lead my eye to something in a painting that is a bit off.

Such is the case in the painting featured today: Catch, No Release.

Catch, No Release, Before
Catch, No Release, After

The obvious change is the dark strata above the heron, which enhances the upper wing of the bird, and makes a bolder statement. Thanks Ruth!

The other major change taught me something really important. Even in a piece like this, that is mostly abstract, the realistic part needs to me exactly that, realistic. A critique group pointed out that the legs disappearing behind the pile of rock was confusing. and worse than being confusing, the heron appeared to be at a different place in the water from the fish he had just caught.

When using mixed media, certain things cannot be changed. The collage pieces could not be removed easily, leaving nice paper underneath. But I could lift the paint creating the heron's legs and position him further out in the water. What a difference!

With a few more color additions, reds to create a bit of a strata separating the two dark stratas, and adding more color to the collage pieces to help them "pop," I think this piece is finished.

Catch, No Release, 22 x 17, Aquamedia
And THAT'S why I go to critique groups! My art friends teach me to be a better artist.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Transforming a Piece of Paper--River Tapestry #2, Step by Step

Every artist has them--paintings that just don't work. But the challenge and joy can be in transforming a painting like this into something creative and vastly more interesting.

Although I really liked the idea of the water painting (so much so that I did two of them), the results were not to my liking. I didn't toss these two paintings, but put them in a drawer. Occasionally I would pull them out and take a look, eventually seeing beautiful parts that led me to transform them into my new series, River Tapestry.

The first step was locating and isolating the parts of the water that I thought were beautiful. I then glued rice paper on to the painting leaving windows of the river painting. I painted the rice paper with acrylic paint.

Step two was choosing some more rice paper, this time pieces that I had painted previously, to collage on the new surface. This determined the accent color as well as the division of the rectangular shape of the paper

After adding both mauve and blue rice paper pieces, I used one of my stamps to put patterns on the piece. This is the beginning of the "tapestry."

Once the painting was at this point, the challenge was to incorporate all the elements into a flowing piece. I wanted to enhance the water flow across the painting, and create color harmony. I adjusted colors, neutralizing the blue with a grayer color. I added more orange in the water as a lovely contrast to the blues. I began to "weave" all the parts together. All of this part is just an intuitive process. I would do something to the piece, prop it up and step back. This way I would see a problem and solve it. Then another problem would draw my eye and I would resolve that. 

The final work was applying small lines using ink, colored pencils, acrylic paints applied with a small brush. My final step was adding the ghost-like figures of a heron and three fish, a very personal touch!

River Tapestry #2
Aquamedia 15 x 21

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Taking Time to Finishing a Piece

Over two years ago I painted Sing Me the Legends. I loved both the creation of this piece and the meaning it holds for me. It carries a personal message and has a lot of emotional content, which may or may not come across to the viewer.

Sing Me the Legends, Before
However, I have entered it in a number of competitions, yet it has never been accepted. This last spring, at a WSO conference, Juror Mary Ann Beckwith critiqued Sing Me the Legends. She gave me encouragement--she found it interesting with beautiful passages, but questioned why I hadn't finished the left edge of the painting. At first I didn't understand what she meant. I thought I had finished the edge and loved the painting so much I was reluctant to change it.

This weekend I returned home after two weeks away and became fearless in the studio. First I took Sing Me the Legends out of the drawer and looked at it with a fresh eye. I could see that the pale left edge lacked the same colorful and dramatic approach of the rest of the piece. As Mary Ann said, the edge needed to be finished.

Sing Me the Legends, After

Now when I look at this piece, my eye is carried into the white water in the upper area and around the rocks, which is really where the action is. Also, the petrogylph pieces coming down on the left sided are much more settled into the piece. All in all, the changes have made this pai so much stronger.

While I was on a roll, I took another piece out of the drawer, River Tapestry #1. I had liked the start and the concept, but knew it needed the finishing details to make it make sense to the viewer. (If you are interested in the start to finish of this painting, see a previous post Orange Juice or More Lemons? You Be the Judge

River Tapestry #1 Before
My idea had been to create a strong connection between the water theme and the fabric quality surrounding it, living up to the title, River Tapestry #1. When I placed this unfinished piece in my file cabinet, I knew it was a ways from finished, but it wasn't clear to me how to finish it. 

I went to work making the water flow through the piece, emphasizing the currents and white water. I added threads that I saw as remnants of the weaving of the tapestry. I reworked some of the colors to ensure the painting felt balanced.

River Tapestry #1 After
With the finishing touches, I have become quite enamored with this painting. I am preparing to mount it on a cradle, rather that a traditional mat and frame, giving it a contemporary presentation.

Do you see the improvement?

Do you connect with either of the paintings featured today? Comments are always welcome.

I am currently finishing River Tapestry #2--yet another blog post topic.