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?