Sunday, July 12, 2015

Heading Back to Ventura

As I plan for the upcoming 2 weeks in Ventura with Katherine Chang Liu, it seems like a good time to assess what has come from last year's art retreat. There is, of course, assembling my art supplies and shipping them, packing clothes, planning transportation. But as I assemble the eight photos for Katherine's viewing where she'll help guide me on my journey, some of my own ideas come to light.

It was in Ventura last August that I started the Life Cycle Imperative Series. It was based on a simple question--what can a circle become in my paintings? Now I can't even recall how a salmon egg came to mind, although it fits with the river themes I've painted for years. However, the eggs, the salmon, the journey from river to sea and back again, all fell into place this past year as a wonderful analogy to my own life. The more I learned about salmon, the more I connected with the relentless drive within these creatures.

And so my paintings this year have been driven by the Salmon's journey from beginning to end. Oddly, I've felt that my last painting or two is the end for this. There may be another idea or two there, but I feel it's time to go on. I've felt both inspired and trapped in this series. A year later, as I look at the 10 large paintings (there are several more small ones), I see that I became more realistic than I want to be long term. My true artistic leaning is more toward the abstracted view of the world.

This seems to be a very good spot to be in right now. I'm ready for a new challenge, a new path. I expect the last 2 weeks in July to be full of creativity, fun and hard work. It is never very easy to change direction, but it usually leads somewhere unexpected. Just like last year's question about a circle led to a year of learning about, admiring, and painting salmon.

So in celebration of the end of the salmon series, and looking for a connection to my more creative and playful side, I painted a companion piece to one of my heron paintings. This gives me two new paintings in the last 2 or 3 weeks. And I have to add that I've truly enjoyed the challenge of painting these athletic fish in motion!
The Last Hurrah
29 x 22, Transparent watercolor
Life Cycle Imperative #9: Digging the Redd
29 x 22, Transparent watercolor

Here is the companion piece for The Last Hurrah, Blue Moon Heron.

Monday, July 6, 2015

New Additions to the "Life Cycle Imperative" Series--#8 and #9

Most of my time this last month has been spending time with family. This is a wonderful gift, of course, but it does take away from my time to paint. Ahh, the choices: the river not floated of the painting not painted.

However, I did find some time to get out to the studio where I added two new salmon paintings to the  "Life Cycle Imperative" Series. Number 8 is telling the story based on the Native American belief that salmon was a gift of the Salmon People in the river. Tribal members were careful to return all the skeleton remains to the river after feasting on the salmon. The failure to do so could bring harm to individuals or the entire tribe.

There is also a very practical reason to return the salmon parts that are not eaten, and that is to provide nutrients to the stream and to the salmon eggs.

Life Cycle Imperative #8: Returning the Gift

Life Cycle Imperative #9: The Spawning Redd 
Step by Step

The painting I finished today started with a loose sketch, a test color strip, and a couple of new stamps made for this particular piece. 

I then prepared a sheet of watercolor paper by saving the white of the paper with contact paper in the appropriate shapes and securing the edges with masking fluid,
(I have learned the hard way that contact paper allows color to bleed under the edges.)

Once the white paper is saved, I can really go to town preparing the background. I like to know that once the background suits me, I can take off the contact paper and work on the subject.

Poor color, sorry
After the first washes were on, creating a water and gravel separation, I wanted to add a warmer tone to the upper part of the water and added a wash of yellow. Over several sessions, I added pigment to and deepened the colors of the background.

Once I had the background washes, I added the rocks and pebbles, ripples above and worked on the sand and gravel that the spawning salmon stirs up making her redd (nest).

After that was done, I peeled away the contact paper and masking fluid and painted the salmon and reflections. Today I altered the fish a bit and added a rock ledge to the right and a piece of wood to the left. I walked away from the studio feeling quite happy with this one.

Life Cycle Imperative #9: The Spawning Redd