Painting Styles

I just finished a fun project. I have done a lot of small format paintings in the past, as small as 5”x 7” and many 1/8 standard watercolor sheet in my early classes, but I have never painted trading card size (3”x 4”) until this painting. Drawing it was the biggest challenge; I drew a flower and it was too big to fit the format so I had to start over-and over, and over and over… Once I conquered that, the painting was a real joy. I just did what I normally would do but with a much smaller brush. It wasn’t as quick as one would think as it still took drying time between glazes, etc. So, I’m sharing my very first watercolor trading card.

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Painting Styles

I wrote yesterday of painting a subject that you’re particularly drawn to. My friend and fellow artist, Jeanne Wallace, is my guest blogger today, writing of what most draws her and why. Thanks for sharing, Jeanne!


Elaine had asked me to write something about why I love to paint statues.  Well, for one thing, they sit still!  However, my real reason is that some of them “speak” to me. In the three images I’ve included here I saw honor, humility, and humor. Three attributes that I personally appreciate in my fellow human beings, and hope to attain in my own personal growth.  “To All the Women of the Nation” is a statue I found in “The Cloister” of the Washington Memorial Chapel surrounded by the Valley Forge National State Park, Valley Forge, PA.  The other two, “Daydreaming” and “Confucius Said What?,” were treasures I found in local gardens.  My search continues……  Who knows, you may see a stranger taking a photo of one of your statues for the very reason I take my photos.  Thanks Elaine for starting this wonderful blog.

To All the Women of the Nation                   Daydreaming

 To All the Women of the Nation                                   Daydreaming

                         Confucious said what?

                                           Confucius Said What?

Painting Styles

Warning – personal opinion! High key, mid key, low key-that is the question. I’m revisiting something I said in my Inspiration – part 7 regarding styles of painting. Have you ever looked at another artist’s work and mostly seen only darkness? I’m not referring to dark against light for contrast and impact-I mean so dark that it almost screams “severe clinical depression here”, where there really is no contrast to draw your eye! I’ve seen some works by artists I greatly admire that lose me immediately because they just seem to want to take me to a dark, foreboding place where I don’t want to go. I’ve sometimes particularly seen this in portraits, which makes me wonder if the artist is really seeing a dark soul in the subject or maybe is in a very dark place himself/herself at the time of the work. Does the artist want us to examine that part of our own psyches-or does it simply say something about his own?

That brings me back to my previous mention of gravitating to softer works. Those and bright, colorful works make my brain happy and inspire me so much more. Those preferences drive my artistic spirit and I think we should all paint what we are most drawn to. While I believe that we all, as artists, need to stretch ourselves with different subject matter, styles and even media, we still seem to gravitate back to the subjects that most drew us in the first place. I have a friend who almost exclusively paints outdoor and/or farm scenes and another who prefers wildlife subjects; both are fantastic artists and their subject matter told me a lot about who they are before I got to know them personally! Since I love to garden and I’m most comfortable and happy around water – lakes, streams, waterfalls, the ocean – you’ll see many florals and watery landscapes in my work.

Obviously there is room in the art world for all manner of styles. But I personally think it’s sad to be driven only by what a judge might want to see in any given juried show or only the subject matter a certain gallery insists on. I know artists who dread having to paint a subject or style for those reasons, but of course they do it anyway and almost hate every minute of it! Apparently that is the only path to any success in the art world, but does that make it right for the artists?

Painting Styles

I’m sufficiently inspired now and I hope others have taken inspiration from some of my posts too.

Negative painting – okay, that’s a method that really scares me. I understand the principles behind it and exactly how it’s done, but doing negative painting is something I always seem to struggle with. I forget what I’ve planned to paint around, I mess up the shape I’m trying to achieve, etc. I even remember the first time I “got it.” I was in a class several years ago taught by my friend and fellow Spokane Watercolor Society member, Sue, in which she did a quick demo and it suddenly made sense to me. The easy way I was told to remember it is: If the object is darker than its surroundings, it’s positive painting; if it’s lighter, it’s negative painting-it’s just that simple. Or is it? Technically, yes it is, but in practice I find it much more complex. My most successful artwork with negative painting was done in her class that day (and it wasn’t that good). While I still know the “how,” I don’t seem to be able to DO very well. Here is one lesson I have found:

The following is the one I’m working from. It starts with an underwash, some large splatters and negative painting to complete it. That tutorial is one I found on Wetcanvas: It’s a really fun lesson and so far things are going fairly well, but now it’s time for the darkest darks, painting around the already established daisies to make stems, leaves and other background shapes. That is usually where I mess up…and I have put off continuing with this painting for about a week so far.

I got past the darks and here is the finished painting. I’m showing you both a before and an after. Not my best work by any means, but actually I don’t hate it-and for a negatively painted piece I’m okay with that!

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