As is obvious by my recent posts and paintings, I love florals. That’s partly why I have found the early spring Wetcanvas challenges fun and irresistible this year. This painting is based on the reference in the February 2013 Watercolor Challenge – http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1306333. Since Hibiscus is one of my favorite flowers, so beautiful and tropical, I just had to participate-even though I didn’t paint mine until March! I am also including two Hibiscus paintings I did several years ago, quite some time after taking a workshop from Terry Madden, but inspired by his style. For those, my references were my own photos, one taken while on a trip to Las Vegas and the other taken in my own yard.
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.
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
Confucius Said What?
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?
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: http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?postid=5437124.
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: http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=544498. 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!
Busy, busy, busy… But after missing a couple of days, I’m in my studio today and was inspired to finally finish a clematis painting I started several months ago! I have looked and looked at that partial painting and wasn’t sure where to go with the unfinished section. Suddenly today I knew-so I finished it! It is another small painting at just 6.5″x 9.5″. It was so sad just sitting there waiting for me to figure it out Now it’s a happy painting because it finally got the attention it deserved. So, here is the better late than never “Clematis Twist.” So if you’re feeling uninspired, just take a look at those unfinished paintings and maybe you’ll suddenly know too!
Another installment from Wetcanvas. I can virtually always find something to inspire me there! This is from the March 2013 Watercolor Challenge (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1309534), a simple picture of red tulips. The reference photo quality isn’t as good as normal, but it’s still something workable. I have had such “spring fever” for weeks now and this beautiful spring tulip was irresistible to me. I’m pretty happy with this floral and I think it came out better than the lily painting-mostly the simple background.
When I miss posting for a day or two, you might think I’m having a problem with inspiration myself. The contrary is really true. Since I began this blog, I’m almost overly inspired-if there is such a thing. It really does seem like everywhere I look something inspires me for some type of painting-and I’m following through and actually painting many of them! A while ago, I saw a YouTube video by artist Susan Crouch where she mentioned that she always carries a small notebook to write down her ideas when something comes to her. This is not a sketchbook; it’s just a simple little lined book to make notes in when inspiration strikes. It’s a great idea and I have begun doing that because I have been getting so many ideas for using sketches I’ve already made or photos I’ve taken. I used to just scribble something down on a scrap of paper and then lose track of it. I certainly could make a quick sketch in that little book if time allows, but that’s not the actual point of carrying it. So, I may not post every day, but it doesn’t mean I’m not working on (usually) several paintings. The other thing I find always find inspiring is the arrival of spring, my favorite season. I love seeing all the birds that have returned, the flowers beginning to grow and bloom, the sunny sky-just everything about it! Since I also like painting flowers, I’ve been focusing more on that subject. The “Plant Parade Project for February 2013” on Wetcanvas subject was lilies. I planned to paint something from their references last month for that challenge, but I didn’t get to it until this week. I made a quick lily drawing in that same 6×9 sketchbook several days ago; yesterday I began a watercolor of that sketch. It’s a small painting, about 7 x 10 on Arches 140# cold press, again painted with various artist quality paints. I think my background needs some work-too busy-but I’m sharing it with you anyway; not every painting is as good as I would like.
I have been working on a painting based on a tutorial I received from www.painters-online.co.uk. That is the website for a magazine printed in Great Britain, The Artist. I love the articles, examples and tutorials that come in the magazine or on their website. Frequently the watercolor paintings are softer and more muted and that style appeals to me very much. I understand that comes from the light being softer there, the atmospheric conditions, etc., but the overall effect is just beautiful to me. So, I practice that style of painting sometimes too. My art education here has emphasized stronger colors and contrasts for the most part. I understand the reasons and do not disagree with that style, but my brain seems to gravitate to something softer. This is somewhat a combination since there is some strong contrast, but it still has that very soft-light effect that I love. I have just placed a narrow mat scrap around it to show where I thought the painting should be cropped. But I ask you-is it done yet?
March 11 – Having no responses to my question and having stared at this painting every time I’m on the blog and every time I walk into my studio, I declare this painting finished. I love it just as it is!
I logged into Wetcanvas again yesterday just to see what the new March challenges are. I happened across one in Southwest and Western Art, which is an area I had not explored, so I had obviously not seen the challenge previously. Here’s the link if anyone wants to check it out: http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1309531. In looking through the reference photos, a pine cone at the base of a tree grabbed my interest. I cropped it close, drew it in a 6″x9″ Bee Paper Super Deluxe sketchbook and shaded it with graphite. It was messy and fun to do and certainly not what I would have thought my next drawing would be. But have you ever really looked at a pine cone? I don’t mean when you’re in the yard picking up those endless pine cones from your (or your neighbor’s) pine tree. I mean really studied the structure. They are beautiful and fascinating and a real challenge to draw. I hope I did it some justice
I find inspiration through many other methods too. I love to cook, garden, knit and crochet. To me, it is all creative and being inspired in one area often leads to inspiration in others. One thing I do when I feel blocked and “fearful” of that plain white paper is to repeat in my head what my first watercolor instructor frequently said, “It’s just a piece of paper. Walk up to it and paint it!” Another great method I use is to look through photos I have taken over the years on various trips-and I have hundreds of digital photos on my computer like that. You don’t have to go somewhere exotic to find beautiful and wonderful subjects. In fact often all I need to do is go into my own back yard. Roses or petunias blooming, a hummingbird stopping by for some nectar; I find nature in abundance there and it’s beautiful and inspiring to me. I have been inspired driving home a different route and seeing something totally unexpected-like the authentic Victorian house I saw and photographed when I had no idea there was any such thing within a mile or two of my home! Take a walk through your neighborhood with your camera; go to one of the parks in your city with your sketchbook. There are never-ending sources of subject matter if only you pay attention and see things through your “artist’s eyes”!
The references for these two paintings are photos I took last summer. “Petunia and Friends” was based on one of my planters and “Mirabeau Springs Waterfall” from a walk through a local park. See-beauty and inspiration everywhere you look!
I was writing about “getting my creative juices flowing” by working from Lian Zhen’s video. For the first few projects, I pretty much followed along as best I could with the splattering, blowing and then trying to make that look like something – hopefully like what I was supposed to be painting. As I progressed through the lessons, I used my own references with freehand drawing. Here are two more of my paintings from that video session done in that manner, although the reference for this owl practice is his. The owl painting is in a Bee Paper Super Deluxe 9″x12″ sketchbook while the bison is done on 140# Saunders Waterford cold press watercolor paper, 11″x15″. As do most watercolor artists, I have a large collection of paints in a variety of brands, all of which are artist’s quality paints. The best paintings I’ve done? Hardly! But by this time I was having fun with the processes and, after all, it’s all about practice, practice, practice… How else do we improve?
You just never know what your source of inspiration might be on any given day. Today is a perfect example. I had a post almost ready to upload and then I saw a Facebook post by my close friend, Jeanne. She had changed her profile picture to her beautiful painting of her beloved cat, Blue, who they lost this week. While I am heartbroken for Jeanne because she’s my friend and because I know how painful losing a four-legged family member is, her loss inspired me to get into my studio and start a painting of my cat, Reenie. She (Reenie) was recently very ill with a liver ailment and has apparently, with a lot of work, money and prayer, recovered fully, for which I am very thankful. So why not honor my beautiful, now healthy cat in the same way? I’ve meant to do a painting of her since I got her two years ago. What better time than now?! While you’re reading about my inspiration, I’ll be in my studio setting aside everything else to do exactly that. And, with Jeanne’s kind permission, I am sharing her story and her painting of Blue.
“Blue” by Jeanne Wallace