Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Paper Tigers

5” x 7”  excerpt from “Nightfall”
Full painting on 9 x 12” Arches 100 % cotton hot press w/c paper

The assignment for my weekly watercolor class last week was to create a sunset using wet-on-wet techniques. The instructor offered a demo, which I faithfully tried to follow, but I created one bad sky scape after another. 

Four in total, if you must know.

Which led to some paper-tiger thinking: That I was wasting paper. That I would run out of paper and paint at a time when art supplies aren’t easy to get. That trying to make art is frivolous, anyway. That I’m getting nowhere fast on this Sally Project learning curve. That I should be doing something more useful.

Ho hum. Just the usual paper tigers that artists, writers, musicians, and other creatives face on a daily basis. 

The difference between those who create stuff and those who don’t is not talent. It’s the willingness to face down those paper tigers day after day.

It’s true that the final painting (see below) pretty much sucks. But after the paint dried and I looked a little closer and did find an area that kind of works, at least for me (see above). And that gives me the fuel I need for paper tigering. 

Oh — below is the full composition on 9 x 12” watercolor paper. (See why I led with the cropped version?) 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Is the Muse Calling?

I saw this big bush of geraniums around the base of a tree in Alameda while walking through a residential area. The chartreuse green, the burgundy pattern in the leaves, the bright red flowers – it all tickled my art muse.  

The next day, using a photo I had taken, I drew the bush in ink and then brushed in the colors. When I can avoid being hyper-critical, making art puts me into a wonderfully meditative, present-moment state.

Once I had finished the painting, the colors vibrated with energy from my desk. I experienced that little “maker’s high” -- that feeling that you get when you have created something that you like, even just a little bit.

Years ago I worked as an editor for a testing company. I’m grateful to that job that helped feed my family, but it was a terribly dull job, and the days and years were long. An editor-friend/colleague told me she got up early each morning to write fiction. “It helps me stand things,” she told me.

As it turns out, art and writing help me stand things, too, especially during this strange time.

The muse seems to be in a giving mood. Is a creative activity calling you?   

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Who's the Boss?

Watercolor on Arches hot press, 8" x 8" 

"Until I start painting, I'm the boss. Once I start painting, watercolor is the boss" (painter Joseph Zbukvic in an interview with Eric Rhoads on PleinAir podcast #111).

I started out trying to be the boss with this painting. I wanted the the top clouds to look more cirrus-y to match the photo I was using. On the other hand, I was relatively pleased with the cumulus cloud behind the mountain. 

Then the paint took over with the mountain and foreground, refusing to continue in realistic mode in terms of color and detail. In the end, I let the watercolor take the reins. 

I kept with the same Daniel Smith triad that I've been using lately -- phthalo blue, quinacridone magenta, and hansa yellow medium -- plus Winsor Newton ultramarine blue and burnt sienna. The ultramarine blue is especially granular on hot press paper, I discovered (see upper left quadrant), and I didn't like it. However, after mixing the ultramarine blue with quin. magenta and phthalo blue for the mountains, I decided I liked the texture conversation going on between the sky and the mountains.  

The watercolor took over and I'm glad.  

Friday, April 10, 2020

Bossy Trees

We went to the Oakland redwoods today for a dose of nature. This part of the path has asked me to paint it for several weeks, now, and so today after we returned home, I obliged. 

And then the tops of the redwoods said, "But what about us?"

And then one of the trees suggested: "What happens if you don't use ink?" 

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Sudden Abundance

Very suddenly this week, near the Crown Beach Memorial State Beach shelter in Alameda, these big bushes are full of yellow blossoms.  That's how it is out here: the flowers just seem to appear overnight and then after a few days they disappear. I suppose it's that way in the Midwest, too, but I was more used to the spring drill back in Iowa, where I lived for 60+ years until last year....

Here's a photo (below) of a flowering bush. I don't know the name of it. It's like a forsythia bush in the Midwest but with much larger flowers. 

Who knows what's next? It's spring, and nature is full of abundance, no matter what else is going on. 

Saturday, April 4, 2020

To Crop or Not to Crop

My composition got awfully dark and dramatic, so I decided to crop the photo, as shown here, to eliminate some of that darkness. 

Here's the full version, which is actually even darker than this photo lets on:

Here it is at an earlier, lighter stage, but when it comes to watercolor, there's really no going back:

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