Monday, June 26, 2023

Not Sure


8" x 8" watercolor
on Arches 100% cotton hot press paper

I'm not sure if this one works. We'll see if it passes the test after being taped to the wall a couple of weeks. Usually I know by then.

I do know this: these roses were absolutely beautiful yesterday, especially when I placed the vase on the railing of our balcony. The live oaks in the background made such a nice contrast. 

Doesn't beauty just grab you sometimes? 

Sunday, June 18, 2023

ChatGPT: I Have Something You Don't Have


8" x 8 watercolor
Cold Press w/c paper

A while ago I posted a rendition of this composition that was partially constructed with the help of my son and ChatGPT. 

Today as part of my 30x30DirectWatercolor challenge, I decided to revisit the photo I took last fall of these coneflowers back in Iowa. The final painting is above.

I'd just watched a demo by the quirky watercolor instructor Nitan Singh, called "This Exercise Will Transform You." In this demo, Singh quickly paints a tree during which he tells us his mindset is that he'll create a great painting that others will admire. Then he paints another tree during which he paints with an attitude of fun, love, and joy (my words). As he paints this second tree, his voice fills with such enthusiasm that you can't help but want to get out your art supplies.

Which I did, and this is my result. 

So take that, ChatGPT. Yours may still be better--?--but I had something you can never have when I created this painting: love and joy. 

And I'll always still have those feelings when I look at this page in my sketchbook. 

So there.  

Friday, June 16, 2023

And Sometimes You Just Have to Mess Around


5" x 7" watercolor
on Arches 100% cotton hot press

And sometimes you just have to mess around a bit. I started this as one of my 30x30DirectWatercolor challenges for June, but it quickly went south, so there was nothing to do but add some black lines. So much for the no-line approach with the 30x30 challenge. It's okay. I felt free. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Maybe Not


Leaning Trees by the Bay2
8.5" x 8.5" watercolor

So the last painting in my sketchbook led to this one. Not feeling quite as stuck as I did yesterday.  

Stuck! Maybe?


Leaning Trees by the Bay
8.5" x 8.5" watercolor

These leaning trees near the windsurfing shop in Alameda along the SF Bay -- they touch my heart and I'll probably try to keep painting them forever....even though the #30x30DirectWatercolor challenge is going mostly poorly for me, which is why I'm not regularly posting my daily paintings. 

In fact, I've allowed myself to think lately that I don't seem to be improving as a painter and have hit a wall and that without careful mentoring by a guide, that wall is permanent. 

Yesterday this feeling was reinforced as I listened to a painting podcast during which the painter being interviewed said it was essential to find a mentor because "practice makes permanent": That is, if you develop bad habits because you're not getting help from a good mentor, those bad habits will become deeply ingrained.

Which may be true to a degree. But during a walk along the park in our backyard by the beloved SF Bay, I decided to call bullsh*t on the idea that I can't improve without a mentor. 

Because the truth is, you can't always have a mentor in your back pocket. Even out here in the Bay Area, which overflows with excellent artists, it's not always easy to drive miles in congested and stalled traffic to get to their workshops. And they don't always teach at the times that are convenient for you. 

What you can do is take classes selectively, whether online or in person, and let them sink in over time. You can ask a good artist now and then for feedback; even developing artists (like me) are sometimes able to give good feedback. 

You can trust that you're developing an aesthetic sense that often works intuitively. You can trust that you're learning to recognize what works and what doesn't, even if you don't always know why. 

You can remind yourself that even great artists aren't always satisfied with their results. The late Jim Ochs, a professional Iowa City artist whom I admired and took a watercolor class from years ago, said he generally liked one in ten of his paintings. 

So. After that little bulls*t-calling pep-talk yesterday, this sketch of the learning trees popped out this a.m., and it gives me joy and hope. It's not a finished painting, but I like the looseness of this sketch and the contrasts of warm and cool, dark and light. I like the shadows and the way the building gives scale to the composition.

Sometimes you just have mentor yourself a bit. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Day 6, #30x30DirectWatercolor

Canna close-up
6" x 8" watercolor
Cold press paper

Well, I kinda wrestled with this one, as is probably apparent. But I do like what's going on on the top right--that little bit of luminosity. That's something.

Monday, June 5, 2023

June Challenge: #30x30DirectWatercolor


Chicago Cannas
7" x 7" watercolor
cold press paper

I shot a photo of these cannas while near Millennial Park in Chicago some years ago, and since then I've painted several versions of this scene. Remembering the colors and arrangement of the flowers still gives me great joy. 

This month I'm taking on the challenge of painting, each day, a watercolor painting with minimal underdrawings and working wet-in-wet, with very little layering of glazing. It's part of a #30x30DirectWatercolor challenge organized this year by artists Marc Taro Holmes and Uma Kelkar, both fabulous painters that I have been following. They make the case that "learning the skill of painting directly builds confidence, color-sense, intuition for paint viscosity" and that all this is "crucial to your development as a watercolor artist" (from the Facebook site). 

The first thing I've noticed so far this month is that it's a relief not to have to make an under-drawing with a pencil. And then, without the drawing, it's just natural to use a looser approach with the paint brush--something I've been trying to achieve.  

I've been in a bit of a slump lately, so I'm hoping this daily painting challenge will help boost me out of it. That said, the above painting is the first one I've felt good enough about to post.

Well, maybe the second. Here's the other from June 3:

Poppies in the Grass
7" x 7" watercolor
Cold Press paper

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