Pausing to observe the roses

February 15th, 2019

The more familiar an artist is with the subject and the nature of the depicted environment and weather conditions, the easier it is to incorporate credible alterations from what might be viewed in the original scene (whether in life, a photo, or a plein-air sketch being used as reference material).  This familiarity comes from continual close and ongoing observation of everything of particular interest in the artist’s world.

"Edna's Rose" by Charlotte Mertz  (5"x7" watercolor, #180908w)

“Edna’s Rose” by Charlotte Mertz
(5″x7″ watercolor, #180908w)

Observational skills are arguably one of the most important skills for any artist to develop.  They include recognizing subtle changes in hue, value, and levels of saturation; compositional balance; perspective; proportions; even aberrations of human vision, which we can use to feature focal areas or to create special effects; as well as typical shapes and relative sizes of individual subjects.

Careful observation helps us see the world more richly, to appreciate it more fully.  When is the last time you “stopped to smell the roses” … and considered the shape, curvature, and variations of color in their petals?  I encourage you to take some time today to more fully observe the little things, as well as the greater environment around you.

 

Ideas adapted from life

February 1st, 2019

If you are a long-time follower of my blog, you probably already know that I take innumerable travel photos for reference purposes.  But I don’t always paint from them verbatim.  The same is true of plein-air sketches, painted quickly on location.  Sometimes they simply trigger an idea that I may want to explore, or suggest a similar scene translated to a different place or circumstance.

This studio oil painting was derived from an idea whose gist had been captured earlier in a plein-air watercolor sketch.

"Beached," by Charlotte Mertz (8"x10" oil on canvas, #181202-o)

“Beached,” by Charlotte Mertz
(8″x10″ oil on canvas, #181202-o)

Knowing that I didn’t have to copy the original scene exactly as it had been, I felt free to adapt the landscape and sky and even change the shape, angle, and colors of the boat to suit my vision for this studio composition.

But when the painting still appeared incomplete, it took some stepping back to recognize what it was missing:  Although the sailboat I’d seen on the shore had had a mast, it had no boom, and the shallow hull lacked a stabilizing keel, so would have required a removable centerboard. (It helps to be familiar enough with the subject matter that generalizations can be made for purposes of adaptation, but a more knowledgeable sailor than I am might still take exception to other aspects of the vessel.  For those aberrations I claim artistic license!)

Adding a boom with furled sail, a centerboard on the ground beside the beached vessel, and a threatening sky helped suggest a more interesting narrative about this apparently abandoned boat.  After making these editorial changes, I was much happier with the finished painting than I’d been with the original sketch.

Committing to quotas

January 15th, 2019

“Is there still space available in your class?”

Time after time this winter, I was happy to be able to say “Yes!” and add another name to the roster for my snowbird-season watercolor classes, which began this past week.  But the time came when I had to start saying “No” and put a name on the waiting list instead of on the roster.

I regret having to turn away prospective students: They want to learn, and I want to teach them what I can.  So however tempted I may be to include “just one more” even after my quota is filled, the line has to be drawn somewhere.

Sometimes the number of students is limited by the room size or the number of seats or working surfaces available; sometimes the limit is based on how many students I feel I can reasonably work with individually during a class session.

Yes, maybe I could cram another student or two into the classroom.  But that would jeopardize the comfort and learning experience of the whole class.  So I have to be strict with myself and maintain those pre-determined limits.

It’s gratifying to a teacher when a class fills up.  But it’s disappointing to a prospective student who gets turned away.  If you find a course or other event you really want to get involved in, whether it’s one of mine or someone else’s, don’t wait until the last minute to sign up!  Be sure to register as early as possible to ensure your place on the roster.

There’s no guarantee, of course, and because of scheduling difficulties, it was not possible for my classes this year; but with sufficient interest shown and enough time to plan ahead, sometimes an additional class may be scheduled to accommodate an extensive waiting list.  It can’t hurt to ask.

Happy challenges for the new year

January 1st, 2019

A new year seems to beg us to try something different, pursue a new direction, or raise the bar on our current status. What are your goals for the new year?

I am gearing up once again to teach my snowbird watercolor classes, beginning next week.  I look forward to both introducing the pleasures of painting to new group of students, and encouraging the continued exploration and development of others’ painting skills.  I also plan to pursue my own continuing art education.  There’s always so much more to learn!

120518---Brass-Pitcher-withI challenge you in 2019 to pursue some new creative realm that you’ve hoped to do “someday,” follow up on skills you may have allowed to atrophy from disuse, or share your own expertise with others who want to learn from you.

As we look forward into the coming year, I wish you comfort, hope, and a sense of satisfaction in whatever creative projects or challenges you undertake.  Go for it!

The length and the breadth and the sweep …

December 15th, 2018

Totally aside from the primary destinations of our travels, I enjoy seeing the unfamiliar countryside we pass between our stops.  Whether driving through open farmland, mountain ranges, forests, winding roads along tumbling rivers, or views entirely different, while my traveling companions may read or nap, I try to keep my eyes open to appreciate “the length and the breadth and the sweep” of the changing views.

I had been intrigued by the irregularity of the coastline, the network of meandering waterways, and the grasslands that separated them when we had flown over the Georgia coast last year.  In November this year, my husband and I had the opportunity to take a coach excursion through some of that area, particularly those low-lying tidal plains south of Savannah.

"Marshes of Glynn" by Charlotte Mertz  (9"x12" oil, #181103-o)

“Marshes of Glynn” by Charlotte Mertz
(9″x12″ oil, #181103-o)

The sky was overcast, and a persistent drizzle flecked the bus windows, but I found the lovely gray arch of the distant Lanier Bridge (named for the Sidney Lanier, author of the poem,“The Marshes of Glynn,” which lyrically depicted the wetlands) just as appealing as the autumnal colors in the marsh itself.

Although I could not disembark at the time to paint the scenery, and photos shot from the bus window were blurred with rain, I was later able to undertake a studio painting to depict my impression of the scene as we passed.

Sometimes paint can be a better recorder of memories than a camera.  It may not be as literally accurate, but it can be much more evocative of mood than a quickly snatched snapshot. And, when painted from memory or even poorly executed artist-created reference images, the painting process itself transports the artist back to the pleasures of the original experience.