Archive for February, 2019

Pausing to observe the roses

Friday, 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

Friday, 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.