Archive for the ‘My way of seeing things’ Category

Committing to quotas

Tuesday, 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

Tuesday, 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!

Keeping things in perspective

Saturday, December 1st, 2018

I celebrated my 70th birthday last week.  Shocking, right?

When I was a child, 70 seemed ancient–one foot in the grave.  But now I don’t feel that way at all!  It’s all a matter of perspective, how we see ourselves.  So I decided it was a good time to do a “Selfie at Seventy,” taking a realistic look at where I am now.

"Selfie at Seventy" by Charlotte Mertz (10"x8" oil, #181104-o)

“Selfie at Seventy” by Charlotte Mertz (10″x8″ oil, #181104-o)

It’s true that after something like 20 years of “enhancing” my hair color, I’ve finally allowed it to go natural, … only to discover that it’s a very distinguished looking color all on its own, with a lovely white streak over my right eye.  We can be so concerned with what we’re “losing” that we miss the beauties that are happening now.

Birthday cards might razz me about presumed age-related issues, … but they seem irrelevant when I feel much younger than my chronological age would suggest.  It’s true that I prefer not to jog, as I once did; but orthotic inserts in my shoes still allow me to walk quickly and comfortably.  I can’t see as well as I once could; but trifocals can do wonders to clarify my vision.  My memory might not be as sharp as it once was; but there’s a whole lot more stored in it now than there used to be.

I look at my mother, still living largely independently at almost 98 (though she doesn’t cook for herself anymore), staying in touch with distant family by letters and email, and I realize that, rather than figuratively throwing in the towel at a mere 70, I could very well still have a good 30 productive years or more ahead of me, too!  As much as I learned and experienced and accomplished in any of my preceding 30 years, just as much could still lie ahead.  How exciting!  How challenging!  How much there is to still be accomplished if I don’t give up on myself yet.

I’m not old.  Goodness!  I’m just getting started!  I think I’ll take a class.  How about you?

Every effort—a learning opportunity

Thursday, November 1st, 2018

Does an artist always need to practice?  Absolutely!  The old adage “Use it or lose it,” applies here just as much as in any other realm.  Conscious and deliberate practice sessions are often undertaken to develop or strengthen a specific skill.  But every painting I undertake … or even consider and reject before ever setting brush to palette … gives me additional practice in skills that continually need honing.

Whether to paint, or not, is a continual question:  Is this subject worthy of the time and effort needed?  Is the concept interesting or evocative?  What makes me want to paint it?  Can the subject or scene be treated in an interesting enough manner to create an appealing composition?  When the answer is no, I keep looking.  When it is yes, it poses further questions:

How varied is the value range, and can it be adjusted or simplified to create a stronger statement?  How should I handle the color harmony?  Does the subject lend itself to a limited palette or beg for a broader spectrum of hues?  What is the chromatic range?  Will it translate well into paint?  If not, how can the scene be modified to improve its effectiveness?

What structural design will best serve the subject to effectively express the concept?

All of these questions and many more need to be dealt with before painting should actually begin.  And the act of simply going through the exercise of seeking the answers (either consciously or subconsciously) sharpens my artistic eye and multiplies the creative possibilities.

Finding alternatives to the obvious answers helps keep my work fresh.  Why allow it to bog down by approaching the same types of subjects in the same-ol’-same-ol’ ways?  It’s good to play with fresh approaches to see what might evolve.

No matter how hard we may try, not every painting is going to succeed.  But that doesn’t mean that the effort is wasted.  Every painting, whether successful or not, serves a purpose.  It is another step along an endless learning curve.  It may reinforce previous successes or call attention to a need for stricter attention to some technical skill; it sharpens my perception and hones my technique.  And it broadens my experience, which in turn nurtures my creativity.

Oh yes, it’s wonderful to find encouragement in achieving a difficult effect.  But it’s also a welcome challenge to recognize the need for developing a different approach to a seemingly insurmountable problem.  That simply serves as a goad to keep me trying.  And that, in itself, is valuable.

We rarely underestimate the satisfaction of a success.  But neither should we underestimate the positive potential of a failure!  We should always ask what we can learn from it.

Seeking safe haven

Saturday, September 15th, 2018

What do you do when it’s neither practical nor safe to paint en plein air?  On a lake, for instance, lightning will be drawn to anything that stands above the water’s surface … such as sailboat masts or even people in low-lying kayaks or canoes.  You don’t want to be on the water during a thunderstorm!

It seems we’ve gotten more than our fair share of rain and heat this summer, wherever we’ve traveled.  So I haven’t been able to get outside to paint quite as much as I’d been hoping to. But even when I have to work from photos, I find that the desire to paint outdoors attunes my eyes to notice (and remember!) features that I might not be so conscious of otherwise.

I find myself paying attention to such things as hard and soft edges created by changing density in the atmosphere, and color variations that indicate changes in plane.  And the very process of figuring out how to most effectively approach a painting to recreate these edge effects is always a valuable exercise. Even the selection of colors, choice of how to blend or overlay hues to achieve appropriate values and saturation levels, deciding how and where to reserve whites, and how to suggest motion are valuable studies, whether accomplished en plein air or in a makeshift studio space.

"Scudding for Home" by Charlotte Mertz  (5"x10" watercolor, #180902w)

“Scudding for Home” by Charlotte Mertz
(5″x10″ watercolor, #180902w)

For “Scudding for Home,” above, (5”x10” watercolor, #180902) I drew information from several related photographs, as well as the memory of the experience of being in a nearby boat (with a camera but without my painting gear) … and my own desperation to beat the storm to shore.

So no, it wasn’t painted en plein air.  But to my way of thinking, the veracity of a painting is in the feeling as much as in the literal depiction of the scene.  So I’m happy with the resulting painting, which remains faithful to both the site and the circumstances, even though I couldn’t execute it on location.