Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Materials Evaluation Time!

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

As I take a brief vacation break to do something different, I’m considering a short-term shift from watercolors back to oils for a few weeks.  The changed requirements for and approaches to preplanning, brushwork, edges, color blending, and so on, may help by refreshing my perspective on watercolor when I return to it, and perhaps to help me return to the style-seeking mode I mapped out for myself in April.

"Limited Palette" (#170303w)

“Limited Palette” (#170303w)

An article comparing some of the top brands of oil paint, published on www.Wonderstreet.com* this past spring, reminded me to review my own oil paints and other materials to verify that they really suit my current needs.  Certainly there are always new colors to try and evaluate, but this kind of comparative article helps to narrow down the optimal choices of paint manufacturers.

In general, I’ve been very pleased with my choice of M.Graham’s walnut-oil based line because they can be used without solvents.  Even for cleanup, I use just walnut oil and Murphy’s Oil Soap, which means I don’t have to worry about the odor, health effects, or disposal of turps or other petroleum-based products.

I also occasionally use water-soluble oils (which the Wonderstreet article did not include).  But frankly, they don’t have the same smooth “feel” and are no easier to clean up with soap and water than the M.Graham paints.

But my needs and preferences aren’t the same as everyone else’s, so I appreciate it when comparative evaluations like the Wonderstreet article appear as a reference that allows artists to make informed selections based on their individual needs.  Here are some of the comparative references I’ve found most helpful, to date:

For oils:  http://wonderstreet.com/blog/how-to-choose-a-brand-of-oil-paint (Comparisons of major manufacturers’ oil paints, with pros and cons cited by working artists)

For acrylics:  http://wonderstreet.com/blog/choosing-the-acrylic-paint-thats-best-for-you (Comparisons of major manufacturers’ acrylic paints, with pros and cons cited by working artists)

For watercolor:  Hilary Page’s Guide to Watercolor Paints (an extremely comprehensive coverage of most manufacturers’ colors and the characteristics of individual pigments as of 1996, with a more limited free update printout as of 2009 available).  Unfortunately, the original book is no longer available except through resale.

Another watercolor resource is WonderStreet’s article on watercolor paints, http://wonderstreet.com/blog/which-brand-of-watercolour-should-you-choose, Though the article does not delve into specific pigments or individual paints colors as Page’s book does, the article provides a general overview of what to expect from each product line.  It is a helpful resource when seeking desirable characteristics from a specific manufacturer’s products.  The information, compiled from findings by WonderStreet’s readership of working artists, is up-to-date as of this spring.

*Note:  Wonderstreet is a UK-based platform on which such artists as illustrator Kerry Darlington can showcase their work.

New Season Classes

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

This month I’m looking ahead and preparing lesson plans for the classes I’ve committed to teach in the new year.

These “Snowbird Season” classes, taught at the Verandah Community in Fort Myers, FL, will include both a beginners’ 6-session series, beginning January 10, and a subsequent 6-class “continuing” series, beginning February 21. The second series will be for both students from the first sessions who wish to continue and for others who already have some background in watercolor who would like to pursue their interest further.

Milky Way Over the Bay (#160802w)

Milky Way Over the Bay (#160802w)

I always enjoy introducing new painters to the mysteries of watercolor painting. And I also find it gratifying to be able to encourage and guide more advanced artists to explore the possibilities that watercolor provides. Not only do I invariably make new friends, but the very nature of our classwork means that we have a common interest and creative drive. This means that we generate a special kind of excitement and motivation to advance beyond our current skill levels.

We all learn from one another’s efforts. Yes, I continue to learn, too, as we discuss strategies to produce the best possible work, analyze the cause of specific problems, and figure out how to overcome or at least minimize them and, preferably, avoid them altogether in future paintings.

Whether or not you are close enough to join one of my classes, I encourage the artist or art connoisseur in you to find or form an association with at least one other person with whom you can discuss your views and insights. It doesn’t matter if you use or appreciate the same medium. The fact that you mutually strive to visualize the world through artistic eyes with the goal of expressing or enhancing your vision of it will stimulate your continuing development and pleasure.

But most of all, whether you’re creating your own or appreciating others’ artwork, have fun, and share the joy!

I wish you a safe and satisfying holiday season and a happy and healthy new year.

Seeking “the Zone”

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

The wonderful contemporary artist Quang Ho opened my eyes recently to what he terms an artist’s three levels of seeing.  If I understand him correctly, the first is based on our beliefs of accepted characteristics of our subjects (“A face has eyes, nose, mouth, and ears; an apple is red”).  This is exemplified in, but not limited to, a child’s early drawings, in which, though proportionately skewed, with simplistically shaped features, the subject is still provided the key formulaic elements.  Although these “truths” are incomplete and therefore often inaccurate for depicting specific subjects, this level is identifiable by our fear of diverging from our understanding and belief of “what is.” Because of this, we paint the surface characteristics we have come to accept, without looking for a greater, more specific truth.

In the second level we see variations from our original assumptions.  We base our revised assumptions on informed observations, which are interpreted by our understanding of artistic “rules” and our perceptions of natural laws.  (“Atmospheric perspective dictates that colors become cooler and lighter as they recede.”)  These observations and perceptions may or may not be complete or accurate for all situations.  But they allow us to make certain judgments that may break away from the original mode.  We actively seek out differences and compare our observations against what we have been taught to expect.  Yet at this second level, even with thorough technical mastery of the medium, we often still rely on, and stubbornly cling to, our revised understanding of “what is.”

The third level transcends this to the point of our slipping “into the Zone,” being able to imagine the whole of a composition before its execution, visualizing possibilities beyond what our eyes perceive, and allowing an artistic concept or mood to transcend the subject.  At this level the artist is freed to either apply or ignore observational assumptions and perceptions of “what is” and experiences a fearless freedom to play, experiment, and vary from the literal.  This is where innovation lives, creativity thrives, and individual vision becomes apparent.

"Une Petite Fleur," copyright 2010 by Carol Mertz. Used by permission.

“Une Petite Fleur,”
copyright 2010 by Carol Mertz.
Used by permission.

Third-level seeing is what separates top-grade artists from the rest of the pack.  While often designed using characteristics and idioms of first level seeing, cartoon art, such as Une Petite Fleur (above) by Carol Mertz, often illustrates an artist’s inner vision by transcending the seeming simplicity of the drawn subjects to express a greater message. Simplification and use of the first-level idiom focuses on the message of the art and makes it easily understood by any reader/viewer.  In Une Petite Fleur, the simplicity of the line drawings, and the subtlety of differences between the weekly images, contribute greatly to the poignancy of the messages.

But I leave cartooning to my daughter.  Watercolor is the vehicle that moves me toward that third level of seeing.  Once in “the Zone” I don’t have to concentrate so hard on the mechanics.  Here I tend to lose track of time and conscious thought, and can let the freedom flow.  It isn’t an easy level to reach, requiring both considerable confidence and competence in the medium. And the changes come gradually.

I haven’t entirely or consistently achieved that third level of visualization in my representational painting.

Perhaps more than any other painting medium, well-executed watercolor is demanding and requires considerable pre-planning.  But this medium carries me along, begs me to play, and challenges me to find the answers to “how.”  Acknowledging the need to find “how” is humbling (perhaps because it suggests incomplete mastery), but it drives my continuing exploration and pursuit of understanding.  This realization reaffirms that it’s time for me to come back home to watercolor.

With increasing mastery will come increased confidence to step beyond the familiar to paint as only my mind can visualize.  Thorough mastery ensures greater freedom of expression, to reach for that ultimate level of seeing and of composing that inner visualization in an entirely different mode.  At this level, even representational work transcends a literal interpretation.  This is the level of artistic mastery I am striving for.

I hope you’ll stay with me as I pursue it through 2017.

Just for the Satisfaction

Saturday, October 15th, 2016

Have you ever donated your time or work? You probably have, and if so, you will understand why I sometimes do, too.

On October 21, the Tampa Museum of Art will be hosting their 5th annual Five-by-Five Art Exhibition, presented by the Arts Council of Hillsborough County.  It will be open only from 8-11PM.  All artwork (limited to 5”x5”) is donated and exhibited anonymously, to be sold for $25 each.  And yes, the show will include two of my floral paintings—one in watercolor, one in oil, though I am not allowed to reveal which ones.  (Sorry to disappoint you:  “Angel’s Trumpet,” below, is not one of those included, though it is indicative of my style.)

Angel's Trumpet (#130405w), 3"x5" watercolor

Angel’s Trumpet (#130405w), 3″x5″ watercolor

A roster of participating artists and a preview of works available for sale during the event will be posted on FivebyFiveTampaBay.com before the event. The evening will also include live performances in a variety of disciplines.

Why might an artist choose to donate paintings anonymously that she could sell under her own signature to increase her name recognition?

For any of several reasons.

One is the satisfaction of sharing her work with buyers who appreciate it for what it is rather than buying on the basis of her name.  (Artists’ names will be revealed only after the artwork is purchased.)

Another is the satisfaction of supporting others’ artistic endeavors through sales—in this case, the Arts Council of Hillsborough County (Florida), to help underwrite workshops and grants.  $10 admission fees will also help support the Tampa Museum of Art.

I have frequently benefited from the generosity of others; I like being able to take the opportunity to give back.  If you’re in the Tampa area on Friday, October 21, I hope you’ll stop by the Tampa Museum of Art to peruse the variety of works available.

2016 Snowbird Classes

Friday, January 15th, 2016

After not having taught my usual art classes during the Snowbird Season last year, I wanted to get back to teaching again. Taking a new tack on an old theme, this winter I’ll be offering several one-day beginner classes with focused purposes. They’ll be held in the Verandah Community in Fort Myers, Florida, for six consecutive Tuesday afternoons, beginning on January 19.

160103w In Class (quick sketch)

160103w In Class (quick sketch)

The first class will offer guidance in basic drawing skills, simplifying a form into basic shapes, developing the silhouette, and simple ways of suggesting form.

The next session will help students learn in somewhat greater depth to depict form, still working monochromatically.

The third week will be devoted to color—the three principle aspects of color, temperature bias, and how the understanding of these features can take much of the mystery out of mixing colors effectively.

We will again address the matter of form the fourth week, when we investigate how light and color can be used to enhance the impression of 3-dimensionality.

Next we’ll challenge the long-standing fallacy that watercolor is the most difficult painting medium. By understanding a few simple principles and learning some basic techniques, we can take the “R:ST RATIO” out of FRUSTRATION and make it simply FUN.

The final session will give participants an opportunity to obtain objective and constructive critiques of their own paintings, or simply learn from critiques of others’ work if they prefer, and then join in the subsequent group discussions.

Feel free to email me for further information. Class size is limited. As always, I look forward to meeting my new students, who typically keep me delving into the how’s and why’s of painting, and who always motivate me to keep learning more.