Archive for the ‘News’ Category

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.

Happy New Year!

Friday, January 1st, 2016

As a New Year gift to my followers, I have decided to begin a newsletter, called “Around and About,” about art (not only my own) and the journeys and experiences that lead the way.  Through it, I intend to keep you posted on my recent work, give you a peek into what goes on behind the scenes, and share some of my art insights and travel experiences with you. I may even include some critiques to share my thoughts regarding artistic design.  You can expect to see a new issue every 2-4 weeks. If you’re interested, be sure to subscribe to receive “Around and About.”  You can cancel at any time.

Here is a critique I wrote recently regarding a portrait of the Russian painter Konstantin Korovin, by Valentin Serov:

Serov,-Korovin

“Korovin” is an example of impressionistic portraiture, relying more heavily on suggestion than on precise detail. The artistic concept appears to be to portray the subject’s relaxed and contemplative repose.

Serov suggests repose by the downward angle of the subject’s body, the horizontal stripes of the bolster pillow, and the extended horizontal lines of the subject’s book (at his right shoulder) and his left shoulder and of the paintings on the wall. That the face is intended as the primary focal point is indicated by its being the most carefully detailed element of the composition and by being isolated at a “sweet spot,” approximately 1/3 of the distance from the top and left edges, almost entirely encircled by the light wall and shirt collar.

Though the shapes of the hands are only suggested, they too are in sweet spots, roughly 1/3 from the side and bottom edges. The fact that the right hand lies against the colorful stripes in an otherwise almost colorless room suggests that the artist’s painting hand lends color to his life. The significance of this hand is reinforced by the directing lines of the shirt collar, the white sleeve, the line of the pant leg, and the converging stripes behind the hand. The left sleeve and hand act as a balance to it, lying relaxed against the dark clothing and softening through lost and found edges into the gray wall behind.

Serov has maintained a sense of unity throughout the painting by using a limited palette, linking dark areas, and repeating reddish color spots in key areas—the face, wrist, wooden footboard, and covering of the daybed, and the bolster–which balance the otherwise dominantly cool composition. He has also used spotting (particularly with whites) to keep the light/dark patterns of the notan design interesting. Upon closer inspection, we can see that Serov has provided additional visual interest in the directional strokes on the wall and bolster cushion, and in textural brushwork throughout.

 

If there’s anything you’d particularly like to know about regarding materials, techniques, design principles, or my own working methods, drop me a line and let me know. I’d love to hear from you and will try to respond.  Or if you would like me to include a (gentle) critique of your own work, with comments about what succeeds and (if needed) how it might be strengthened, feel free to email me a clear picture of it, along with your name, the title, medium, and dimensions, and I’ll consider featuring it in the newsletter.

Island Art

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

I’m pleased to announce that Island Art and Boutique, in Matlacha, Florida, is now carrying my work. The selections they have chosen are in keeping with their Florida island and beach themes. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll stop in to take a look.

150702w - Conch Shell

Watch for the Island Cafe on the right as you approach the Matlacha causeway on the road to Pine Island. The yellow building of Island Art and Boutique is the very first shop on the left after that. If you cross a bridge, you’ll have gone too far!