Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Painting with Watercolor or, How Control is an Illusion

Watercolor Tonal Studies

If you ever needed evidence that control is an illusion, try working with watercolor paints. These are a few tonal studies that I was working on the other day.

I began drawing mandalas and experimenting with different art supplies at the beginning of 2007. The painting below is from March of 2007.

Watercolor Mandala inspired by Rachel

Student grade watercolor sets like this Winsor and Newton Cotman Water Colour Sketchers' Pocket Box  are fairly inexpensive and is almost identical to the set I used to create the image above.

I believe that it's all fun and games for anyone who wants to play with watercolor paints - until they decide they that want to make the paint actually look like something. That's when all hell breaks loose - unless you are my friend Andrew Kish, an amazing watercolorist who makes everything look easy.

Seriously though, there is a lot to learn with regards to watercolor paints. To me, the most challenging aspect is knowing how much water to mix with the paint (or load into the brush) to get consistent results. The fact that wet watercolor paint dries significantly lighter is something that drives me bonkers. (The acrylic paints I work with tend to dry the same color as when wet.)

Some paints are permanent, others fugitive. Some are more transparent that others, etc. Artist grade paints cost more and are typically purchased by the tube or in cake form. They contain more pigment than binder and mixing colors are a little less challenging than with student grade paints. I personally like the brands Holbein and Daniel Smith. The website Handprint contains a tremendous amount of information about watercolor paint. If you are new to the medium, I suggest starting there.

Over the years, I've mostly moved away from watercolor and work primarily with acrylic paint. Similar to the studies in the image at the top, the image below depicts one that I did with acrylic paint earlier this year. One of the reasons that I moved towards acrylic was the opacity of the medium - I could work with it over black if I wanted to. (And I wanted to.)

Acrylic tonal study

There was another route that I could have chosen instead of acrylic, and that is gouache. (pronounced "gwash") Gouache is an opaque watercolor which has a matte finish when dry. I've since acquired a few tubes but haven't made a concentrated effort to work with them. I think part of me prefers the permanent nature of acrylic paint.

In the end, if you are looking for an immediately accessible and fairly inexpensive way to create expressive art, by all means, grab yourself a set of watercolor paints. If you'd like to become a realist and get more serious about the medium, it wouldn't be a bad idea to work with a teacher that has a style you would like to emulate.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Metamorphosis in Part 1 of the 2014 Banana Factory Resident Artist Annual Exhibition

"Metamorphosis" in the Banana Factory Resident Artist Annual Exhibition Pt. 1 09/14

Each year, the resident artists at the Banana Factory Arts and Education Center in Bethlehem, PA have the opportunity to display their work as a group for two months in the large main gallery on the first floor, (The Crayola Gallery)

For the first time ever, this year's show was split into two separate exhibitions, with each group having their work up for 1 month. This permitted each of the 30 artists to have a larger space in which to display. (Overall, I thought each exhibit looked, *amazing!*) 

"Metamorphosis" in the Banana Factory Resident Artist Annual Exhibition Pt. 1 09/14

I opted to submit a single piece for this exhibit entitled: Metamorphosis 

This is the piece that I started on First Friday in December of 2013 during an evening of "Live Painting" in my studio. I never had any idea how this piece would look when it was finished, as this was one of my very first geometric mandalas and I was seriously swimming in uncharted waters.

While it's common for me to start something and come back to finish it at a later date, this was the first time I worked on something for so long, (8 months!) a little bit at a time. I'd usually see one new element at a time and how it would fit, and then I'd execute it. Sometimes I'd play around with the image in the Procreate app but mostly I'd just sit and look at it until the next bit was revealed.

A few things I learned during this process?

  • I really enjoyed discovering how I could create a sense of push/pull using color, patterns in combination with the black lines. Staring at the finished painting, certain elements seem to come off of the canvas then fade back as others pop forward and take their place. That's just so cool!
  • I learned to let go. When I initially used a ruler and compass to lay out this piece, I did so really quickly. (because the Live Painting was about to begin and I didn't have anything started) By not taking my time to lay it out, the geometry isn't exact and as a result, the painting isn't perfectly symmetrical. Rather than redraw/rework major sections once I'd started painting, I instead chose to use creative thinking to problem solve design issues when one area inadvertently overlapped into another. While many of my previous paintings were completely spontaneous, with "mistakes" commonly made part of the design, (generally seeing all mistakes as learning opportunities) I'd specifically avoided working geometrically because I'd felt that there needed to be a certain amount of precision and attention to detail for a piece if it was going to "work". Working on Metamorphosis, I can't tell you how frustrated I'd get at the imperfections. One of the ways I think I was able to let go was by seeing some of the "creative decisions" made by the Modern masters at MoMA. Sometimes I can get way too caught up in how I think something should be which is probably both my greatest strength and my biggest flaw.
  • One coat of paint isn't enough. (Or 2, or 3) I love working over a black background and this piece was reading really dark until I realized that I had to keep adding more layers if I wanted to even out the tones yet still make the whole thing pop. 
  • While I didn't set out to use any specific design elements from any culture or time period, it was really interesting in the end to see all of what showed up. 

Overall, this was a monumental learning piece for me

If you'd like to see the piece from start to finish, please see this set on Flickr. Part 1 of the exhibit was on display through the month of September, 2014.

"Metamorphosis" in the Banana Factory Resident Artist Annual Exhibition Pt. 1 09/14

"Metamorphosis" in the Banana Factory Resident Artist Annual Exhibition Pt. 1 09/14

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Orbit" on Display in NYC for the N.A.W.A. 125th Members Exhibition

Visit my art in New York City! From now through October 30th -

October 3rd-30th is the 125th Annual N.A.W.A Members Exhibition held at the Sylvia Wald and Po Kim Gallery, 417 Lafayette St. in New York City. I became a juried member of - N.A.W.A (National Association of Women Artists) earlier this year and my piece "Orbit" is currently be part of this historic exhibition. (Think about what rights women had, or didn't have 125 years ago!)

"Orbit" can be seen in the upper right of this image at the Oct. 9th  opening of the exhibition

This year’s exhibition features the work of over 290 member artists in a wide range of media, including painting, sculpture, works on paper, photography, mixed media and computer/digital-based art.

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