Monday, August 18, 2014

A Little Piece of Heaven

In the midst of renovations, building a garden shed, insulating the crawl space, building a retaining wall around the plumbing in the crawl space and ignoring the finishing work (filling and painting) on the gallery and shed, we decided to go camping. Having taken a six or seven year hiatus from camping we found our supplies in disarray. Several things were missing. Fortunately our now adult children did manage to fill in the gaps and we left for a little piece of heaven late on Friday. The tents and food arrived well before we did so we parked the car, dropped our belongings in the cabin and discovered the bed had been made for us. Lovely. We grabbed a couple of already cooked hamburgers and sat down. So easy! A little later the boys figured out how to cut the massive chunks of tree into more useable pieces while I sipped on my beer. I must say I enjoy being older! Watching the embers glow and flicker amid the dance of flames my body relaxed and an attitude of profound gratitude pervaded my being. It is so good to be alive.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Second Coat

More watercolour expertise coming your way! Watercolour often needs a second coat. It dries quite a bit lighter than the initial wash no matter how strong it might be. The first layer of colour is a lot of fun. When I am doing a large block of dark I mix a base wash as intense as I can without it becoming cream which tends to sit on the surface instead of being absorbed into the paper. To this intensity I add even stronger colour straight out of the pan, again with enough liquid to be absorbed. The colours run together and I have minimal control. I let it dry in interesting patterns. The first photo shows the result of such a powerful first round. For the second coat it is all about negative space and creating the illusion of complexity. As you can see, I am very selective about where I place the darker shapes and how they are formed. There does not have to be a complete inventory of every leaf, rather a suggestion is much more pleasing to the eye. In fact I left the top leaves alone. Letting the eye imagine the complexity within the first patterning beckons the viewer into participation. Life is so good.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Great Yellow Pipe

I should have known… Not everyone is aware neither of what a gallery consists, nor for what it might be used. I did tell all those involved that although it looks like a garage it is really a studio/gallery. Sigh. I wish I could say I handled this with “quiet conviction” as Richard Rohr would suggest. I am not quite at the peaceful heart part that would have avoided the tirade. The contractor and I had just put on the finishing touches to my magnificent space the day before. I came home to see my new heater installed in my workshop and then I saw the neon yellow snake crawling up the gallery wall, across the ceiling and through the wall… I managed to ask, “Can I paint it?” The answer was ‘no’. By the next day, when I phoned the man in charge of the plumbing company, I was no longer thinking of paint. The fateful words, “It’s just a garage,” triggered an avalanche of words about putting such monstrosities through living rooms, etc. I apologized the next day for dumping forty years of frustration on him… Sigh again… Indeed, the pipe will be removed. I will patch up the holes and repaint. Life is still good.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Transfers and Collages

I am working on a new piece called “Invitation: To Proceed”. There is no one photo that captures what I wish to express. Often I will combine several photos into one image. The perspective is tricky at times; it is much simpler with one person or two as long as they are not too far apart. In this case I chose a lonely figure who was walking at a slightly different angle to the one I needed. So there were two problems to solve: angle and proportion. I decided a thumbnail sketch was in order so I could determine whether or not he should be dressed in dark or light clothing. The sketch gave me the tonal value and the proportion, now all I needed was the angle. With difficult problems such as this a preliminary sketch is a must. Trying to draw a perfect figure onto the watercolour sheet with all the necessary changes and without making any errors comes down to wishful thinking. It is much easier to make all the mistakes on a cheap piece of paper then using a light table I can transfer it by tracing. I cut a chunk of Mayfield to the correct size and began to draw. Changing the angle of the shoulders, hips, legs and feet proved not to be as challenging as I had first imagined. I am very thankful for all the hours I put into life drawing. They put flow into my work. Life is so good.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Preserving the Light

 This is really about negative space again. My initial washes are sloppy. I like soup and allowing the paint to do its own thing. Then I experience control issues… Developing lighter grasses against a darker, watery background contains several challenges especially if one wishes to include some sparkle in the water. Once the first layer of grass has dried I add strokes in different colours to encourage the illusion of grasses and reeds. I then take the colours of the darker water and carefully open spaces in the solid lighter areas to create thinner stems and seed heads. It is important to use the same value of the background and maintain the line of the stems. It does not have to look like the photo. It has to look like grass…. The glittering water requires a more horizontal approach reducing the white spaces sometimes to a few points, more often splitting the lighter area in two so there are two fine sparkles instead of one big glob. One has to be choosy. It is so easy to overwork this. Step back often and ask the question: is it working? If the answer is ‘yes’, leave it alone. Enjoy!