Orbs No. 25 - Waxed Watercolor - 32" x 48"

Orbs No. 25 – Waxed Watercolor – 32″ x 48″

Life is coming together in a wonderful way.  I have missed posting on a daily basis, however, my time away from the computer has been well spent.  thirty years ago I could only dream of painting the paintings I have recently created for the solo exhibit at Overlook Medical Center, November 1, 2013 – January 5, 2014 in the Bouras Gallery.  Going back to square one to study Color has paid off in trumps!

Orbs No. 14 - Watercolor - 22" x 15"

Orbs No. 14 – Watercolor – 22″ x 15″

For once, it was better that I didn’t have windows through which to see the beautiful days that passed by as I poured, sprayed, brushed, splattered and spun paint on paper, both large and small.  The trash I found at flea markets proved to be treasures, working as templates to create translucent layers of shapes that interact with one another.  The illusion of movement through space is fabulous in this new body of work.

The day after tomorrow I’m headed back to California to teach workshops and to paint the real world again in the hills surrounding San Francisco.  I’m hoping I can project a glimpse or two of my inner worlds onto the real world as I paint en plein air in the landscape that I love so much, those crazy barren hills with spots of live oak.

Though the life of a painter is always challenging, I wouldn’t trade it for any other sort of life.

Images:  Watercolor Orb Paintings, part of the Series for Art, Energy and Healing.

Some things can be taught … some things cannot.

Abstract Design from Traced Objects

Abstract Design from Traced Objects – Watercolor on Rives BFK Paper (6″ x 9″)

While preparing to teach the upcoming Watercolor Techniques Workshop in Santa Rosa, I decided to snap some photos of a painting in progress to illustrate several of the techniques I’ll be teaching.  Techniques are easy to teach. How to use tools is easy to teach.  The fundamentals of art are all easy to teach, presenting them in a variety of ways so that students who learn concepts differently will all grasp the basic idea.  It’s up to the students to practice what is learned in classes and workshops.

Tools and Techniques can be taught , but Translation is difficult if not impossible to teach.  How does one teach the translation of an unspoken language, the language of vision combined with unseen light waves and sound waves, rhythms of movement through a three-dimensional space?

Some paintings are rooted to tools and techniques, never stepping over the line into the realm of chance and possibilities where the “what if” thrives, where the population of  things gone wrong and unresolved paintings far outnumber the paintings that are a step above everything else, those that usually don’t follow the rules.  Something else has happened during the process of creation that make a painting as unique as every child, even identical twins whose genetics are the same.  Something has happened. Often, that something will happen in a spot or two of a painting.  It is a true gem when a painting as a whole declares its independence from the artist and can stand alone in a crowd without explanation.

The above painting began like this:

Early stage of painting

Early stage of painting

The composition gave me a hard time.  The pivot point is plunk in the middle of the painting.  I struggled for hours, layering, wiping out, scrubbing, splatting, wiping out, glazing ….. and more lifting of paint.  Two hours into it I stopped snapping photos of the methods I was using to try to resolve the painting.  Six hours in, it began to breath a life of its own.  I was in battle mode and didn’t notice for a while.  It fought …. and I fought back.  The painting finally won.  I allowed it to be completely different from what I thought it should be.  I was even a bit angry with it.

I went to bed disgruntled.

When I awoke this morning I was surprised that the painting expressed everything I had intended, patterns, textures, interweaving of shapes as they move through space, a glow of light against mysterious darks reaching far beyond the flat surface of the paper.

I can encourage my students to step across the line.  I can even push a few across, but I can’t teach any of them how to translate their heart beats and their breath.  Nor can I teach them what drives me to draw and paint each and every day of my life.  I could say it is the joy of drawing and painting.  It’s not just the joys, it is also that I grow stronger hrom each battle I fight, whether I have won or lost, it makes no difference.  For the hundreds of paintings I’ve sold and exhibited, I’ve thrown away ten times that number.  If I ever get to the point where I’m not discarding most of my paintings it will mean I’ve stopped taking risks and stopped searching for new ways to translate my world.  I don’t ever want to see the day that I don’t take the chance of creating an unsuccessful painting.

Image:  Watercolor and a touch of unsuccessfully sprayed ink using a mouth atomizer.

6:45 am, Polt Mountain, New Jersey…. morning sky looking 150 degrees SouthEast and looking 290 degrees NorthWest…

Morning Sky 150 degrees SouthEast

The crack of dawn erupted into kaleidoscope vision of oranges, pinks, turquoise and violets.

Turning my head in the opposite direct, the colors of the sky were muted, almost hazy.

Morning Sky 290 degrees NorthWest

Painting my daily weather journal is a constant reminder to look in all directions, not just the world as it appears in front of me.  Had I faced only NorthWest, I would have missed the drama that was in motion behind me.

Weather Journal Paintings: Watercolor on scraps of watercolor paper recycled from unfinished or unresolved paintings.

As I carried my backpack and suitcase to the car last Thursday morning, the light of my flashlight was not aimed at the dining table where the watercolor travel kits, replenished with fresh paint, and travel brushes lay ready to be packed.  They are still on the table ready to be packed.  Fortunately, I had several tubes of paint packed for teaching the workshops.

Pill Box Watercolor Palette

For $1.67 I picked up a pill box organizer at a local drug store in Mountain View.  I used the hinged caps and the spare well for a bit of mixing.  It’s not the best, but it works.

Cloud Pruned Juniper Tree

My day was spent drawing and painting the cloud pruned Juniper trees near Hangar One at Moffett Field.

Taking a break from reality

It’s difficult to be serious when looking at such Seuss-like trees.

Cloud Pruned Juniper Tree

Sketchbook drawings:  Drawn en plein air first with fountain pen filled with Noodler’s Black Ink, followed by watercolor using a small waterbrush.  BFK Rives paper

Thanks to Tom’s gift of a mountaineering compass, I know exactly which direction I am facing when I paint en plein air!

12:30 pm, facing East, October 18, 2012

Yesterday, based on the position of the sun, I guessed that I was facing East.

8 am, 60 degrees East-North-East, Polt Mountain, NJ, October 19, 2012

No more guesswork! When I awoke, the cornfield and harvested part of the cornfield were both bathed in a pinkish glow.  Within minutes of painting this little sketch the sky turned gray and the rain shower began.

 

Painting the landscape as it passed by at 65 mph reminded me that I could use more practice painting strictly from memory.

9 am looking East from the side yard.

After glancing at this view (not studying it carefully) I turned my back and attempted to paint an impression of what I remembered.  For me, this uses an entirely different section of my brain.  It is not an eye / hand coordination process nor is it a process in which the painting develops in its own direction with each mark.  It feels disjointed and awkward. Of course ….. that means I need to do it more often until it feels comfortable, until I feel the creative juices flowing during the process.

For this painting I lay down colors in watercolor.  The shapes and colors appeared lifeless.  When a painting is lifeless, I resort to splatters to bring energy onto the paper.  When that fails, I resort to my fountain pen to redefine something …. anything.  When that fails, I take what I’ve learned and move on, knowing I’m one step closer to a more exciting and more successful painting from memory.

An attempt at working in the same style, but larger.

Much larger than my sketchbook!

Using the same Rives BFK paper and my fountain pen I began a large drawing of the sweet potato vine in the hanging basket.  I wanted to see how the ink and watercolor sketches might translate into a larger format.

Laying in the washes

A drawing of this size, in this style, demands hours and hours of attention.  I had drawn too much detail, with ink,  into one of the leaves.  I had hoped I could disguise the problem.

Finished painting

Along with each new disguise, I created a new problem.  With each new solution, I lost some of the freshness and clarity of the painting.  I finally decided it is best to start over.  Numerous lessons learned along the journey!

Detail at an earlier stage

Sweet Potato Vine: Drawn first with fountain pen filled with Noodler’s Black Ink, followed by far too many washes of watercolor.