Thursday, April 16, 2009

Watercolor, Pastels

With the winding down of winter and the last bit of snow we had recently, I've wanted to re-visit an idea to paint from a photo of some snow-covered echinaceas that I made last winter.

This is the photo I chose to work from. I had painted them once or twice before, but was unhappy with the results.

The first watercolor I did, I was so disgusted with it that after a few days (battling the saying, keep all your paintings, you can sometimes salvage them or at least have them to learn from or assess your progress), I could stand it no longer and covered it up with gesso. I had tried some maskit on the stems and snow and did not like the results, but then I never do. I have to agree with others that it takes practice and using [maskit] is an art in itself. I think my main mistake was trying to stay too close to the composition of the photo and not using my artist's license to create a more interesting composition (one of the pitfalls of painting from photos). A horizontal format, it had more flowers plus too much detail (same as the photo) in the background, resulting in a very busy painting - not at all the mood I was after. I know you're probably thinking 'why didn't you show us the first painting so we could see for ourselves?' Ha! Too late, already painted over it. Besides, I thought I would spare your eyes and my embarrassment.

I sometimes think about things for a very long time before making my next move. If you read my post about 'artistic thinking', you'll understand me when I say that I've had this on the back burner since the day I took the photo. That would be over a year, maybe longer. So, at times I would think that just a triad (is that the word? I forget my art history sometimes) composition of flowers would be best. I have to work through my thinking/creating process, putting the pieces of my ideas together, before getting to the end result. So that's why I first tried the horizontal format which was similar to the photo. Then I can say okay, been there done that, got it out of my mind, now on to the next step.

I knew then that I needed to return to my early thoughts of focusing on only a few flowers to make a more interesting painting. I made a few rough sketches (in my mind as well), before drawing this detailed pencil sketch on tinted paper.

This time, I did away completely with the background, and only used three flowers, the main one in the center that attracted me in the first place because of its interesting stem shape, and placed the ones on either side to balance the composition and lead the eye up to the center flower and back around to the center stem. And since I was only using three flowers, I changed the format from horizontal to vertical. Just for fun, I added some colored pencil to the sketch.

Here's my second attempt, a watercolor on a quarter sheet of Waterford 140 lb. cold press paper (the flip-side of the gessoed 1st painting). For the background, I chose to abstractly use the colors, wet-in-wet, that were actually there to compliment the warmth of the flowers' stem colors. And oh yes, I tried masking fluid again on this painting, and still was not satisfied with the results. I need to go in and soften up some of the edges of the snow and also some of the stem edges, before I chuck this one to the done that pile.

Pastel, 9.5" x 13"

Here's my third redo, using pastels and I'm much happier with the results. Did this on Fabriano Tiziano drawing/pastel paper, a small sheet approx. 9.5"x 13" with a gray ground, which gave the 'cold and quiet' feel I was after.

Using the blue-gray paper also saved on pastels and time. Pastels are so expensive! I absolutely love the medium, and for a long time have wanted to get into them more, but the investment in the sticks, good grief. And then there's the problem of archiving and framing; guess I need to purchase some glassine - suggestions anyone?

Let me know your experiences with your creative process, and your opinions. Let's have an 'art to art' talk!

Tuesday, I painted in the hollow and am itching as I type this from a couple of tick bites received on that outing. I'll let you know how that went on my next post.


CandynRA said...

Thank you for following my blog, Rebecca...and what a lovely one you have! Love your Snowcones! I can relate with you as far as thinking things usually takes me up to year or two before settling in on something. I must be a slow least it gets done!

Hayley Egan said...

Thankyou so much for stopping by my blog, because it meant I came over here, and Wow! I love this piece/es. I hear you about soft pastels! The good ones are intoxicating, once you've had them you can't go back and that is enough to send you bankrupt. I experience the same with watercolours. Anyway. Your work is beautiful. I'm a follower!

Rebecca J. Dunn said...

Thanks Candy and Hayley, I really enjoy your blogs too! BTW, Hayley, speaking of some of the 'good ones', do you wish to share some of your favorite pastel brands? So far,I've only purchased Sennelier, Rembrandt, and I think one other (can't think of the brand, but it's cheap, relatively speaking). I need to find some that are not quite as soft as the Sennelier pastels.

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