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.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Farewell to Old Friends

It's been a busy but also a melancholy week here
at home. The 'tree guys' finally removed all of our beloved pine trees (the ones my father gave me 28 yrs ago, just before he passed away) that were severely damaged from the Feb. ice storm. I've been dreading this day for several years. Funny, but I almost had these trees removed before the Christmas holidays, and backed out. As I hung up the phone with the tree service, telling them NOT to come, that I had changed my mind, I had a sinking feeling and thought, I hope I haven't jinxed us. This will probably be the year we get a bad ice storm. My husband and I continued to halfheartedly joke about that, saying we were certainly 'due' one as it had been several years since the last big ice storm. Well, as it so happened, it couldn't have worked out better, because the storm did just enough damage to make the decision easier without taking out our home. We're so lucky they didn't come crashing down on the house during the night. This week, just feeling the deep, vibrating 'thud' as each gigantic trunk hit the ground was enough to reassure us that we made the right decision to get rid of them before they take us down in the next storm. They would easily have split the house right in two.

You can see in the photo on the right how 'thinned out' the pines were from the ice damage. Of course I think they would have recouped fine, but they were just getting way too tall and were too close to the house, as were several of our oaks (notice in 3rd photo on right, the 2 oaks standing, now stripped of their limbs, trunks shortened, and ready to fall, how close they were to the house) . The old oak tree on the side of the house was the last to go. So sad, as it was a gorgeous tree, but it pounded our roof all night during the ice storm and if that tree had snapped, well, it was right up against our house. It's the one that kept me running all during the night of the storm as each limb that snapped crashed to the roof. We would grab our flashlights and cautiously peek into the bedroom to see if any limbs were protruding through the ceiling. Luckily, they never did. As much as I hate to see all these beautiful trees go, I know we'll rest easier, especially at night when a storm's coming. We lost a total of 15 trees in our yard, 7 of which fell from the weight of the ice, but fortunately, we were able to save many, or at least give them a few more years, by pruning the damaged limbs.

One good ending to all this though - knowing that this day would come, I have been saving seedlings from my Dad's pines and should continue having some for a few seasons, as I've also been collecting the pine cones and I know the yard is still full of seeds. I have been transplanting the seedlings in the hollow (they're not too happy there though-too much competition for sun). I'm trying to find some good sunny spots to plant some along the back yard at the wood's edge - well away from the house! Hopefully, I'll be able to continue my father's imprint on our property (which, regrettably he never got to see) and his love for southern pines.

My goals for tomorrow:

  • Finish mixing up some glaze recipes - had to order some more chemicals before I could finish up.
  • Play around with some new water-based oils I purchased a while back.
  • Maybe make some more clay pendants. I'm having fun with these, but have no idea how they are going to turn out.
  • And I'm STILL archiving photos - been doing this all week!
As I'm posting this, a tornado warning has just been issued in parts of Oklahoma, and probably headed this way. Hey, that's okay, at least we've taken care of the tree issue, now we just have to worry about the house...