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Heading for Peru

I am heading for Peru for an 11 day vacation, visiting Lima, Machu Picchu, etc.   I plan on taking a ton of photos with a view to turning some of them into paintings later. Typically, there is no time to sit and paint.

So you will not be hearing from me until sometime after I return.

Wakodahatchee Wetlands – I know what I like

Over last weekend, I decided to go back to the idea of taking one of my photos (that I probably would have used to create a representational watercolor landscape) and try to use it to create an abstract.  Well.  From a photo I took at Wakadohatchee Wetlands in Florida I did four small sketches and one larger one, in the process solving a couple of problems but creating a couple more.  All in all, some progress, but no cigar.  Then on Wednesday, I showed them to Frank O’Cain (my abstract artist extraordinaire teacher) who offered a couple of suggestions and agreed with a couple of my own ideas for improvement.   Yet another version and I like the result and Frank does too.

Wakodahatchee Wetlands

Wakodahatchee Wetlands, FL

And if it seems to you that I might be deferring too much to what Frank has to say, I beg to differ.  Over time I will build up my own idea of what a successful abstract watercolor painting is, but right now it’s still too new and I’m still not sure how to define “good” in this context.  I know what I like, but at this stage I often don’t know if I could make it better or how.

I remember all too well the comment made by a good friend (who also happened to be a good artist) when I asked what he thought about the first painting I had done that I liked enough to frame and put up on my office wall.  His response?  “It’s the best thing you have done so far but there will come a time when you will gladly take it off the wall.”  Bob, of course, was right and it took less than 6 months before the painting came down.  However, I kept it propped up on a shelf for years as a reminder of how fleeting my satisfaction and feeling of confidence could be.  It also continues to remind me of where I started and how much better I’ve gotten.

Simplify, Simplify

I got overwhelmed trying to remember all the things Frank (my teacher) told me to do, so I thought I’d try simplifying things a little.  Instead of picking a variety of things I liked from the complicated still life set up in our class and rearranging them into a good abstract composition (I still don’t feel like I know what that is), I decided to limit myself to two or three items.  Simplify, simplify.

Two of the resulting paintings I like (we won’t talk about the rest).  In one, I’ve painted some orange, yellow and red fruit and some red flowers against a blue fabric.  In the other, I’ve painted some peaches, a green wine bottle and some green flowers against a lighter blue fabric.  In both I decided to paint on an upright easel, rather than on a flat table as I usually do, so the colors run and blend in some interesting ways.

Wine Peaches and Flowers

Wine Peaches and Flowers



Fruit and Flowers

Fruit and Flowers












In the process, I discovered I did some of the things Frank had said to do.  Not everything mind you, but hey, I’m just getting started.

At the risk of regretting it later, I’d say I’m not as frustrated as I was.

Curly Hair

At the risk of sounding completely and utterly superficial, I have to say how much I love having curly hair (courtesy of my recent chemotherapy).

All my life I’ve had straight hair and really wanted curly hair.   Isn’t the grass always greener …? Don’t we always want what we can’t have?

Well, a permanent might have been easier, but there IS a long term benefit (other than survival) to the chemical cocktail that makes your life miserable short term :  curly hair!  In fact, one of the things that kept me going (other than survival) while I was totally miserable was the thought that I might have curly hair.

(I’m told that if you started with curly hair, it might become straight after chemo.  I never understood why someone wouldn’t just love curly hair.  Or why they would want straight hair for that matter.)

Two friends of mine who have been through this routine say that it starts out very curly and slowly relaxes and becomes merely wavy.  How great is that!?!

Anyway,  just thought I’d mention how much I’m loving this.

Still frustrating …

I love quick, easy solutions to difficult problems. Unfortunately, they never seem to happen to me.

Take my abstract painting, for example. A friend on this blog offered me some good advice about abstracting the abstraction. In other words, start with a painting I’ve already done (realistically), abstract it a little, then (only looking at the abstraction) abstract it again. And again. And again.

Well, I’ve tried it. I started with the painting “Apples of My Eye” from 2008 (you can see it on my website). At Wave Hill this past Tuesday I did 5 levels of abstraction, and ended up with something I liked which predictably  had little resemblance to the original “Apples of My Eye.”

The apples are green and the space between the boards is now a continuous line

The apples are green and the space between the boards is now a continuous line

When I showed it to Frank O’Cain (my teacher) he said I’d lost touch with the original. So I went back to the drawing board so to speak and did some more variations (4 to be precise), preserving some of the key features of the original. The final one had rhythm (to quote Frank) and (at least as importantly) I liked it.  But it was too yellow.

Thinking I could continue to improve on it, today I did 4 more.  So here’s the one I like the most.

Abstracted Apples Lo Lo

The apples are yellow as are the main shadows, and the spaces between the boards are now two light green lines (one very short).

At this stage of the game, I’m still frustrated and now I’m bored with this picture.  I’m moving on to something else.

VERY frustrating.