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What do people like?

I just came back from the Small Works show reception at the Blue Door Gallery in Yonkers which includes 6 of my small watercolors: one very realistic painting of Riverdale kids creating a snowman, one realistic but sorta abstract watercolor of a Bermuda roof silhouetted against the sky, and four real abstracts.

I watched people looking at my paintings and asked which was their favorite. [My favorite was “Jade Donut” not because it’s a better painting…I just like the colors.] They all picked an abstract as their favorite.

Jade Donut

Jade Donut

Velly interesting, as they say.  I would have bet that most people would have gone for the realistic painting, Riverdale Snowman.

Riverdale Snowman

Riverdale Snowman

Shows you what I know.  Is this a trend?  Beats me.

But, my hair is still curly.

Confusion in the Kitchen and the Studio

Confusion in the Kitchen is my latest painting to use deconstruction and something else.

Confusion in the Kitchen

This started as two completely separate very realistic paintings on one sheet of watercolor paper, separated by a strip of drafting tape.  The top half (now upside down) was of a metal bowl lying next to a red box in front of an electric coffee pot (plus a green apple and a couple of CD disks).  I had a new 3/4″ flat brush that I wanted to try out and it made creating the reflections in the metal much easier.

The second painting on the bottom half of the paper was done the next day with the same objects but a slightly different set up.  Just to keep things interesting I decided to make it a little more abstract, trying to utilize Frank’s push-pull.  When I was just about done a friend pointed out that some of the edges in the two different paintings lined up with each other.  She had just combined two of her paintings into one and suggested I do the same.  So I pulled off the separating tape and started connecting lines and adding diagonals, to break up the horizontal white space in the center left by the tape.  One thing led to another and I then had a completely different painting.

It didn’t quite hang together so I decided to show it to Frank.  He liked it (hooray!) and suggested that I try deconstruction.  I did and now it’s a unified painting.

After all the back and forth, up and down, and general confusion, naming the painting was easy.

Deconstruction ain't so easy

Well, I showed my Art Student League teacher, Frank O’Cain, a few examples of my recent abstract watercolors in which I had tried to use deconstruction as a technique.  They were okay as paintings, but I was having trouble creating a sweep of color on top of the white (deconstruction).  The paint was beading up on me and I couldn’t figure out what to do about it.

Henry Hudson Park Blooms

Henry Hudson Park Blooms

Late Summer at Wave Hill

Late Summer at Wave Hill

Frank’s answer, of course, was very simple:  you have to add the final color on top of the white while the white is still wet.  Otherwise, it’s like painting on Yupo (or a white plastic plate).  Well, duh!  Why didn’t I think of that?  It’s so obvious in retrospect.

I like these paintings anyway because they convey the October colors at Wave Hill and Henry Hudson Park.   Sometimes things work out in spite of yourself.

Abstract Watercolors – What is Deconstruction?

I finally understood something this past week that I probably should have gotten ages ago.  Frank O’Cain, a really wonderful abstract artist who teaches at the Art Students League, talked about “deconstruction” as a technique in abstract painting.  What I  understand that phrase to mean has evolved (thank goodness).

Initially, I thought you would paint your abstract painting, let it dry, and then add white on top (gouache or acrylic) to pull it all together.  Frank talked about push-pull but I, frankly, didn’t quite understand how you used the white to accomplish the push-pull.  [The idea is to confuse the viewer about what is in front and what is in back.]  So I just added the white and it either worked or didn’t (but I didn’t understand why).

Then I showed Frank a number of paintings, some with the deconstruction and some without, and his reaction was really informative.  To make a very long story short, what you do with deconstruction is paint your painting, add streaks of white on top, and then go back and add color to accomplish the push-pull.   So the underpainting is critical and must be very colorful.  Because when you are finished and have added the white on top, you go back and try to figure out how to make the background (behind the white) become the foreground (by extending the background color in places over the white foreground).  Ureka!

So I went back to a few very colorful sketches I had done and tried to apply what I now know.

I haven’t shown them to Frank yet, so the jury is still out.

Meantime, I went back to a couple of paintings I had done with deconstruction (but minus the real understanding) and decided I liked the end result anyway.  Wakodahatchee Wetlands II really portrays the sense of the Florida wetlands I saw last April.

Wakodahatchee Wetlands II

Wakodahatchee Wetlands II

Monster in the Gulf (below) really captured my outrage at the environmental violation in the Gulf on the part of BP and our EPA (looking the other way).

Monster in the Gulf

Monster in the Gulf

This really conveyed my sense of an uncontrollable monster loose in the Gulf, destroying the environment with no real consequences.

Winds of Change

Winds of Change (above), on the other hand, conveys my sense that things are changing, that people are becoming less tolerant of such violations of our need to protect the planet we live on, that such violations will no longer be tolerated.  God, I hope I’m right.

Anyway, I think I’m getting better at using the tools available to me to express my concerns.  This is probably another example of push-pull or, now you see it now you don’t.

To be continued …