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Out of my depth…

I’m almost done with a large (18 x 24) abstract watercolor I am tentatively calling Space.  You could say I’ve been working on it for two months:  I started a smaller version in December, worked on it some more when I returned from India in January and decided I had learned enough about what I didn’t like and shouldn’t do to start the real painting the end of January.

The initial experiment, Splattered Spaces:

Splattered Spaces

Splattered Spaces

It’s a decent approximation of what I thought I initially wanted:   a varied blue green background, an interesting foreground shape with some speckled, varigated (splattered) areas.  At first, I had the splatter over the whole painting, but it interfered with the shapes so I wiped out (mostly) the splatter in the background area.

That was better, but I still wanted to create more depth, to make some of the background come forward in front of the foreground shape.  I achieved it in the top enclosure by breaking through the upper barrier and in the larger central enclosure by partially breaking through the lower right side of the enclosure.  It looks as though the mottled milky substance in the enclosure is seeping over on top of the enclosure at those points.   Just by breaking those enclosure lines I made the “background” come forward, so it looks equidistant or maybe even nearer than the surrounding form.

The large paler blue form in the lower left area looks to me like a “shadow” on a relatively shallow background surface.  All in all, depth, but still fairly shallow.  It seemed to me that I had taken this as far as I could, so I started a new, larger painting.



Space, in its current iteration, has many of the same shapes as Splattered, though I varied the width of the enclosure shapes more, opening up some of them completely and making the overall shapes more interestingly organic.  I added some varied blue and also aqua globule (not sure what to call them) shapes moving from the background behind and sometimes in front of the enclosure shapes.  The broken enclosure shapes also allowed the background to come forward.  So then I had a back- middle- and foreground…but still relatively shallow.

Warm colors bring the surface forward; cool colors cause it to recede.  Frank O’Cain (my teacher at the Art Students League) says we should work with color temperature (rather than value) to create depth.  [In my representational paintings I use value — light and dark — to create depth.]  So I decided to add a relatively warm color to two central areas of the enclosure and one up at the top.  It did sort of bring those areas forward, but not as much as I thought it would.  I added some “green” around the warmer areas to see if I could make them recede.  It worked, but didn’t make a huge difference in the overall depth of the painting. Maybe the warm area isn’t warm enough?  I dunno.

So now I think I need to tack it up on the wall and just happen to look at it every now and then. Maybe in an unexpected encounter, the painting will tell me what it needs.  Right now, I’m not sure.

[P.S.  I thought I wanted to add a deeper blue to some areas to make them recede.  So I tried it.  It sorta worked but I didn’t like what the painting had become.  Somehow, it removed a lot of the mystery from the painting.  So I washed out the dark blue areas to take it back to where it had been.  That’s better.]

But I’m still not sure what else it needs.