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Evolution of a painting

Sometimes paintings just spring from your forehead (so to speak) like in mythology.  On the other hand, most of the time you have to work at it. This blog outlines the evolution of a painting: how it starts, what you do next, and then after that, and after that…

This example is interesting because it combines  picking and choosing from the complex still life set up at the League, my interest in a Nicholas de Stael painting (which I only could see in black and white), and the demands of the painting I was creating.

First the set up (or at least the part of the set up I decided to focus on):

ASL Set Up

ASL Set Up

Then, my first stab at a painting:

My first stab at the painting

My first stab at the painting

And then, the de Stael painting (B&W version only) that I decided to use as inspiration:

N. de Stael painting (B&W version)

N. de Stael painting (B&W version)

So I  eliminated the fabric and by also eliminating perspective flattened and raised up the table top.  I added legs for the table, a bar on the top right and expanded on the colors to come down from the left corner and move over the table.  The purple vase was too strong so I washed it out.

Next iteration

Next iteration

I darkened the space under the table and used my dirty water (created by cleaning my brushes after painting all the colors so far) to darken the surface on the left.

Next iteration

Next iteration

Well, I’m not sure where I go with this next.  Frank (bless him) says my version is already better that de Stael’s and (of course) who am I to argue.

Yet another “to be continued…”


What would Frank do?

Paintings with problems … how to solve them?  I often ask myself, “What would Frank do?”  But to follow up on my May 28 blog post of the same name, I didn’t have Frank to ask (Frank O’Cain, my Abstract Watercolor instructor at the Art Students League, was going to be away for three weeks).

So I decided to take matters into my own hands (it IS my painting, after all) and try the two solutions mentioned in my May post.  As I had predicted, the first option didn’t work.  I tried painting a piece of paper black and putting it up in the top right hand corner, but it only made everything worse. Scratch that idea.

Moving right along, I decided to tackle the second idea: “Develop the bottom and left halves of the painting and make them stronger.”

This is the result.

Underground v2

Underground v2

So now that I like it, I’ll bring it in to show Frank.  To be continued…


ASL Complication

Frank O’Cain’s Abstract Watercolor class at the Art Students League always has a very complicated set-up. It’s up to each student to select what s/he wants, position it on the page where s/he wants, make the colors what s/he wants, and create a painting. ASL Complication is a very appropriate title.
Date: 2015. Size: 11 x 15. Price: $750.

As you would expect, each artist’s painting is unique, unlike the others.  This is mine.

ASL Complication

ASL Complication

With this painting, I remember the set-up that day: the red and yellow flowers, the acid green shopping bag, the magenta bag filled with brightly colored paper, the wood and canvas screen…


Lobster – how to fix a painting

I really didn’t like this painting at all. Of course, it looked quite different … not like a Lobster at all.  But how could I fix it?

Have I mentioned how hard it is to fix a painting when you’re not sure what is wrong with it (you just know something is)?  I dabbled here and there.  Turned it on its side, then upside down. Let the drips run every which way. In frustration, I grabbed my sky brush and started putting down big swaths of pink. Then it was too much on top, so I washed out a section.  Then more drips.  Aargh. Nothing was working.

I decided to wait and show it to Frank (Frank O’Cain, instructor at the Art Students League) the next day.

He took my rectangular dark purple kitchen sponge (that I use to dry out my brushes when switching from one color to another) and placed on the top left corner of my painting.  And voila, it looked at lot better. That big white area in the upper left corner had to go. I started with crossed lines in a subdued orange, but it wasn’t enough.  So I took some of the Prussian blue-cerulean mix I still had on my palette and lightly painted over that whole area.

Better.  But I still didn’t like the roundish pink-red area with blue in the center, so I painted over it with white acrylic (I didn’t have any gouache) and then overlaid it here and there with the pink.

Wow, now I like it.


Lobster     11 x 15     $750

Of course, you’d never guess it all started with a colorful scarf hanging from a basket handle.



Split Complement Series continues

Working in a series simplifies a lot of things.  It doesn’t make painting easier, but it does simplify. And continuing my Split Complement Series simplifies my color choice … a huge benefit.  Blue, yellow , red. What could be simpler? Of course, it’s also simpler if you take the basic composition and play on it.

So, the original idea was a blue vase in the upper right corner, some red-orange flowers in a vase to the left and slightly below, and a blue-cerulean scarf hanging down below and to the left of the flowers. Not too complicated, but I certainly knew how to screw it up with my first attempt. (I won’t show you that.)

Split Complement III 2015 $1,400

Split Complement III    18×24   $1,400

Amazing how many different versions there can be.  In this one, you can also see a hint of the round white vase at the top that I made yellow to repeat the color somewhere besides the lower right. If this sounds complicated, it really isn’t.

Split Complement IV

Split Complement IV   11 x 15     $750

Here I’ve simplified the shapes almost out of existence and made red the dominant color, with blue and red the complements.

Finally, the last one (for now):

Split Complement V

Split Complement V 18 x 24 $1,400

Although I put some of the blue back in at the top right, red is still the dominant color.  More to come …







Too much stimulation

In my Summer Abstract Watercolor class at the Art Students League I was bored. Hard to imagine, I know, given all the stimulation of the complicated still life set-up. Maybe it was too much stimulation … I was having trouble deciding where to focus. So I decided to focus on nothing, that is, on the negative space between objects in the still life. Much better.

Now, what to do about color? For the first time in a long time, I turned to my color wheel. Since blue is my favorite color, I made that the primary. Having decided to work with three colors, I needed two more. So the split complementaries of yellow-orange and red-orange were my easy choices. And, of course, white became the fourth color.

Split Complementary

Split Complementary     11×15     $750

I liked it, so I decided to try another.

Split Complementary II

Split Complementary II     12×15     $800

Well, I like that too.  Not sure which I like better.

This may become part of a series.  We’ll see.  It’s certainly a simple way to avoid the “too much stimulation” syndrome that sometimes attacks me during my summer class and its complicated still life set-up.