There was no water and no mirror in the still life set-up at the Art Students League but this painting ultimately got its name because part of it looks like Reflections.
The painting was initially a big disappointment: the gray wedge at the bottom right was so big and dominant, it dwarfed everything else. I tried washing it out (didn’t work). I tried darkening the top edge to make it look like it was going under the lighter area above it (didn’t work). Washing it out again just made it look bigger.
The solution was when I pulled the colors from the top and the side on top of the wedge. Finally something worked. That’s when it first started looking like a reflection. Whew.
What a struggle. If anyone thinks their 4-year old could do this, they have no clue.
Somehow the set-up one particular day at the League wasn’t making any sense to me. There was nothing I wanted to paint. Cheating a little seemed the only alternative: I wandered around taking photos of the set-up with my iPhone. When I looked at the photos, one of them actually appealed to me. Ta da! Problem solved.
The reason I call that cheating a little is because the photo reduces something that is 3-D to a 2-D image, a task that is normally part of the artist’s job. And it helps the artist choose what to paint.
I still had to make decisions about what to leave out, or include (perhaps from a different photo), what colors to use, etc. Even though this painting didn’t end up looking a lot like the photo, the photo did help me focus.
Of course, there was no tuning fork, just an easel and a lamp post and some shadows that sorta looked like one.
Using Matisse in the same sentence as my painting might be a bit of a stretch (ya think?!?), but last week I really was Channeling Matisse. I took the complicated still life set-up and tried to incorporate the fabric patterns, etc. into my painting.
Not bad, if I do say so myself.
Every artist who paints with watercolors knows you sometimes get those “happy accidents,” those wonderful effects you don’t plan and that just somehow seem to happen. The key is to recognize them (don’t try to “fix” them) and move on.
Frank O’Cain (my abstract watercolor instructor at the Art Students League) did a demo in July using my palette (he had forgotten his paints). Apart from the three beautiful paintings he created, Frank left me with a palette filled with lush red water and many blue paint wells, also filled with water.
I didn’t want to waste all that paint but couldn’t leave the water or it would start to grow mold. So I put down an 18 x 24 watercolor pad and started to drip the red paint/water onto it. Then I turned the palette around and dripped some of the water from the blue paint wells onto the paper. Interesting. This had potential, so I tilted the paper this way and that to make the colors run. Since it was looking more and more like a “happy accident,” I put the paper up on a flat surface to dry and proceeded to clean up my palette.
The next day, I intensified and developed a few areas, added more blue at the top, splattered some more blue, and washed out one of the red drips at the top that was interfering with the overall effect. Since it reminded me vaguely of a vision of space from Star Trek, I decided to call it Boldly Go.
On July 31, I posted “Evolution of a painting” and wrote about how my painting based on the still life set-up at the Art Students League and a B&W image of a de Stael painting evolved. This blog is about how it ended.
The previous blog stopped with this almost final version of the painting:
And then I lightened the purple bar at the top, washed out and then enlarged the top of the vase so it moves under the purple bar, and added the golden yellow (mostly cad yellow) box at the right to continue the movement of the yellow from the left.
So this is Jade Vase (a la de Stael).
In Frank O’Cain’s Abstract Watercolor class at the Art Students League you never know what you are going to get (and I say that even though I am one of the people creating the still life set up from which everyone works). This painting, A Tisket a Tasket, was based on a still life with two baskets (among other things).
Do you remember the nursery rhyme, “A tisket a tasket, a green and yellow basket…”? This set up had two baskets, one yellow and one black/brown (nope, no green but, hey, I used my artistic imagination).
The week before, I did a quick sketch of some books, a flower, a star plate and a vase to create Books n Such.
With the complicated set up at the League (for which I am partly responsible), the key is deciding what to focus on, what to paint. Trust me, with both of these paintings, what I was seeing was much more complicated.