Improving on a painting that sorta works, but not completely, is often difficult. Sometimes the next painting is worse, not better. Even when it’s better, sometimes it’s subtle.
My first painting of a straw hat, grapes, green vase and a basket wasn’t god-awful, but sure wasn’t a home run.
I couldn’t figure out how to fix it, so I decided to start a completely new painting.
Miracle of all miracles, this one is better … much better. I enlarged the hat, changed the shape of the green vase, adjusted the color of the hat, enlarged the holes in the hat and moved them so the color linked with the grapes, removed the handle from the basket (you didn’t know that’s what it was, did you?) etc. etc.
Whew! Each change was subtle but thank goodness it worked out.
Today’s watercolor at the Art Students League went from pretty to not bad. I have to admit that one of the worst compliments someone can make of one of my paintings is that it’s pretty. Pretty = insipid, not impressive, not powerful, not … a lot of things to which I aspire.
So I had done a relatively insipid watercolor based on the chaotic still life setup and hated it. When asked if there was any way to salvage the painting, Frank (Frank O’Cain, the instructor) hesitated and then replied, “You could paint on the back.”
Unfortunately, I had already done another unacceptable painting on the back, so that wasn’t an option. In frustration, I grabbed the biggest brush I had handy and started slopping in color. Fifteen minutes later, I had created something that both Frank and I considered to be “Not Bad.”
I’ll go with “not bad” over “pretty” any day.
This past week I did three versions of the still life at the Art Students League, more flowers, vases, fabric, books, etc. than I know what to do with. With each one, I asked myself: Is it better, or just different?
So here’s the first one:
I liked it, but there were some issues, so here’s the second:
Well, I think it’s better than the first, but… here’s the third:
This is the one I like the most. But who knows, I may decide to do a fourth … or make one or two small changes to this one.
You never know… but it’s good to have choices. And I do think the last one is better.
Maybe in art, unlike in human relationships, you never outgrow your first love. I’m back at the Art Students League as a monitor for Frank O’Cain’s Abstract Watercolor class. I set up the chaotic still life which everyone works from and I try to help students understand what it means to abstract from something real (the still life setup).
But most importantly, for me, it means I’m back working in watercolor, my first love in art. For the last 9 months, I’ve been trying to figure out how to work with acrylics: I’ve learned a lot of lessons, but none of it is second nature…yet. Not the way it is with watercolor.
Now this doesn’t mean that everything I create with watercolor will be a masterpiece. Far from it. But I’m not second guessing myself every step of the way.
So here are two out of three paintings I did during the first week from the strangely chaotic set up I created:
And the previous still life based on the same chaotic still life with the same three green apples…
I won’t show you the first one. It was my “I’m just getting back to watercolor” experiment and not really ready for prime time.
I do so love watercolor!