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Posts from the ‘abstract watercolor’ Category

They’re throwbacks … sorta.

The past two weeks in California visiting my son, his wife and their new son, were wonderful. It was good to get out of my small NYC universe, travel by plane, and finally see my new grandson. I believe in traveling light, so the only art supplies I took were a tiny travel watercolor set, a few brushes, a small (5×7) watercolor sketch pad. Definitely minimal. That’s the good news. The bad (sorta) news is that I had to paint with watercolor, something I haven’t done in years. So the six paintings I produced, well, they’re throwbacks … sorta.

I won’t show the first ones at all, since they really just count as practice. Funny, when I was transitioning from watercolor to acrylic years ago, all I could think was: “This would be so much easier in watercolor.” The last two weeks, all I could think was: “This would be so much easier in acrylic.”

The first one was California skyline seen from a car on a highway on the way back from somewhere. I made a few artistic modifications here and there …


The California hills are very brown and dry looking (my son says they look like that most of the year), so that was the origin of my second painting.

Again some artistic license.

I liked these last two enough that I may try turning them into larger acrylic paintings. Which is what I sorta wanted to do while I was in California.

Now that we can start traveling again, I may have to get used to turning initial watercolor sketches into larger acrylic paintings.

Collage to Painting

Okay, while waiting for some raw canvases to arrive from Amazon, I had done a collage version (an artistic rough draft) of my favorite view: the sunset over the Palisades and the Hudson River. Now it was time to try and convert that into a painting. Collage to painting: easier said than done.

My collage had been all about flat color and hard edges (see my previous post). I decided to try to create a watercolor version, which would be all about soft edges (or no edges) and fluid color changes. Still an experiment though, since I wanted the final painting (which I could see in my mind’s eye) to be acrylic on raw canvas. Watercolor would allow me to test and practice the shift from collage to painting.

I ended up with three attempts (it’s been a long time since I worked with watercolor) and one of them gave me the idea I was looking for:

wc sunset

Lord knows, it wasn’t anything I wanted to brag about, or even really acknowledge, but it was the start I needed.

So I moved to acrylic on raw canvas backed with gesso. [Technical aside: you can buy canvas pads which are gessoed only on one side. I simply opt to paint on the back, or raw canvas, side.] It’s not the same as working on stretched raw canvas, which is NOT gessoed on the back, but it IS the next best thing.

So ended up with two versons of my sunset on canvas, only one of which I will post:

Acrylic canvas pad sunset

Now we’re getting somewhere. Not my final destination, but closer.

Next step: wait for delivery of the stretched raw canvas and then tackle the painting. Depending on how long that takes, I may do a few more canvas pad versions. To be continued …

Evolution of a Painting

I’ve done this before, written about the evolution of a painting.  But this time the image evolved and the medium changed.

It all started as a watercolor, one I wasn’t especially thrilled by:

From the Earth wc 9x12

From the Earth    wc      9×12

I didn’t like the three lines on the left, I couldn’t seem to get any push-pull going, and the whole thing was pretty washed out.  Given that it was watercolor, anything else I could do to it would just make mud.

So I did the painting again on different paper, this time larger, and intending to fix the mistakes.

From the Earth 2

From the Earth 2     wc      18×24

Well, I got rid of the lines on the left; the red flowers (did you know that’s what they were?) aren’t washed out anymore, but the rest of the basket (did you know that’s what it was?) certainly is; the flowers are sorta flat and the push-pull with the flowers and the basket really isn’t working. Rats.

Frank O’Cain (my instructor at the League) said he liked the first, smaller watercolor better and that I should just paint over it again with acrylic (he actually said that’s what he would do).   Well, who was I to argue?  After all, I didn’t like either of them the way they were.

So the final acrylic painting:

From the Earth 3

From the Earth 3       Acrylic over Watercolor            9×11.5

Well, it isn’t washed out anymore. Painting acrylic over a failed watercolor: I couldn’t completely get rid of the three lines on the left, but they are much weaker now. The red flowers  do seem to be coming forward.  And it’s certainly more interesting.

It’s better but still no cigar.  I guess evolution can only take you just so far.



The exhibition looks pretty good

Spent a couple of hours hanging 12 paintings from the 1100 Watercolor Society on the stairwell walls of the St. Agnes Public Library, 444 Amsterdam Avenue @81st St.  The exhibition looks pretty good, if I do say so myself.

Just a few samples:

2016-09-01 11.08.31

Tony Spano's "Calico Dreamer"

Tony Spano’s “Calico Dreamer”

Sara Market's "Cityscape"

Sara Market’s “Cityscape”

Ruth Hurd's "Quilt"

Ruth Hurd’s “Quilt”

Come to the reception on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 5:00-6:45.

I wasn’t terribly inspired

It was the last day of summer classes at the League. The fabric was the same. The vases and baskets and books were the same. The only new things to paint were the flowers left over from the day before. I wasn’t terribly inspired, but sometimes you don’t have to be.

Yesterday's Blooms

Yesterday’s Blooms      9×12      $600

All it took was a different color combination as a result of the (relatively) new  flowers. I left out the vases, baskets and books, modified the color of the fabrics somewhat and, voilà: my daily painting.

A slightly different painting

Last week I posted about how happy I was to be back painting at Wave Hill and included two of my resulting watercolors. I took the general idea of one of them and then did a slightly different painting back in my studio.

First, the original painting done outside at Wave Hill:

Wave Hill Complements

Wave Hill Complements      7×5      $300

And here is the somewhat larger painting I did back in my studio:

Wave Hill Complements 3

Wave Hill Complements 3      11×8      $550

I’m going back to Wave Hill tomorrow so we’ll see whether I do another version of this, or something completely different.  To be continued…

Couldn’t figure out how to finish

I started this painting at the Art Students League the middle of August and couldn’t figure out how to finish it.


Dinner Is Served      24 x 18      $1400

It’s a quiet, subdued painting and I kept thinking it needed something, some pizzaz, some additional color. Since nothing was coming to me, I took it home. Elapsed time and the change of venue helped.

I was right about the something and the color, but not the pizzaz. All it needed were a few small changes. I added the rusty red colors in a few places. I added different greens to the three circles to intensify and differentiate them a little. I added more of the bright green in the upper right and made it come over one of the dark green circles (apples) and the open blue green circle (basket handle), thus making it come forward.

It’s still subtle, but now it’s done.

Update: turns out the painting was done, but the title wasn’t. Two friends had their own interpretation of this painting (on facebook) and one suggested that Dinner Is Served  would be a better title than Greens (my rather unimaginative original title). Thank you Diane and Dorreene.

Why did it take me so long?

Why did it take me so long to get back to Wave Hill? It’s a wonderful place: the Toscanini estate with flowers, plants, trees galore and a constantly changing color palette. Absolutely beautiful. No explanation.  No excuse.

But there I was today with another artist friend, painting away.  And then lunch with a third artist friend.  I’ve missed this kind of interaction so much.

So here’s the result.  First:

Wave Hill Complements

Wave Hill Complements      7×5      $300

Technically, blue and orange are complements, but I’m not going to be picky.

And second:

Wave Hill Complements 2

Wave Hill Complements 2     9×6     $350

For this one, I decided to try defining the flowers and foliage around them using my LePen water-soluble ink pens.

I’d forgotten how much fun this whole process is.  It’s good to be back.


Relearning is hard

When you don’t practice something, you tend to forget what you once knew well.  Use it or lose it. Learning something for the first time isn’t easy, but sometimes relearning is hard, too.

So here’s the first thing I used to know well, but somehow managed to forget when I went from watercolor to acrylic last year, and then back to watercolor this summer. Watercolor is transparent (doh) so you can see through one color to the color underneath, or to the paper under that.  So if you put red on top of green, you see both which yields a kind of dull red, or mud.

In this original version of Falling, you can see the difference between the magenta on the left painted on white paper (it glows) and the same magenta on the right, painted on top of the green (ugh! dull!)

Falling Original

Falling, Original

No way to fix it … or was there?  Normally, I would have painted over the red and yellow on the right with white gouache (essentially opaque watercolor). But I didn’t have any so I used acrylic…

So here’s the second version of Falling and the second thing I used to know well but somehow managed to forget. Painting watercolor on white acrylic is like painting on Yupo:  the paint swims around and it is almost impossible to get a smooth color. It’s true you can now see that it is the same magenta color, and yellows as well, but the colors didn’t run and move the way they do on the left side. And I couldn’t seem to get that vibrant magenta color.

Falling, still dead

Falling, still dead

At this stage, I think it’s hopeless. I’d have to just paint yet another new painting, and actually leave the space for the red and yellow blocks white in the middle of the green wash.  Or paint the red and yellow blocks first and then paint the green around them. Maybe there needs to be a third version of Falling. Then again…

Next month I go back to the League and probably back to acrylic … and probably a whole new set of lessons once learned, and again forgotten.  Aargh. I keep telling myself, if it were easy, everyone could do it.

Nothing said: “paint me”

My last painting of the summer session at the Art Students League.  I didn’t like the set up, nothing said “paint me.”  What to do?

Well, I did what Frank (O’Cain) always tells us to do: you have to pick and choose what to paint.

So I pick a green vase, alter its shape somewhat, pick a few flowers, alter their shape and color somewhat, add some stems in different positions, and, well, it’s my last real painting of the summer session.

The good news: nothing is really what it seems. The bad news: nothing is really what it seems (but I DO remember what it really was).  Memory is a funny thing. All it takes is a trigger, however altered.


Circle        9×12        $600

My paintings help me remember. No matter how altered the image, composition, color … each painting contains a trigger that brings back the memory of what was. My body remembers painting it, and that brings it all back.