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Posts from the ‘Water’ Category

It’s Still about Water

Over the years I’ve painted rivers, clouds reflected in the water, water churning next to a ship, rapids … well, it’s still about water for me. Water in all its forms continues to fascinate.

For instance, it’s amazing to me how similar frozen water (glaciers) and falling water (waterfalls) are. Several times last year I tried to paint one and ended up with the other. None of them turned out to be very good and I was very frustrated.

But now, I think I’ve figured out how to paint a waterfall using my acrylic on raw canvas (atmospheric) technique. Dry Season was a test case and it worked well.

Dry Season 14×11 2020

First, I painted the sky (very pale violet), the distant mountains (violet), and the rocks below (varying shades of ultraviolet blue and sepia) using my wet-in-wet acrylic on raw canvas technique. Before it dried I used a paper towel to wipe out the areas where I wanted the water to be. After it dried, I added the trees and foliage at the top of the cliffs. Finally, I started rubbing in the white water with a damp rag, leaving it translucent (to see the rocks underneath) in some places and adding more white to make it opaque in others. Lastly, with a pallette knife or a sponge I added specs of white for accent.

Even though all that water was gushing over the cliffs and falling to the rocks below, it was still the middle of the dry season when I saw Victoria Falls, and it was absolutely overwhelming. During the rainy season I’m told there is no dry land. The fog and mist from the falls keeps everything and everyone wet. I can’t begin to imagine it. Even in the dry season, Victoria Falls lives up to its name: The Smoke That Thunders.

Tons of Inspiration

Well, this was my eighth trip with Overseas Adventure Travel (OATtravel.com) and, as expected, it provided tons of inspiration for my painting. While most people on the safari trip were focused on the animals, I was busy taking pictures of the sunsets, the trees, the rivers, the waterfall (Victoria Falls) … the stuff I knew I would want to paint.

And boy, was Africa beautiful. Specifically Kruger National Park in South Africa, Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, Chobe National Park in Botswana and Lake Kariba and the rivers that link to it. Unending inspiration.

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Kruger Sunset

Of course, every day I was in Africa there was a beautiful sunset. And I got to see it because it never rained. And it was often reflected on a river or lake, or peeking through the amazing umbrella thorn acacia trees. This is just the first of what will be many African sunset paintings.

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Morning in Hwange

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Africa is hot, so safaris go out in the early morning and late afternoon to see the animals (usually napping during the mid-day heat). As a result, all my photos were early morning or late afternoon. This painting is a meld of several of my photos from Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe around 9:00 in the morning. We were on our way to see the animals (lions, giraffes, impala, zebra, hippos, etc.) and I was busy taking pictures while everyone else waited ’til we got to the animals.

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Kruger Reflection

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Southern Africa had just gone through a year’s drought and this was the dry season, so water levels in the lakes and rivers were very low. Often you could see the tops of dead trees sticking up out of the water (they would have been under water absent the drought). There was something very abstract about the composition of my photos and so I decided to do a smaller test (this is 12×7) since I wanted to combine the soft reflected sunset in the water at the top and the hard edges of the trees sticking up…all on raw canvas. I ignored the hippos, the crocodiles, the fish eagles, etc. and just focused on the dead trees and the reflection.

Searching for the perfect sunset

I see beautiful sunsets almost every night outside my living room window and they are often spectacular. So I’ve been painting them, sometimes on raw canvas, sometimes on watercolor paper. Sometimes they really look like sunsets, sometimes they are more abstract. Sometimes they are garish, sometimes muted. So I’m searching for the perfect sunset, though I often think I’ve found it every evening outside my window.

In no particular order, some of my recent sunsets:

My View

My View     10×8     2018     Acrylic on Raw Canvas     $400

 

Palisades Sunset

Palisades Sunset     13×9     2018     Acrylic on Raw Canvas     $625

The cars on the Palisades Highway can be seen intermittently through the trees, and the little bridge over Spuyten Duyvil at night looks like two lines of light.

 

Nth Sunset

Nth Sunset     14×10     2018     Acrylic on raw canvas     $700

By now, I’ve lost track of how many sunsets I’ve painted.  But they all bring back the wonder at how beautiful our world can be.

 

 

Up and Away

Up and Away    12×9    Acrylic on watercolor paper    2018    $600

This is based on a very small watercolor sketch I did on a plane years ago.  Don’t remember if we were coming or going or where, but do remember the feeling of awe.

 

Searching for (the perfect sunset)

Searching for (the perfect sunset)   10×13.5 2018    Acrylic on canvas    $700

Perhaps this should be titled Trying to capture the perfect sunset. I often think I’m seeing the perfect sunset, but painting it is something else.

 

 

Doin’ what I can

I don’t like making excuses (they’re usually so lame), but I had hernia surgery three weeks ago and I’m just not bouncing back the way I thought I would.  Okay, as someone pointed out to me recently, I’m no spring chicken, but I still thought I’d be way ahead of where I am today. I’m doin’ what I can, but it’s not what I expected.

I’ve mostly been staying home working in my studio (in between naps, snacks, etc.) and 2 hours here 2 hours there, stuff happens. But I’m constantly tired … even though I haven’t done much of anything.

But let’s talk about the stuff that does happen (2 hours here, 2 hours there). I have a couple of finished acrylic paintings on paper and a couple more in the works.

The paintings that are finished:

      My Sunset      10×14      $700

This is the kind of sunset I often see at night from my dining room table: pink orange and blue over the Palisades and the Hudson River with the little Spuyten Duyvil bridge making the connection between Manhattan and the Bronx. Almost no matter what the weather, it’s beautiful.

                                 Sundown     12×9     $600

I look at this and I think: it’s a little garish.  But then again, sometimes the sunsets ARE a little garish.  So rather than tone it down, I leave it very colorful the way it is (garish).

What can I say, it’s what I see.  I’m doin’ what I can.

 

 

 

Water Series, some look like water …

It has suddenly dawned on me that I’ve been painting a series about water for over a year.  It started with a trip to New Zealand in January 2017 and continued through a trip to Japan and now to memories that go back 10 years.  The paintings in my Water Series, some look like water, some  like space, some like well, I don’t know what.

Water is fascinating: how it moves; how it changes color; what’s on the surface; what’s down deep. You get glimpses, but you’re never really sure. It’s always changing.

All of them are painted with acrylic on paper, to this day, many of them using acrylic like watercolor, my first love.

And there is no easily recognizable sequence.  They all start as paintings of water (my intention), and then the painting takes over and tells me what it wants.  At a certain point with each one, it doesn’t matter what my wishes are/were, I simply have to go with what makes sense for the painting itself. For someone who likes to be in control (moi), this is not easy. So sometimes I get it, and sometimes I don’t. And when I don’t, the painting goes in a file and I start a new one, hopefully having learned something from the previous failure.

It started with Beyond the Pale

Beyond the Pale

Beyond the Pale      Acrylic on paper     18×24      $1400

Does Beyond the Pale even look like water?

Then came Living the Light which, of course, does feel similar to Beyond the Pale.  In addition to using acrylic like watercolor (thinned extensively with water), both also made extensive use of masking fluid to protect the lights.

Living the Light

Living the Light      Acrylic on paper        18×24      $1400

Then came several more paintings with non-water titles but based on lake and river water in New Zealand and Japan. This started to just be about water. Then I started seeing seals … or fish … or maybe birds. Ultimately it’s about migration. And here I started not thinning the acrylic so much with water, using it more like acrylic and less like watercolor.

Migration

Migration      Acrylic on paper      16×12      $850

Then came Go with the Flow, which certainly looks more like water.

Go with the Flow

Go with the Flow      Acrylic on paper       15×11      $750

Watching the water billow up next to our boat on the lake in New Zealand was the inspiration for the followling three  paintings, none of which ended up looking particularly like water, but with all of which I ended up using acrylics like watercolor (again).

Passage

Passage          Acrylic on paper      16×12      $850

 

Jacobs Ladder

Jacobs Ladder      Acrylic on paper      16×12      $850

As with the paintings, Passage and Jacob’s Ladder, Celebration started with the color patterns in the churning water next to our boat in New Zealand. And the colors and painting process used are the same as in Passages.

But what a difference. This painting is playful, joyous, dancing. It’s a celebration of life in all its complexity and wonder. Somehow this painting insists on being happy.

Celebration

Celebration      Acrylic on paper      15×11      $750

Finally, (there were others, but I don’t want to overdo it), Silence of the Deep.

Silence of the Deep

Silence of the Deep      Acrylic on paper      12×16      $850

This time I wanted to convey the depth of the water. Lots of layers of blues and white. This was on Lake Ashi in Hakone, Japan. Does it look like water?

At the end of 2017, I started to go back to my (many years earlier) memories of the Merced River, visiting Yosemite with good friends, and looking at the river rushing over the rocks from the balcony at the inn.

Memory of Merced

Memory of Merced      18×24      Acrylic on paper      $1400

 

Finally (so far), I have one last memory of Merced, Rapids:

Rapids

Rapids      Acrylic on paper       12×16      $850      2018

I have no idea where this will end, if ever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Start with a memory of water

I’m not sure I understand why, but something about the ever-changing nature of water fascinates me.  Maybe it goes back to my ever-changing childhood (we moved a lot) .. or maybe not.  But all my recent paintings at the League start with a memory of water, in California, in China, in Japan, in New Zealand, in Iceland.  No matter where I go, I am captivated by the water. Lakes, rivers, oceans, beaches, you name it, my paintings start with water.

Many don’t end up looking like water.  Some even look like the sky or outer space.  But they all start as water.

In no particular order, here is a small sampling from the Fall of 2017 at the Art Students League.

Silence of the Deep

Silence of the Deep      Acrylic      12×16      $850

I wanted to convey the depth of the water. Lots of layers of blues and white. This was on Lake Ashi in Hakone, Japan.

 

Wave

Wave      Acrylic      12×16     $850

Yet another painting inspired by the water outside our boat in Japan.

 

Go with the Flow

Go with the Flow      Acrylic      15×11      $750

Water is fascinating: how it moves; how it changes color; what’s on the surface; what’s down deep. You get glimpses, but you’re never really sure. It’s always changing.

 

Migration

Migration     Acrylic      16×12      $850

This started to just be about water. Then I started seeing seals … or fish … or maybe birds. Ultimately it’s about migration.

 

Living the Light

Living the Light      Acrylic      18×24      $1400

I’ve  done several paintings based on the water churning next to the boat … in New Zealand, China, Iceland, you name it. Sometimes it ends up looking like water; sometimes it looks like outer space. Sometimes I don’t know what it looks like. It’s hard to pin water down.

 

 

Beyond the Pale

Beyond the Pale     Acrylic      18×24       $1400

This painting took forever. I started it shortly after I came back from New Zealand. Four months, roughly 24 layers of very thin acrylic paint, almost as many layers of masking fluid applied and later removed … it doesn’t look anything like what I was originally aiming for, but somehow does remind me of New Zealand.

 

Memory of Merced

Memory of Merced      Acrylic      18×24      $1400

My most recent painting at the League is based on my oldest memory of the Merced River in California. Many layers of green, viridian, purple and white. Years ago, my husband and I visited Yosemite with friends and we stayed in a little inn next to the Merced River. I remember the hummingbirds, the delicious breakfasts, the sunlight and the water rushing around the rocks.

Water is ever changing, but my memories are preserved.

 

 

Crossroads: atomic bomb tests

Bruce Connor’s film at MoMA, Crossroads, was a real eye-opener. He took archival footage from the National Archives in Washington, DC  of the atomic bomb tests in the Pacific in 1946 and combined them into a 37 minute film. Again and again, from the sea, from the air, from the near-by Bikini Atoll, from near from far… you see the awesome power of those bombs going off: the blinding flash of white light, the expanding perfect circle of light on the water, the rising column and the expanding mushroom cloud, and finally the huge, rapidly expanding radioactive cloud at the base which inexorably envelops all the American naval ships placed there to observe and record.

And you see it well before you hear it. Light travels faster than sound. It’s eerily calm and quiet, watching it all happen, before the roar hits you.

The horror comes when you realize not one of those ships is moving away from the coming devastation, not one of them is even trying to escape the radiation.  How must they have felt, all those sailors, airmen, watching it race toward them?  The footage at the end of the film shows the last ship that disappeared into the cloud slowly reappearing as the cloud starts to dissipate. So at least some of the ships survived, if not all the people on them.

I went from MoMA to the Art Students League in a daze…and just started to paint.  No thinking, not much feeling … just a driving need to paint.  I’m going to have to keep painting, because it keeps waking me up in the middle of the night.

Crossroads

Crossroads           24×18           $1400

 

Crossroads II

Crossroads II           24×18           $1400

I have a third painting not quite finished.

 

I have no clue

I just started taking a painting class at the Art Students League in order to learn how to use acrylic paints. But I have no clue what I’m doing.

The instructor, Fran O’Neill has been very helpful, as have the other artists in the class. However, it all comes down to me: what do I want to paint and how do I get rid of all my really useful watercolor habits which are counterproductive with acrylic? It’s very frustrating.

No matter how many times I tell myself I can paint over something if I don’t like it, I still end up trying to plan the painting so those kind of mistakes don’t happen (’cause they’re hard to fix in watercolor).  Even though I know I should do the reverse with acrylic, it’s hard not to automatically start with the light colors and gradually move to the darker ones. I still unconsciously think of white as the color of the paper to be reserved and not painted, rather than something I paint on top of everything else.  I’m tearing my hair out (metaphorically speaking).

I won’t show you my very first attempts, because that would be too embarrassing. However, here are three quick studies in acrylic and the watercolor study they are based on.

First, the watercolor study on Yupo.

Space

Space      4.5 x 6      $300

Next, my first acrylic on Yupo.  I simply put down some acrylic paint and let it swirl around until I saw something. The only difference is: this is permanent.  I can’t wash it off, as I can with the watercolor.

Happy Hippo

Happy Hippo     6 x 4.25     $300

And my next acrylic on Yupo: more of the same, except there’s really only one color (not counting the tiny bit of faded green left over from when I washed off the earlier watercolor painting).

Monster

Monster     6 x 4.25     $300

But the problem was, they looked too much like watercolor.  I wasn’t really doing anything very different.

Fast forward to something different:

Halloween

Halloween     4.5 x 6     $300

Since I put the paint down with much less water, it doesn’t swim around so much.  I also experimented with scraping the paint while it was still wet with a palette knife ( I didn’t have the lift out tool I read about in the how-to book I bought). Actually, the man who runs the store at the Art Students League said to forget about the lift out tool; he just cuts up an old credit card and uses that. (It’s wonderful to have knowledgable people around.)

Well, to be continued. We’ll see what this week brings. I still really have no clue.

Italy is an inspiration

Just back from a two week trip to Italy and what an inspiration! Wonderful art everywhere. We were in Venice, Florence, Siena, Rome and Sorrento. Good food, great weather, friendly people and the art is spectacular.

Took a lot of pictures, but I didn’t have a lot of time to paint.  Just two quick sketches, both of Venice.

Venice I

Venice I    8 x 4.5    $350

Venice II

Venice II    8 x 4.5    $350

As soon as I get my 2,000+ photos organized (another week or so?), I’ll be creating more “Italy” paintings.

 

 

 

 

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All the Sky's a Stage

All the Sky’s a Stage, 16×12, $850