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Posts tagged ‘abstract watercolor’

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.

Experiments are still fun

Experiments are still fun, even though the learning curve sometimes seems awfully steep. I briefly went back to watercolors (my original love) but this time I wanted to see if I could use them on gessoed canvas (I just happen to have a supply that I didn’t want to waste).

Someone on Instagram mentioned using watercolors on gessoed canvas with two coats of Absorbent Ground on top. Golden says Absorbent Ground is “opaque acrylic primer for water media” so nothing ventured nothing gained. I decided to give it a try.


Distant Trees 8×8

My first attempt turned out reasonably well. A lot of playing with it later, I discovered that it is really hard to get a smooth wash, unlike watercolor on watercolor paper. I liked Distant Trees, so I decided to try another one.

Tried again to get a smooth wash, and failed again. I like the final result, Moonset, even though it didn’t turn out as intended.

Giving up on smooth washes, why not just see what develops?

Sunset 8×8

Clouds don’t necessarily require smooth washes, so … not bad. I have a lot less control than I’d like but, hey, story of my life.

I had one more 8×8 canvas board with Absorbent Ground, so what did I have to lose?

Memory 8×8

Well, a lot, actually. The purple on the bottom was way too strong, so I tried toning it down with white. Didn’t work. Since it’s watercolor, I then tried running it under a faucet and rubbing the purple off. That worked better (you can’t believe how strong the original purple was) and then I added more white on top.

So none of these are disasters, but working with watercolor on Absorbent Ground was much harder than expected. The whole time I was saying to myself : “This would be much easier on watercolor paper.” But I didn’t really want to do that. What I really wanted was to get back to using acrylic on raw canvas.

So that’s what I’m doing.

Iceland continues to inspire

It’s been five years since I visited Iceland, but I keep creating paintings that are based on that trip.  With no conscious desire to do so and no matter what the medium, I nonetheless find paintings emerging from my Iceland memories.  Right after my 2012 trip, my paintings were all in watercolor;  now I’m painting with acrylic.  I remember thinking how beautiful but alien parts of the country were. Well, Iceland continues to inspire.

Two recent paintings, both acrylic on canvas created in my home studio, are perfect examples.

Lava Flow

          Lava Flow           10×8           Acrylic on canvas           $500

Lava Flow started as a painting about water.  But when I didn’t like it and took a pallette knife to it, Iceland emerged. I can’t explain it any better than that.

Fire and Ice

          Fire and Ice           10×8           Acrylic on canvas           $500

Fire and Ice took almost no time or conscious effort. I put the colors down, didn’t like the result and, as with Lava Flow, started fixing it with a pallette knife. Again, memories of Iceland surfaced.

When I first came back from Iceland and started painting, I remember thinking how my abstract paintings were really awfully representational (parts of Iceland were that strange).  These two aren’t representational, but they do really remind me strongly of Iceland.  I think Iceland will continue to inspire me for the rest of my life.




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.



Gifts of Art

If you’re interested in the work of emerging artists, a benefit being held at the National Arts Club is the place to be on September 9th.  At the Gifts of Art exhibit, 21 artists, who study at the Art Students League in New York City will be selling their watercolor, acrylic and oil paintings to benefit the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Attendees may also enter in a grand raffle and silent auction with more than 60 prizes donated by NYC wineries, restaurants, health professionals, celebrity chefs, Broadway theaters, fitness centers and more. This fundraising event is in memory of Laura Burdick Sherman, who passed away from breast cancer last year.

Stacey Sager, from ABC-TV will be making a special appearance. Admission is free.

As one of the 21 featured artists and having had breast cancer myself, I have a personal stake in this exhibit.  Both of my two included paintings were created while I was recovering from cancer and waiting for my hair to grow back and both remind me of how precious life is.



At the National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South @20 St.

Friday, September 9 from 6-10 pm

Hope you can make it.

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.