Good painting is very dependend on good observation. When we grow up as kids, we learn to see what we know and the knowing often gets in the way of seeing ‘right’. We don’t really look, we think we know what it looks like! (i.e. ‘if I paint a car I have to paint four round wheels’)
When I first started painting (longer than I care to admit here), my artistic mind was on the quest for realism. I was obsessed with technique and how to paint this and that. I recorded places verbatim and got lots of encouragement with favorable comments from people around me. “Oh, good job, that looks so real..”etc.
As I grew as an artists, things started to change. I no longer looked to paint something as realistic as possible. The correct and scientific rendering of something before me couldn’t possibly be the goal of my art, I could just take a photograph. I started looking for more, something else. I started seeing how objects relate to each other, how they interact, the quality of light and the interconnectedness of everything on the planet. There just isn’t a ‘car’ on a ‘street’, but the interaction of different entities that relate to each other through light, shadow, color, mood. In short, I became obsessed with light and mood.
The paintings I paint now are more of a visual notation that *imply* reality, hopefully like a poetic statement. The tools of the craft and technique have long moved to the subconscious.
It’s an ongoing process. You never stop learning and it is the truth when I say that every watercolour teaches me something. I am by no means there… maybe I will never be ‘there’, whatever ‘there’ is! As the Zen master teaches us, the journey is the destination.
On that note: back to painting…
Despite the crazy weather, I am trying to paint every day. Today was particularly adventurous as I had to pack it in during a heavy rain shower. I had the foresight to place myself under a tree, but still had to scramble to put my painting away before the rain got on it. To make matters worse, I did not bring my umbrella. Why? Because I was lazy and didn’t want to carry the extra weight. Maybe I should have…
I am currently in Regensburg, a Unesco World Heritage Site. It is situated at the Danube river and quite a sight. Hard to believe, but Regensburg was first settled by the Romans under the Emperor Marcus Aurelius in 179 A.D., and by Bavarian tribes even before then. 179 A.D. and earlier???
In any case, wish me luck with the weather—it’s awful and I am really sick of it! Time for a change..
I was teaching a workshop last week at the wonderful Waterloo Watercolor group in Austin, TX. After the workshop was done at the end of the week, I was lucky enough to have had the chance to paint in this great city.
I was joined by a few artist colleges and we headed out to paint scenes by the lake and downtown. Naturally, after the weather was sunny all week the day we went outside turned out to be a bit dull and drab. Earlier in the morning the light was much better and my scene with a rower and downtown Austin in the background turned out pretty nice.
Austin is a great city and everyone at the WWC group did their best to make me feel welcome. I’d like to especially thank Michele and Marshal Missner, Eileen Pestorius, Kim and Gerry Hoerster, Anne and Barbara and Chuck Wallace for taking care of me in the best possible way. You all rock!
If you are residing in any of these areas, please come see these shows! These are all high profile shows where you can see the best work that watercolor has to offer! I am deeply humbled yet proud to be in the company of such highly established artists.
I’d like to share a bit of my painting style (if such a thing is even possible on a blog)
This series of pictures was taken during a painting demo by one of my students. Some of them are a bit out of focus but it shows clearly how I tackle this rather complicated street scene.
One of the major mistakes is to try to put everything in that you see in the reference picture. Of course, if painting onsite, this problem is multiplied! It is easy to get overwhelmed by all the information. The key is to pick what’s important, or essential. What makes this scene? is a good question to ask.
Another thing to remember is: there is no formula to painting right. There are as many painting styles as there are painters out there. Everybody’s developing their own style and painting techniques, what works for one person doesn’t for another!
What’s really important, and often overlooked, is how well your drawing skills are developed. The better you draw, the better you paint. If you can’t draw, you can’t paint! I had a student once tell me, ‘I am a pretty good painter, but I just don’t know how to draw’! She was serious. What are the chances that you put that pigment in the right place, if your drawing is no good??
this is the finished painting
the first washes cover the entire paper (most of the time)and usually finishes the sky and the foreground but clearly lay the color patterns in right away.
being careful not to go around highlights I may need later on
starting the second wash
shooting for the value and color patterns, first wash
the second wash goes from light to dark and places objects and shapes, I am using no more than two washes, three max.
the third and final go is really just tightening up the shapes and adding details and darks