Tag Archives: American Watercolor Society

Opacity – Transparency

One of the greatest strength of the watercolor medium is it’s transparency. It is also it’s greatest weakness, I think. Some things look great painted in a transparent manner, floral arrangements or the surface of water comes to mind. However, I find certain things hard to paint staying all transparent. Foggy backdrops, small sheep or cows in a landscape or a bright flower field in a dark meadow.

This post is purely about the practical side of painting. I don’t want to get into the whole ‘transparency = watercolor’ school of thought. It’s tiresome and a bit like discussing certain tastes in music: it cannot be done.

The longer I work in the medium, and keep in mind that I came from oils and gouache, the more I paint watercolor like I used to paint with oil and gouache.
Sure, I still try to preserve my whites but I noticed that I do a lot more layering also. Transparency first, opacity later. In certain places.

Am I concerned that I’m no longer a pure transparent watercolor painter? I shouldn’t be, when my path takes me away from it, right? Any rules in art should be questioned. That doesn’t mean I am painting gouache paintings now, transparency certainly has it’s place. As with many things in life, I believe the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

I also have to confess that I am a huge Andrew Wyeth fan and experimenting with some of his techniques. A student of mine sent me a description of his use of egg tempera that was made available during an exhibition at the National Gallery in Washington D.C. Fascinating stuff!

As an artist I believe we should always grow and never be static. Many artists out there are ‘stuck’, because they became known for something or a certain way of painting. It’s hard to change that because there are people following your art and you might loose them if you change too much. Personally, I am not concerned. I am not creating art to have ‘followers’. I am painting because that’s what I do. Even if I never sold anything, I’d still paint. Gotta keep the priorities straight!

What makes a painting beautiful? Part II

Composition! It’s everything…almost.

Every good composition strives to hold the eyes of the viewer within the painting. It is called the eye path or leading line. It is achieved by line work and arrangements of shapes and patterns.
If you study the horse scene, you notice that the eyes go straight away to the horse on the right. It helps to have the grass point to it. (not too obvious; in a subtle way)
Right after that you start noticing the pair of horses on the left, because the right horse is looking right at them! The very left horse and the one on the right have eye contact. From the pair on the left you’ll notice the railing taking us back into the picture where the barns sit. The telegraph pole connects to the sky. Also, the tree line of the dark background tree and the lower end of the blueish hillside trees make a line that points straight to the right horse.
That’s the eye path I developed for this picture.
It is debatable whether it works the way I intended. It always is, but that’s ok. I arranged my shapes (horses, barn, pole, trees) in ways to support what I was after.

Now, what about subject matter and focal point? Aren’t those two sides competing, vying for attention? Maybe, but I think it still works. The eye contact of the horses does it for me. There is a connection, it gives it meaning and animates the scene. The look like they’re moving…they look alive.

Things to avoid: Important shapes too close to the edge of the painting. Big blocky patterns in the foreground that prevent the eyes from traveling into the picture.
All very traditional, but that’s what this is: traditional painting

Hillside Fine Art welcomes my work!

I am very happy to announce that my work is now represented by Hillside Fine Art in Claremont, California.
I am the only watercolor artist in a gallery that is full of oil paintings. There are many big name artists of the California Art Club on the walls and I am quite honored to have my work exhibited with them! I hope I can do well; I have no idea, only time will tell!

I will have my first ever solo exhibition at Hillside in September! Very excited about that. Reception is scheduled for September 5, 2015. Details will follow. Please come on by if you’re in the area!

Plein Air painting – why do it?

There has been a strong move back to painting on location in the last couple of years. Many painters do almost nothing else, so 90 percent of their work is done outside. Why would anybody want to subject themselves repeatedly to painting in the heat, cold, wind, surrounded by flies, passers-by with lots of questions and get sun stroke? Why not just take pictures and paint in the comfort of the studio?

The answer is obvious, but also more complex than it seems. Cameras record a place but don’t do it very accurately. Values are usually off but also the subtle color relationships within the subject matter are not captured well. Our senses are just so much more keen than a mechanical or digital ‘thing’.
Unless we do a completely value based painting, it’s important to pick up on all the subtle color nuances that the camera can’t see.It’s up to the artist to interpret them in their own way, put their own spin on it and turn it into art.
It’s a very different experience to be on location as oppose to just go by a picture of it. I think painting outside will ultimately improve an artists studio work as well.

Having said all that, I personally think painting outside should only be one part of what an artist does. The studio work is at least equally important! In the studio, working from a plein air sketch is invaluable. You can attempt a bigger painting and while working, the memory of the place will come flooding in and go into the studio piece as well. Ideally, that’s what should happen.

I am trying to divide my painting time into 30% outside and 70% inside. For me, a perfect balance

When painting outside, one of the worst distractions are people who linger to watch and ask me lots of questions, constantly reiterating that they ‘do not intent to disturb me’. Luckily, most people are great. I have no problem with someone watching me, just don’t strike up a lengthy conversation. I am here to paint!
We had a new one the other day. Unprecedented. While painting in a small park near the ocean at Morro Bay, some guy came up and asked us if we knew why the restrooms are locked. My painting buddy looked at him and actually answered that he doesn’t know. I pretended I am deeply involved in painting but had to really hold myself back and not say something rude!
It never ceases to amaze me what questions you get! We couldn’t believe it, but it also made for comic relieve once he had sauntered off.

The 148th Annual International Exhibition of the American Watercolor Society

Borrowed Freedom

Borrowed Freedom

I am very honored and happy that my painting “Borrowed Freedom, Yosemite”, was selected for this year’s Annual International Exhibition of the American Watercolor Society in New York City

The Exhibition will be held April 6-25, 2015 at the Salmagundi Club, 47 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY