Along the Art Path---Cont'd

My interest in trying to learn to draw and paint continues since March of 2008.

Continuing here are samples and discussions from my 2014 experiences both in classes and alone in my make-shift studio.

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2014 Art

This year's art comes from wherever it happens, plus, assuming it is worth documenting. Much of my effort ends up in the trash barrel when it does not prove to be worth showing. I consider the discards to be experiments and try to move on from them and do something better.

I have given up on ever getting to take Painting I, at UMaine, as I have not been able to tolerate having to do the prerequiste of 3-D Design. The class I tried was too late, too long, in the day for me. I did not have enough stamina to be creative at the end of the class. In addition, as it explored another area of expertise, it just seemed like too much distraction to bother with when it is difficult enough to manage my current activity.

The beginning of this year was in the dolddrums of winter until I signed up for a watercolor class for beginners in the spring session of the Senior College program. The class met for six consecutive Fridays and we did one complete painting each week. The first and the fifth paintings did not come out very well but the other four paintings were good enough to want to present here. I like them and think they are worthy of framing and enjoying.

This class did something I have never seen before:
    We used a light table to trace an outline for the painting of the day.
The instructor validated this procedure by stating that it was not a goal of the class to have to teach the student how to draw. Some thought revealed that tracing with a light table is not all that different from transcribing points on a grid to duplicate a picture. Transferring points was common in the 2D-Design course that I took at the university. Our goal was to learn how to use brushes and apply paint to make a picture when we know what image we want to make.

After making the outline we then proceeded to use a color photo to indicate the colors in the scene. In spite of what felt like 'cheating', it still felt good to make pictures as nice as the following examples.

In a sense, it was like painting by the numbers.

March 21--23, 2014. Roads Lead Home
9x12 Watercolor 140# Paper

This second painting, of the class, is a simple four-color landscape. There's White [the paper], Yellow, and two shades of Brown to provide the basic color requirement for a landscape image. I talked about learning this feature in my Art 2012 blog in connection with doing an island sunset. The four colors are required in order to establish: foreground, vertical, distance and light.

This painting is a second edition of the classwork. I did finish a version of this drawing in the class but I did not care for it and so re-did it here in my shop a couple days later. The problem with the first version was that, in doing the darker Brown, I got it messed up with too much water and turned several areas into muddy looking spots. The second version did not take any longer than the first one did and this time I was more careful in dealing with making and applying the dark Brown shading.

This is a simple but pleasing picture and it has already become a favorite. I have framed it and plan to exhibit it at the next Art Walk, in June, and then add it to my art wall out here in the basement. This picture has also been used to make notecards with the result that the card has received several compliments. It just goes to show that a pleasing painting does not have to be complicated at all.

March 28, 2014. Happy Little Bluebird
9x12 Watercolor 140# Paper

This painting of a Happy Bluebird was done in the third week of the class. This painting used more colors and it was amazing to me to be able to put down such flowing marks onto paper. I did not recall ever having such luck in past attempts. The bird went together in what seemed like just a few strokes.

We learned to 'pull' the pigment with just the right amount of water on the brush so we could make sweeping strokes to lay down different colors. The process was euphoric after having wanted to do watercolor for so many years. In the end, I was quite happy to have this painting to bring home to Sally for 'show and tell'.

Well, actually, it was not all my work as I had some help. I could not stop the instructor from wanting to paint on my work so he could demonstrate a brush stroke using the 'integrity' of the brush. He added three stripes of shading down the back and the tail of the bird so that, in some sense, it ended up not feeling like 'my' painting. Nevertheless, I like the painting very much and feel pleased that I had a hand in actually using watercolor paints to make that picture. It is one of the best looking watercolor jobs that I have ever been able to do to date---including that Roller that I did in 2008.

Due to not feeling like I did the entire painting, I decided to do as I did with the previous painting and make a second version that would be all my own. The result of that effort is shown here on the left. Alas, it is not quite as good, the strokes are choppy as I could not even duplicate exactly those parts I did do myself. I end up not liking it any better than the first version, however, it does seem good enough to keep. I would have been satisfied with it if I had done it first all on my own.

There is a question, a sort of puzzle that I would like to ask the reader, in connection with these two bird paintings. It is:

   What one thing on these paintings makes the birds seem alive?

Email me your answer and I will send you a blank card made from one of these pictures.

April 4, 2014. A Cairn
9x12 Watercolor 140# Paper

This painting of a Cairn was done in the fourth week of class. It's purpose was to practice painting detail and shadows when using the watercolor medium.

As I look at this painting now, only a couple months after doing it, I am amazed that I did it at all. I certainly do not feel confident that I could repeat the exercise and get a similar result.

The lighting is what impresses me the most. Clearly there is sunlight on the left face and the colors all manage to show this quite well. The shadows, in multiple narrow cracks, are drawn sharply with striking contrast. Even the grass at the base is striking with its complex coloration to give both light and shadows. I am practically forced to conclude that the whole thing was an accident.

The color sources all came from a photo which was used as a model but we had to mix primary colors to get desired tints and shades to deal with the light on the cairn.

Technically, this has to be another success that I admire a great deal. Somehow using the watercolor is letting me get into making a painting quickly along with rendering great colors. The procedure is somewhat like writing when you are lucky and manage to fall into the 'Flow'.

April 18, 2014. You Can if a Toucan
9x12 Watercolor 140# Paper

This was the final [6th] painting in this session of Senior College and it proved to be a fun, quick, painting. It looks like that Toucan is yelling at us to hurry up and get a move on, or something like that. It's not often that you see an animal that is mostly mouth like this bird. Google says that they are native to the Carribean region so maybe you would see one if you cruised down to St. Thomas, or some place like that.

A photo was used as the model for this painting, Duh!, and the purpose was to do some color mixing, shading, to get various shades of gray for the bird. The wing, feet, legs, and neck all came from various shades of White. The body is not straight Black but rather is Black tinted with just a touch of White so as to not be such a stark color. The tinting and shading proved to generally not be a problem but I did have some difficulty doing the Orange on the beak as it had to have those vertical spikes along the mouth as if the mouth edge was rippled in shape in some manner. They were required to be shaded smoothly into the general color of the beak. This proved to be somewhat difficult as I had to remove my first attempt and do it a second time.

A nice thing that I am learning about using watercolor paint is that it is forgiving in that you can wet down a mistake and sop it up with a blotting paper towel. The fact that it is possible to correct mistakes helps to give confidence to go ahead and try different things since you know that you do not have to live with any serious mistake. In a sense, that knowledge is freeing.

May 31, 2014. In the Minivan
Acrylic on 11x14 Bristol Board

This is a painting with a metphor. It clamored in my head for a couple years to get it done. The first attempt was with pastels but I gave up on it when I could not get detail that I wanted. It sat in my head for over a year and then, sometime last year, I got the idea to go get a photo from the nearby interstate. The photo gave me a model, i.e., a physical perspective, for what I wanted to do. This view is right off the Orono exit at Kelly Road and heading North. It was an overcast day.

While it took me a relatively long time to do this painting, I nevertheless got it done in about six weeks once I got it sketched out and on the easel. This was about six times quicker than what it took me to do that After Mass painting; i.e., 1.5 months compared to 9 months. I was on a mission.

The hand on the wheel is a fabrication of my imagination as the camera did not have the range to get the full view that is actually in the painting. That goes for my head in the rearview mirror as well. That is also `made up'. It turned out that making the flesh colors was one of the harder things for me to do in this painting. I have not done much work to try and paint people and so getting the right color for flesh proved to be a problem. It was interesting that a trial run that I made on a scrap piece of paper proved to be impossible to duplicate and so I know I can do better than what actually ended up on this painting. It's just that I am not able to duplicate that best rendering.

I mentioned that this painting has a metaphor. It is related to the question:

``Where am I in this picture?''

The answer is:

My head is in the rear view mirror, in the Past;

My hand is on the wheel, in the Present;

And there is none of me ahead, in the Future.

Jan 31, 2015. Orono Methodist Church---A Rare View
9x12 Watercolor 140# Paper

Even though I finished this painting in the New Year, I want to include it here in the art for 2014. The painting was sketched out last June and sat on the easel for the rest of the year as I ignored its pleas to: `Please finish me!'

It waited patiently for me to apply color.

It comes across as another Orange painting but that's OK as it seems to be my favorite working color. There's some Blue in there to complement the exaggerated Orange.

Actually the Blue proved to be a problem as, when I started the sky with its Blue-White mixture, I messed up and made soggy runs that looked pretty bad. Eventually I got over it and made repairs, using water and paper towels to soak it off the paper. At that point I decided I would go ahead and finish the painting regardless just see what would happen. Not surprisingly, I made more blotchy blunders but, after repairs, I persisted and this is the final result.

I think the result is OK, not my best, but I do like it very much. It grew on me as I worked on it the past two weeks, or so. It is now framed and I plan to give it to a friend who cares very much about that church.

My favorite part of the painting is the Spruce tree in the center as it competes with the church steeple as they reach to the heavens. I like it because it feels like it has personality rather than being an iconic fan-shaped tree like those Maples. Those Maples did actually have those shapes, to the best of my ability to reproduce them, and they did have a brilliant Red and Yellow glow to them. I used a photo for a model and it was taken in October of 2013 at the height of the `leaf' season.

The second favorite part of the painting is the shadow that slinks across the ground, up the wall, and onto the roof. There are fallen leaves up there on the roof and they do catch some light from between those two Maples. I was pleased to get that effect into the painting but I had to redo it several times to get it close enough to what I was seeing in the photo.

One thing that impressed me was, when I painted in the darkness of the open windows in the belfry, the church seemed to `come alive'. It was much like the above discussion about the White rings in the eyes of the bird. The church, being mostly White, or lightly colored, did not have any contrast up to that point and then suddenly it jumped right out of the paper.

The title mentions that this is a rare view of this church in Orono. The view is from in front of the Post Office on Bennoch Road. That was blocked for over a century by a large business/apartment between the Post Office and the church. The building burned a couple years ago and was subsequently razed. Just as they were beginning construction on a new bank building to replace the former building, I took a photo of this view to use for a painting to record the `once in a lifetime view. So ... not only is the painting rare ... but so is the view that goes with it.

This site last updated on: Jan 30, 2015