Sunday, August 11, 2013


Both of my art teachers this summer seemed to think that everyone who took their classes did so to become an artist.  They talked about framing every painting, displaying them at home, preserving them to pass down to our grandchildren and the generations to come.

Yeah, no.

Being a good student, I fulfilled the project requirements; although I didn't create a single piece that I actually want to hang up in my home.  I'm kind of picky when it comes to my personal art collection, and I want it to be good art.  Or at least art that I like.  Not awkward beginner's art, the pieces made as exercises to learn and practice a particular skill.

I understand how this conclusion can be drawn.  In fact, there were vocal students in both classes who talked enthusiastically about displaying their work, of how proud they were of what they could do. Me, I was there to learn something new.  I know I had a little experience/talent for illustrations, but I am no prodigy.

Plus, I came to these classes immediately after visiting the National Gallery, the Hermitage, and the Louvre.  That'll humble anyone.  I know what good art looks like.  This isn't it.

Disclaimer aside, I did create art this summer, and some of you have been nice enough to ask about it.  Here, then, are some of the paintings from my Introduction to Watercolors class.

One of the first tasks I set myself to was creating a color chart showing the effects of mixing each of the colors in my palette, one with the other.  It took a full studio period, but I referred to it every time I picked up a brush thereafter, so I count it as time not wasted.

I was surprised by how much control and opportunity for manipulation watercolors affords.  I was less enthusiastic about the watercolor class than my oil painting one, preferring the aesthetic of oil.  My watercolor teacher didn't really help with this, since her personal style of painting is the kind of watercolor look and technique that I dislike.  Generally I am drawn to careful, highly controlled, detail-packed.  She's of the "let's pour paint all over this sketch I just made and see what happens!" school.

However, once I learned some of the ways to work with the paint, I found that watercolor could be manipulated in ways quite pleasing to control-happy me.

For example, watercolors are much easier to put in and take back out again than oil.  I tested this by making a quick sketch and then created highlights by using just a wet brush (no pigment) to go back into the flesh tones and lift out paint:

(based on this photo)

The more ways we learned to manipulate the paint, the more I enjoyed it.  I worked on a night scene using frisket, a liquid latex that at first whiff took me back to my days (and nights) of stage makeup prosthetics.  By putting down layers of washes in different shades of blue, and sprinkles of frisket, I went from this:

to this:

I didn't like the trees at all, so I wound up chopping apart the painting to collage it for a passable final project:

You can actually use a lot of different tools to affect the look of watercolors, from alcohol to sand to bubble wrap.  Here I used kosher salt to soak up paint and give a textured effect:

I wound up using this page as a background to a small rendering on hot press paper of the umbrellas we found in London.

And I used the same salt technique to create the background texture in this painting of Phra Bart in Thailand:

 (original photo)

I learned this summer that human figures are the bane of my painting existence.

The piece with which I am most happy is actually a piece I did at home as a "thank you" gift for my parents:

I created miniature "city clusters" from our trip in June based on what stood out to me in each location (and based on what I could reasonably draw).  Each cluster is pretty small - about three inches square.  Here are the close-ups:

(featuring Rameses' head from the British Museum, the Globe, Big Ben, King's Cross Station, and the pickle peeking out in the background in reference to a claim Mom made while there)

(featuring St. Basil's, the elephant from the circus, the Great Patriotic War Memorial, and the Jewish Museum)

St. Petersbug
(featuring the Samson fountain from Peterhof, the Mariinsky curtain, the Great Horseman statue, the Hermitage, the Church on the Spilled Blood, and the heart balloon from the wedding party on the bridge)

and Paris
(featuring the Eiffel Tower ((of course)), a part of the Louvre, a drummer from the Fete de la Musqiue, the giant chessboard from the Cluny, and Rodin's Thinker with surrounding roses and whispering shrub)

Despite it being a highly-controlled, detail-focused piece, my teacher was pretty pleased with it.  She immediately declared that it was my "thing" and that I should do a whole series based on my travels and then make them into a book.

Again she didn't seem concerned about what my objective was.  I actually really enjoyed creating these city clusters, although  I find that inspiration wanes the farther my travels are in my past.  Perhaps for future trips.

1 comment:

  1. Yay, you have a "thing"! Now you'll know what to say if you ever meet my home teacher and he tries to figure you out.