Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas- My Two Cents

Years ago, my husband's mom found a photo of a nativity set in a magazine and asked him to make her a copy of it. Awhile back, he made one for me. This evening I sat down across the room from it and found myself just looking at the characters. The way the light lay across the simple lines and curves of the shapes and made the colors of the wood stand out really moved me.  

The set, all put away

You know, society puts so much pressure on us over the "holidays." Ads offering financing for the perfect Christmas, diamonds, vacations- and don't forget that little something for yourself, you deserve it! Going to the store for a dozen eggs ends up being a bombardment of meaningless holiday music and pressure to buy, buy, buy. Get the perfect gifts- give the gift that says "I love you!" And while you're at it, don't forget the lights, candy, and stocking stuffers. As if you can buy love.

Soft light and simple lines
 Contrasted against all the glare and bling, a handmade, wooden nativity set might seem pretty plain. It doesn't have batteries or lights and it doesn't play music or move when you walk past. It quietly sits on my table, glowing with meaning. It reminds me that the Prince of Peace, the Light of the World came as a baby in a rustic stable. All the fuss and spending and pressure have nothing to do with His birth, life or teachings. In fact, I think they can be distractions that obscure the real messages.  The messages of peace on earth, goodwill towards men, love one another and for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, are all quietly embodied in my little, wooden nativity set. To me, this is what Christmas is about.

Merry Christmas, my friends.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Black Resist Surrenders

Today I was so excited to get home from work and start adding color to my composition that I didn't even have to debate myself on a hot caramel sundae at McDonalds.  The idea of the black resist keeping the colors in their boundaries was such a fun one that I had dreams of all sorts of fabric creations.  Till I started! Oh, my.  It may work on silk, and I intend to find out, but on cotton?  Not so good, Al.  
Turned upside-down to let the running color stay away from the lower area of the frame; note the dye running down the table.  My bathrobe may never recover...
Beginning with the leaf shapes, I started putting greens in.  It looked pretty great till I began the sky area.  Pretty quick, colors jumped the boundaries of the so-called resist and began to run together.  I turned the piece upside-down and sprayed with water till color was running off in streams, which is a cool look but not the one I was aiming for.  Not to mention what the wall and art table look like now.  It's a good thing I like eye-popping blues.
As it sits now.  Kind of cool.  Kind of not.  

Grabbing clean paper towels I decided to see how much color could be lifted.  Some, as you can see if you compare the lower photo with the upper one, but not enough to make much difference.  So, while the colors are vibrant and blend together in an attractive way, the black resist on cotton is a real disappointment.  Which is a bummer.  However, this story isn't over yet..

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Monday, December 12, 2016

Mule Creek Ruin, Beginning

A couple of days ago I was playing around with a photograph of a scene I had printed off from my files.  The simple shapes I ended up with were so intriguing that I had to draw it out right away.  Just for fun, I drew it on a piece of bleached muslin fabric. 
Drawn out on bleached muslin, ready for the resist
Today I got up early and put a black resist on the piece before I had to run off to other obligations.  This way it will be dry by the time I have a chance to drop color into the shapes.  I used Jacquard's permanent black resist in applicator bottles with varying sizes of tips; thicker lines for the foreground and the thinnest lines for background and little details.  It was fun to use.   
All of the areas with thick and medium weight lines covered with Jacquard's black resist

The resist should hold the different dye colors behind the lines so that they won't run into each other. I figured this'd be a fun way to work out the composition for an oil painting of the same subject and play with more Dye-na-flow products all in one go.  It's a twofer.
The resist in place and drying for Mule Creek Ruin, 19" x 28" on bleached muslin
The shapes all drawn out with the black lines look like a page from a coloring book to me.  Which is what I liked about the whole thing in the first place.  Details eliminated and basic shapes left to create value and perspective.  Fun times in the studio, woo hoo!  

Thanks for stopping by- Alice

Friday, December 9, 2016

Simplifying a Subject

Do you see too much?  I do.  It's difficult for me to eliminate details, particularly in a landscape.  I was looking at Youtube videos and came across this idea- again.  I'd seen it years ago, but had forgotten all about it.  I'm fascinated with what it made and how much better I understand the composition.
A simple print from my desktop printer, outlined with a Sharpie to show the basic shapes

First, I printed out a photo of a place I have wanted to paint for years.  Then, using a Sharpie marker, I outlined the basic shapes, simplifying things like leaves or other busy areas.  It began to look like a block print, a look I admire.  By the time I'd gotten the basic shapes outlined, I could also see how the colors could be simplified in an effective, dramatic way.
The reverse side with light behind it.  Seeing the composition in reverse and with less color really helped me understand the basic shapes.  

Turning it to the reverse side and holding it up to a light gave me an even better idea of how the composition worked and how many details I could take out to make a stronger painting.  I can see that this will be a useful technique in the future.  In fact, I've been going through photos I've stored up thinking about them in this same way.  Without putting any paint down tonight I've spent time in the studio that will serve me well.  A good evening.

Thanks for stopping by!  Alice

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Taking Time Out, It Helps

While soaking in my font of ideas earlier tonight, I was pondering on life, stress and creativity.  Let's face it, I haven't exactly been overflowing with studio work recently.  I'm putting one foot in front of the other these days, but it's like hiking through very wet mud.  What I needed this evening was clarity.  It was time to hop off of the crazy train and take some time out for thinking.
I so admire this piece by Lawren S. Harris, a member of Canada's Group of Seven. He eliminated the details and painted what he felt, making this a painting that stirs my soul

As I pondered on the state of things, I realized that when I was painting on cotton fabric a couple of weeks ago I was excited about a project again.  It wasn't a technical challenge like the water in my recent Lake Powell  piece, (which for some reason had to be painted, but boy what a chore) rather it was a chance to see what the materials I was using would do on fabric.  Period.  No other reason.

As I look at art that moves me, I realize it's not terribly realistic or technically perfect.  There are so many beautiful paintings that are not merely careful interpretations of what the eye can see.  It has begun to occur to me that when one lets go of what is strictly visible and begins to express what is in the heart, the resulting creative work has more power.  And my work has lost the ability to move me.  No wonder I quit painting the past few weeks.  It's time to change something up.  To see with more than my eyes.  And I'm ready.

Thanks for stopping by!  Alice

Saturday, December 3, 2016

In Which I Spend a Whole Day on a Re-do

This past week I got a surprise in my email!  The painting, Inside Passage sold on my Etsy site.  It's always exciting when someone wants one of my paintings enough to spend money on it.  Then, before bedtime that evening, I went out to the studio to get it ready for shipment- and it was gone.  Really gone.  Not only that, but another painting was missing as well.  Surely I just misplaced them, or so we thought as we tore the newly put-together studio clear apart.  My husband and I spent two days looking for the paintings with no luck.  What a sick feeling.  
Inside Passage, Version 1
Sadly.. missing!
With a heavy heart I contacted the buyer and told her of my problem.  What a nice woman; she asked me to paint another one and she'd see if she liked it as much as the first.  I spent the whole day on a second version of the picture today.  I like it better, but am waiting to see if she does, too.  In the meantime, I'll just sit here and blog to dispel my nervous feelings.  
Inside Passage, Version 2

It was actually a fun sort of day.  Having to spend the day in the studio meant I couldn't worry about the kitchen floor which needs a good cleaning, not to mention the rest of the jobs that I would have done today.  So sorry, too bad, no housework today- I had an urgent problem to solve!  Oh that I had an ironclad excuse everyday, right?!  I will make a maddening prediction here: The missing paintings will surface right after I ship this one.  Isn't that they way things go?

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Monday, November 28, 2016

After Washing, a Postscript

 Thought I'd better add a follow up to my last post in case anyone wanted to try this technique. To remove the resist when the project is complete, one has to wash the fabric with warm water and mild soap. While Jacquard's Dye-na-flow held up well to the washing, the Inktense pencil work faded. 
In this detail you can see how faded the Inktense was after I washed the resist out.  The two brightly colored pear shapes have been re-touched with Inktense and heat set again, while the lighter areas haven't.  I took this photo so you could see the amount of fading the Inktense did with warm water and mild soap.
Since this will be an art piece and not a utilitarian one, that's not going to be a problem. However, if it were going onto a garment or say- a pillowcase, it could be a big disappointment after a lot of careful work. 
The fabric, resist washed out, pear areas re-colored and ready for quilting.  Which my daughter wanted to do.  That's okay by me, she'll do a beautiful job. Painting it was the main part I was interested in.  Good team, huh?

None of this has dampened my enthusiasm for the idea or materials. I'm still dying to get back after it. Or should I say "dyeing" to get back??! 

Thanks for stopping by- Alice

Friday, November 25, 2016

Using Inktense Pencils and Dye-Na-Flow on Cotton

Over, under and around Thanksgiving and all the fun with our family here, I’ve managed to find time to work on my experiment, too.  Oh boy.  I’ve found something addictive that will have to be pursued, there’s no getting away from it now.  Putting color into fabric and letting it blend and move is very cool.  If it weren’t the dreaded black Friday today, I’d be in the car headed to a town for more fabric.  It’s that fun.

 The prickly pear fruit shapes are done with Derwent's Inktense pencils, while the surrounding color is Jacquard's Dye-na-flow.  The Inktense pencils aren't as transparent, but the intense color is just what I wanted in these areas.
Since this was an experiment I figured I’d use both the Derwent Inktense watercolor pencils and the Jacquard Dye-na-flow inks in it to get a feel for how they handled.  Both worked similarly, but each had qualities that made how I used them different. 

You can see in this detail how the salt pulled the colors around and made nice special effects.  I added a deep pink over the fruit areas which made the color even deeper and richer.  Compare to the photo above.
Having a pencil to use gave me real control over where the color would go and how intensely it would be applied, but I found you have to blend like crazy to keep from leaving pencil marks with the Inktense.  The Jacquard dyes covered very evenly but are a little bit tricky if you are using more than one color in an area.   However, using salt on the dye while it’s wet gives special effects- once I added salt, the different colors blended through the patterns the salt created. 

The piece as it stands today.  After adding a few details, this will be ready for heat setting and washing out the resist.  Tomorrow!  I hope..
The colors of both mediums are vibrant and saturated, making the material really glow.  With light coming in from behind the translucent fabric they practically sing.  Although the project isn’t finished yet, I’ve gotten enough done to know that this is something I will be working at for awhile.  (thinking muslin…silk…)  I’m anxious to get the color heat-fixed and the fabric washed so I can see how the resist held up.  Just a few more bits to add…

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Learning Something New

At long last, a post on Whatercolorit!  The period between now and September 30, the day I last posted, feels like a lifetime… a long, drab lifetime.  I wish I could say the month and a half or so in between has been filled with amazing creativity, but alas- I cannot. For me, stress rarely leads to productive time and the past few weeks have been brutal.  ‘Nuff said. 

Here I am applying a resist, called "gutta" to the fabric which, in theory, will leave white spaces after it is washed away. I guess we'll see, huh!  

Today has been the first full, unobligated, free day I’ve had in all those weeks- a whole day at home, one that belonged just to me.  And- I didn’t know what to do with myself.  Of all the things I’ve been aching to do, I couldn’t choose something to work on!  I’ve flitted around here most of this day trying to apply myself to a project. 
The resist all applied and drying.  Now I just have to decide whether I'm going to use Inktense water-soluble pencils or Jaquard's Dye-na-flow fabric paints.  Both should work like watercolor paint.  Part of the fun will be pondering on the choice while I drift off to sleep!  

Finally, I grabbed a pencil and the stretched fabric I’ve been fretting over and just drew out a design.  I’ve had such a desire to try something totally new.  Days ago I stretched a piece of an old cotton bed sheet over a wooden frame so that I’d be ready when the moment came.  This project is a total experiment.  No pressure to make a masterpiece, just a chance to see what can be done.  I can’t describe how much better I feel tonight.  Like a dam has cracked and let a little bit of water through to give my roots some relief.  So much relief that some of that water is leaking right out of my eyes!

Thanks for stopping by- Alice 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Talent or Hard Work?

Okay, I know I've written about this before, but I wanted to share a video with you that I showed to my 6th graders today.  We are working on a clay unit and some of them freak out when their projects don't turn out how they envisioned.  Some of them are better at art skills than others, just like some are better at writing or math,  however, having a predilection or latent talent is only an indication of where ability lies.  Unless one is a savant or other remarkable personality, talent is not mastery.  

Take, for example, the above film clip of artist Andy Goldsworthy as he works to build one of his nature pieces. When one looks at pictures or even videos of his work on Youtube, they are flawless and inspire reverence for nature that few other artists achieve.  The failure of the structure and his reaction to that attest to the effort and time he puts into those pieces. Talent means nothing without a very real investment of time.  When someone tells an artist that they are "so talented," they are missing the point, missing the understanding that they are not looking at the result of mere talent- they are looking at the culmination of joy, frustration, tears, successes, failures and the current place one is on in a journey. And oh, what a journey it is!  

Thanks for stopping by- Alice 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Summer at Lake Powell

Not a very catchy title, but I'm too tired to come up with a better one.  I'm sure a good name will arrive in my  mind sooner or later.  The important part is, I finished it and lived to tell.  As you may know, I've been fighting to learn how to handle water for years.
Summer at Lake Powell
Watercolor on paper
22" x 30"
(Full sheet)

This time I was determined to take the reflections on water apart piece by piece and put them back together again in a way that actually looks like water.  Tedious, but actually very fun- even though it took two weeks to pull it off.  I learned so much and hopefully the next water painting won't be so intimidating.  I love painting.  Sometimes I hate it; however, I have to say it is never a boring event.

Thanks for stopping by!  Alice

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Fun Part

How'd it get to be bedtime already??  I've been sitting out here for what seems like 20 minutes, but three hours later it's dark and if I'm going to be a nice lady tomorrow I have to go to bed now.  We can't have Mrs. Webb riding a broom around the school.  It tends to scare the little ones....  
Although I'm not finished with shadow shapes, I'm fatigued.  That's the time to step away, before I make a bad decision or get impatient and pushy.  It happens! 
Putting the shadow shapes onto the layers of color is, to me, the absolute most fun part of a rock-filled painting.  It's like wearing accessories.  Too much bling is tacky, but when you get it just right, the whole outfit works.  The shadows on this have been a total gas to do, but this poor old lady is going cross-eyed.  Happy, but cross-eyed none-the-less.  

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The First Layer Can Be Scary

Whenever I start a painting this large and detailed I get nervous as I drop in the first layer of color.  Although the hues are right, until the shadow shapes begin it just looks vague and undecided.  Maybe this is good thing as it means I haven't overpainted it yet.  However, the possibility of that still lurks around the corner of tomorrow.  I can overpaint anything.  In my sleep with one hand tied behind my back.  Yep, I'm that.. er... good.

I enjoyed this sky process very much.  Wetting most of the sky area and then laying down blue streaks was fun.  Simple sky for a very detailed foreground.
In this piece I'm test-driving Daniel Smith's Burnt Sienna as the base of the red tones.  It leans a bit violet, not the rich orange-red I prefer.  However, I'm committed now and will have to just keep going.  Along with that color, I'm using Raw Sienna, Manganese Blue and Indigo.  Winsor Newton's Manganese is the perfect sky color.  Too weak to be much of a mixer, it is a clear, southwestern sky blue that looks like home to me.

The scary part.  Keep your fingers crossed!

It feels great to sit at my art table and lose myself in a project.  As an elementary art teacher, I often feel pulled clear to pieces by the end of the day.  Touched, patted, hugged, chattered to, tattled to, and called "Miss!" all day can leave me frazzled.  Don't get me wrong, it's sweet to be loved by my 248 (actual number, not an exaggeration like when I count grandkids..) students and I love them, too, but doing something that is all mine helps put me back together again.  Life can be intense at times!

Thanks for stopping by- Alice

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

You Don’t Have to Draw to be an Artist…

But it helps.  In college I noticed that there was more emphasis put on artist statements and performance art than on more old-fashioned skills like drawing and color theory.  I think that is a loss to students and makes becoming an artist more difficult.  Being able to draw accurately gives one the freedom of structure. There is freedom in accepting limits.  To purposely limit oneself is not an idea that modern society promotes, but is a timeless principle.   

 A quick charcoal sketch I did several years ago to see if my painting idea would work.  I actually like the sketch better than the painting.
I like to compare it to a sonnet.  There are rules for the structure that makes a poetic effort a sonnet.  As long as you stick to those rules, you are free to say whatever you want to say.  You can make your point clear or more obscure as long as you keep the structure in a sonnet form.  It’s the same when I draw out a painting.  I can still choose whatever colors I want, how many details to include or where to put contrasts and, as long as I stick with the chosen structure- the drawing- it will still be what I designed it to be. 
Another quick sketch to see if I liked an idea enough to paint it.  It doesn't have to be wonderful to be useful.

To keep my skills honed and ready, I find I have to practice regularly.  It’s not enough to learn it, check it off the list and move on to other, more exciting things.  It has to be kept up to date and used often to stay accessible.  For me it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that it has to be a great drawing.  Silly me.  Any old piece of paper, of any old subject, in any old place will do the trick.  Keeping the hand and eye in sync is the goal.

Done on light weight sketch paper, this colored drawing still makes me happy.  Wish I could figure out how to work this loose more often! I think using junk paper made it more fun to do, too.  
So, tonight I am working away on the next painting, thinking about how glad I am to be able to draw this complex thing out- and getting my exercise in the process. 

Thanks for stopping by! Alice