Category: Class Assignments
| 12 April, 2016 09:11
Spring is the season to enter many of the national watercolor exhibitions, the first on my list being the Adirondacks National Exhbiti of American Watercolors. It always serves as an impetus to paint a larger, more involved painting. This year I decided to revisit what I've nicknamed the "Ancient Seed Tree" which lives in a field near Hoxie Gorge. The will to survive in the face of old age and decay that this tree demonstrates has impressed me every time I see it. I used two reference photos to begin, one of the tree itself and one I found somewhere on the internet of lightning. I felt the bright blinding light in the center of the bolt would provide a good focal point for the striking peak of the old trunk. I wished to convey the storms this tree has weathered without showing a direct lightning strike. Look for the first in-progress image tomorrow!.
I decided to paint this on a large (35 inch by 23 inch) sheet of Yupo paper so the painting could evolve as my thoughts and reactions evolve. Yupo paper, originally designed for commercial use, was quickly discovered by artists. It's a polypropylene sheet that is 100% recyclable, and important for watercolorists, completely non-absorbent. The paint doesn't soak into the sheet but remains on the surface, which means the colors are brighter and can very easily be lifted off with water back to the original white surface. Water and a rag act as a magic eraser!
I don't draw any preliminary sketch. I begin with what I'm planning to be a focal point - the striking tip of main trunk of the tree with its hole surrounded by an irregular bright area resulting from the lightning. I want to paint an active, threatening sky with lots of texture. It feels good to have the painting under way!
I've quickly sketched in the tree using watercolor and a small brush. I'll refine it quite a few times. I've simplified the tree's structure to emphasize the large "wishbone" limb that fell off and straddled a lower one. I'm thinking about a tornado on the right in the sky and have added streaking rain below the storm clouds. I've also begun working on the lightning. With a small brush, clean water and a rag, I can easily lift out lightning bolts back to the white of the paper.
I keep developing the tree and changing the sky a bit with more lightning. I feel like all's a big balancing act! I'm not sure I like the full-blown tornado to the right of the tree. I keep adding a bit of paint at the bottom to try to come up with a compositional design I like. I think I'll have the horizon drop from left to right.
I'm getting close to completing this painting! I'm almost finished with the tree including adding another large fallen branch on the right to balance the composition - easy to do on Yupo. I made the bright lightning-lit spot less circular and more irregular. I removed the tornado because it simply seemed like too many ideas and images to place in one painting. I added suckers on the large branches to amplify the "Regeneration: the Ancient Seed Tree" theme. I'm still thinking about the foreground. I eventually want to get some green in it to change the season more obviously toward spring.
Here is the finished painting, "Regeneration: the Ancient Seed Tree," 35 inches by 23 inches on Yupo paper.
| 09 April, 2016 13:46
As we now know, Norman Rockwell used photos extensively to aid in meetig his exhausting deadlines for Saturday Evening Post and over magazine covers. He spent considerable time meticulously staging the scenes and used a professional photographer. He actually then used a projector for tracing the image upon his canvas. We now have a record of the many ways he altered the original photo to strenghten both the story and especially the composition of a particular the painting. Take a look at at this Saturday Evening Post cover, "The Runaway":
One can make a long list of changes that strengthen the painting. Many involve changing values and simplifying the background to focus on the figures. The blackboard unifies the figures and strengthens value patterns. The policeman is made larger and is leaning over more, certainly dominating the scene. In contrast the little boy appears smaller and perhaps more in awe. One can go on and on. What about the radio and the coat in the boy's lap? Do they add compositionally? What about the lost edge between the cook's shirt and background above the boy's head? The elimination of the cook's hat and his older appearance? What else do you see that Rockwell change to strenghten the painting?
Here's the painting in its entirety:
| 10 December, 2015 10:51
Georgia Low Country Plein Air Painting Workshop scheduled!
Wednesday, May 11, 2016 to Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Have you ever taken time off from your busy life for a week to focus on your art at a plein air workshop? Like the idea of spending a week in a beautiful vacation home on a private 10-acre island accessible only by boat and with a barrier island preserve just minutes away? Enjoying a vast expanse of undeveloped Atlantic beach and vast expanses of salt marsh? Painting an exotic scene from a pontoon boat? Exploring and painting relics of a historic slave settlement? Spending a day painting in beautiful Savannah with its live oak trees branching overhead? Here's your chance!
Instructors: David Beale, watercolor painter and teacher in Cortland, NY, and his wife Kathie, retired art teacher
Location: Eagle Island, Georgia (click for a video of accommodations)
As described by the owner, "Eagle Island is accessible only by boat and boasts all the modern conveniences and accessories including a state-of-the-art chef's kitchen stocked with kitchen wares, Direct TV, wireless internet, bed and bath linens, a commercial ice machine, and an outdoor fire pit. A six-person hot tub is ingeniously located in front of an outdoor fireplace on the 1500-square-foot, wraparound, screened porch.Slow down. Relax and enjoy the peaceful beauty of this private 10-acre island!"
"Hill owns several other nearby spots worthy of exploration, including a small island immediately adjacent to Eagle Island, set up with a tent and hammock, where any child, young or old, with a bit of imagination could make enough memories for a lifetime all within a week. Couples will appreciate the privacy and amenities such as the heated outdoor shower..."
An Eagle Island vacation is far from roughing it. With a well stocked gourmet kitchen, as well as an outdoor kitchen, we will prepare our meals with as little or much effort as we desire. Well plan on having a Low Country Boil one evening! The surrounding waters are known for their rich bounty of shellfish, and guests are encouraged to prepare crabs they catch themselves in the crab traps that are left baited at the end of the dock.
We will be taken over to Eagle Island from the nearby town of Darien by the owner Andy Hill, given a tour, checked out on the pontoon%
We will visit Sapelo Island, a barrier island now 90% owned by the state of Georgia and accessed only by boat, several times. The island is rich in history, having a lighthouse dating back to 1820 and a mansion owned by slave holders and now publicly owned. Hog Hammock, a community of a few dozen inhabitants, is located on Sapelo Island. It is one of the last island-based Gullah-Geechee communities in America--a living connection to West African languages, folkways, and spiritual traditions. With its dirt roads and tin-roofed houses, Hog Hammock is the site of a social hall, two historic Baptist churches, and a former schoolhouse, all built by descendants of slaves. The nearby Behavior Cemetery has burial sites that date back 200 years. We will have two trucks provided to us by Andy for exploring the island and its extensive beach. David will loan out a book on Hog Hammock to those interested to read in advance!
Participants will be encouraged to paint as much as they want, with no pressure. We will have a daily critique to share work with the group for comments. David and Kathie will be available at any time for individual instruction and encouragement.
PRICING: Prices include accommodations, workshop fee, water transportation and all meals at Eagle Island. Groceries will be ordered online to meet guests' requests and delivered fresh daily. (Meals in Savannah are extra.) Two bunk bed sleeping quarters in a shared room are still available at $1100
Only two spaces are still available!
TO SIGN UP:
CALL 607-753-7786 or EMAIL at email@example.com
TO CONFIRM RESERVATION: Send a deposit of $600, refundable minus a 10% handling fee until March 1, 2016
FINAL PAYMENT DUE by April 1, 2016.
| 25 November, 2015 20:23
As one astute student said, "Marin wouldn't have chosen to paint this!" Nethertheless, these do work. I see Marin in most of them, from the intense red symbols to the "border effect."
| 25 November, 2015 19:58
I think these paintings of Marian Davie's photo after discussing and viewing Arthur Dove's work are the most amazing yet!
Students' paintings (the ones I have):
| 15 November, 2015 11:09
The photos of students' works shown below are not all great. A couple were too fuzzy to make work. The photographer will improve!
Here are the class notes on Marin handed out in class:
John Marin 1870-1953
- 80% of works are watercolor paintings
- Painted in his youth, but “launched his career” at age 35.
- Favorite themes: cityscapes and nature. Very few portraits and still lifes
- Went to Europe and painted in the Tyrolean Alps in 1910
- Arthur Stieglitz mounted a show of his works at 291 gallery in NYC in 1910 and remained a lifelong friend and supporter. Other American artists he represented: Georgia O'Keeffe, whom he married, Arthur Dove, another watercolors we'll look at , Thomas Hartley, and Charles Demuth.
- Largely self-taught
- Liked to paint in series at a frenetic pace -often, 4/day
- A real affinity exists between his etchings and calligraphic marks in watercolor
- His paintings are often cropped with geometric edges or bands of loose color which “suggest the indistinct peripheral field of vision that insulates and steadies our attention.”
- The perimeter treatment “lends a sense of depth and focus to the central image, and alludes to the cognitive and visceral turmoil that is always at the margins (and under the surface) of the world we see.” (Quotes from Bruce MacEvoy)
| 08 November, 2015 12:41
Thanks, Danielle, for sharing this photo! It was a good one to use. The delicate flower was fun for all to paint, and the composition had some obvious flaws that we could improve upon, mostly dealing with value. Most of you improved the composition admirably including increasing contrast around the foreground figure (flower), flipping the values on the "trip around" the figure, getting a lost edge, etc. In other words, you made the backgound work to strengthen the painting! Sargent would have approved of all of these techniques and would also have appreciated the way you cropped in on the flower, a favorite approach of Sargent. And, we even ended up with several (3?) chipmunks! I also was struck by how many of you rearranged the three flowers, overlapping them, changing their positions, etc, to make a stronger statement. What a bunch of outstanding students I'm honored to teach!
| 01 November, 2015 09:37
Last week we looked at Sargent's "Gourds" and then painted the apple photo below, translating his subject matter into an upstate NY theme.
Some observations we made based primarily on this painting:
- Sargent frequently used gouache to add small bright brush marks over dark. Often these were white with another color added.
- Sargent frequently severely cropped scenes.
- Sections of his paintings, especially background, border on abstraction with organic shapes. Can you pick out gourd leaves in the background?
- He used wax to preserve light textured hard-edged lines.
- He molded shapes such as the gourds painting wet-on-wet within the shape.
- In the background he probably painted light to dark.
- Much of the background, as he built texture and added darks, is wet-on-dry. He used dry brush effects.
- Sargent made bold use of both color and light. In this painting, spackled light permeates the background even with all its darks.
A selection of class paintings are below. Some of them are fantastic! They are easier to "read" than the perceived visual chaos of Sargent's. The one comment I'd make in general is that many of the backgrounds still should be livelier, using both more color and texture, especially keeping Sargent in mind.
Remember, you can add comments to this post!
A quote from Charles Slovek's Secrets of Sargent's Watercolors
The Artist's Magazine - April, 1989 (Cover Story):
My first exposure to John Singer Sargent was in art school. A teacher brought in a portfolio of fine reproductions and after going through them and seeing the artist's effortless brushwork, impeccable value control and convincing illusion of reality, I couldn't wait to run home and paint like Sargent. But my teacher wisely delivered a short but eloquent dissertation that I eventually dubbed, "How I learned to look at a Sargent without wanting to paint like him." The reason for this caution is not because Sargent wasn't a superb artist, but because his paintings appear so easily executed. It's all too easy to get mesmerized with the technique, toss aside all other approaches and concentrate solely on duplicating Sargent's surface mannerisms. When this happens, you risk not only losing your own identity as a painter, but also miss the essence of why Sargent's paintings are so successful.
The key to Sargent is realizing that he was the ultimate observer. Some critics believe his emotional detachment from a subject gave his work a superficial quality, disqualifying him from the upper echelons of great art. In some respects the critics may be right. On the other hand, Sargent was himself and I don't think he much cared what the critics said. He was an enormously talented painter who had the gift of accurately recording exactly what he saw in front of him. He loved painting for its own sake, and isn't that what it's all about? Sargent's heritage to us includes not only a fine example of the heights to which a representational painter can climb, but also a rich textbook of artistic principles from which to learn.
| 24 October, 2015 09:39
We painted a small painting keeping in mind what we learned from studying Van Gogh's watercolors. Yes, he painted close to 150 of them that are known!
What we learned:
- Van Gogh often used tinted paper
- Most were painted with earth tones
- Van Gogh extensively used calligraphic markings
- Many of Van Goghs's shapes are outlined and hard-edged
- Most painting was done wet-on-dry
Two examples of Van Gogh's watercolors:
Assignment and results:
We painted from this photo of an abandoned ferris wheel keeping what we had learned in mind:
Here are some of the results, painted on gray-tinted pastel paper. Pretty amazing!
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Calendar Of Posts
- Georgia Workshop
- 2016 "Regeneration: the Ancient Seed Tree" Painting from start to finish
- Norman Rockwell's Use of Photo References
- 2016 Portrait Assignment #1
- Eagle Island Plein Air Workshop
- Marin and Beaufort Live Oaks
- Arthur Dove Studies
- Week of November 2 - Austrian Alps with Marin in Mind
- Week of September 2: Greenland Bluebells and Sargent
- Week of October 26 - studying Sargent