Success & Options

Well, it seems that late summer and early fall, as in many years past, is proving to be a fruitful time of year both in and outside the studio.

August 22nd, 2018, WEB2

This time of year can be swelteringly hot and humid or interrupted by intense tropic storms (as is the case this week) but the produce being harvested is just so very bountiful. The joy of prepping or cooking with such freshly harvested fruit and vegetables is, well, visually and gastronomically delightful … almost overwhelming!

Like the kitchen and table … working in the studio has also been very rewarding of late. Fresh ideas for new work are popping up at an almost dizzying rate.  Older pieces, set aside and unfinished, even some work that seemed to have gone dormant, no longer of much interest, are suggesting ways to move forward again. It is possible that this time of year, which had been exciting for me because heading back to school was always ripe with possibilities both as a student and later as a faculty member too.  Maybe it’s the clear, drier, and cooler air, hints of fall coming soon, that until this week have been seeping down from further north has freshened and awakened my brain and heart.  It could also be that having set aside a few weeks to really concentrate on the visual work has kick started my creative and visual life a bit. I suspect it is all three that are increasing my artistic harvest and enriching the visual larder of late. It is a delicious feeling.

a Shaped Landscape start, @ 72dpi

Above is an example of a piece I all but abandoned in early 2017.  It is one of my regular formats, a small 12×12 watercolor panel.  (This is the Aquabord panel by Ampersand; the kind with the 2″ deep side/cradle.)  I had decided to use it for one of my Shaped Landscape series pieces and below you can see the the nearly completed left section of the square and one of the photographic prints that I had as part of my packet of reference images … photos and sketches.

In this next image, you can see how I had divided the pane to accommodate at least two images in unequal sections of the panel. the left part was mostly completed early on, it was based on sketches and reference photos I had made driving home one day. I felt good about the design and the execution at this point but I wasn’t quite sure what to do next.  So, I moved the masking from the right edge of the left portion, completely coving up the left and contemplated how to proceed.

Shaped Landscape new piece, 72dpi

I pretty quickly decided to contrast the very traditional and very carefully layered  execution of the left side with a wetter and more random process on the right hand side.

So I loaded the panel with water; but not evenly! Then I dropped, poured, and splattered paint and additional water onto the surface and let it dry without intervention. Only after it was dry did I begin to draw onto the surface with pencil. As I started to paint, I resolved to use both watercolor and gouache in this piece. That allows me to create areas where I could augment the existing color … and with the more opaque gouache, I could cover up areas as well. Later, near the end, I also contemplated adding some inks but finally decided to forego that option.

May 26 2018 WEB

Exploring the first layers of pencil and paint over the wet-into-wet underpainting, you can see that I decided to leave some of the leaves and branches as negative spaces. This allowed more of the multi-color ground to remain visible in the later stages of the painting.

IMG_2788 copy

Below is the panel as it appears today in the studio. The masking of the left has been removed; you (and me too) can finally see the two images side by side. So far I think that I really like it! Of course, I could try to finesse it’s color and value design. Maybe I should fiddle with it and add a few more naturalist or simplified/abstracted details; or consider addition random random drops of water or color to create some additional visual dissonance. Or it could be done.

August 22nd, 2018, WEB


And yes,  it could be done. But right now the plan is to have this piece be part my Shaped Landscape series of aqueous media works on panel.  So … I will be considering additional ways of planning what comes next with this piece. It could stand alone as you can see in these “digital studies” that I have included below.


RECENT piece, options-1web

RECENT piece, options-2web

RECENT piece, options-3web


The different options above are fun to contemplate. Any added geometric shapes could easily vary in hue, value, or intensity. The range of options are nearly limitless. And, as has been obvious to folks for a while now,  I really do enjoy contrasting all the subtle complexities depicted in my varied representational approaches with the fairly simple geometrical visual elements. But despite the simplicity of the geometric shape, I am almost always willing to make the color choices for those shapes complex … striving for additional visual richness.

Despite all the complexities shown and alluded to above (and I have even more options I am NOT sharing), I am leaning towards an even more complex assemblage. Below are two conceptual pieces. These are just “mock-ups” of potential formats. Only the current piece has been executed so far; the other panels have not even been made yet.

RECENT piece, options-5web

RECENT piece, options-6web

Options. Yes, I have a few. I may leave it fairly simple; Something along the lines of the single panel design in the second or third option of the first nine I showed you above. Or I way assemble/ arrange this piece with two, three or more other panels into a very challenging but much richer format.  Both could be really delicious.

It really is easier and more exciting to cook with fresh ingredients!

IMG_2792 copy




4 Responses to “Success & Options”

  1. jamiebrame Says:

    John, I love to look at your paintings. Makes me feel young again! Thanks for sharing your processes and thoughts.

  2. Mary Catherine Hasty Says:

    Thank you for sharing. It inspires me to go through all those abandoned paintings to see what could be discovered. I enjoy reading your process and seeing the beauty in your painting.

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