Posts Tagged ‘mylar drawings’

Working up a Watercolor Sketch … or is it a small Watercolor?

October 21, 2016

Last Wednesday and Thursday, I was supposed to be teaching a plein-air watercolor workshop at a regional art center. That plan didn’t quite gel; I took the now unscheduled time to work unfettered as a gift from the universe and I painted outside in the wondrous fall air! I even had some extended time to paint some in the studio. It was a nearly perfect compensation!

While working on one smallish piece, I assumed that I was creating a watercolor sketch.  Soon, I began to question if that was what I was doing. You see, I am not always sure when a watercolor sketch really becomes a small painting. I have been drawing, working with sketches, making paintings, and sometimes a lot of other types of art as well, for many years now. But I am still not sure where, or even if, there is a line somewhere between those watercolor sketches and watercolor paintings. ???

Let me back up and set the stage. Earlier in the week I had been helping some adult students with techniques and processes used to work with watercolor on wet paper … what many call wet-on-wet or wet-into-wet watercolor. If you have looked at my work, you know that in my pure watercolors, I mostly utilize what is known as the wet on dry techniques.  But as I do every so often, I responded to all the wonderfully rich and soft colors that Autumn has served up this year by making room for some wet surface painting.

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Beginning as I usually do, with a brief pencil line drawing … I was soon adding some delicate layers of color … mainly to the slanting ground of the hillside, the bushes along the “ridge-line” of the hill, and the foliage and trunks of the most forward cluster of trees. These forward trees’ trunks, branches, and leaves cover almost two-thirds of the top tier of the watercolor.

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As this completed my initial mapping of the image, I quickly moved on to adding some rich golden yellow color into background on the upper left side.

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Before the thick golden yellow dried, I moved in with two very dark green, one a bit blue and more neutral … the other a bit darker but a “purer” green.  As I watched this new rich green-yellow mix began to set up and dry, I turned my attention back to looking at and working all around the image, finally concentrating on the far right side of the image … especially the deep background visible under the canopy of main “central” trees as an area of shadowed blue and violet-blue.

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At this point I wasn’t yet sure if:  #1) I wanted to make the dark bright trees at the center as bold as the ones to the left … or #2) if I wanted to paint a deep blue violet into the now bright wet blue on the right side of the composition. NOT making a nearly instantaneous rational or intuitive decision was my first hint that I might now be painting rather than sketching.

Instead of tackling that decision … choosing one of those two major options … I once again began to “play” some more all over the image, making small tweaks to the  composition. I also spent some time working on the small bushes that appear out from under the central trees, descending along the hillside in front of/below the still extremely wet dark yellow-green mass that I had painted just a few moments before.

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I scrubbed out most of the dull rose hue I had started with in the main clump of bushes. Next, I made a darker mauve-burgundy blend that I pushed into the other reddish plants along the edge of the swelling line of the hill. Finally, I scraped and scuffed the paper of the main bush before applying a purer, warmer red … as well as a few touches of the burgundy.

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Well, as so often happens … life and many other tasks intervened in the process of finishing this piece.  Dinner finally called. The next day, my students, doing necessary work out in the yard, a few household tasks, visiting with family … even another painting or two begged for my attention!

A couple of days passed before I returned to work on this little image. Luckily for me, I had made a photo or two of the location … as well as having a clear memory of my slightly agonized struggle to clearly see and process the image on location.  I carved out an hour or so to reconnect with all that and spent a bit of time looking at what had started as a simple sketch. It was time to finally commit and finish it!

Above the Rockbridge Line, watercolor w/pencil on paper, 6.25x9.75

Above the Rockbridge Line, watercolor w/pencil on paper, 6.25×9.75

About 20 minutes of painting spread out across an hour and a half or so of evaluating … as well as drying time between new color layers and it was done!

As I said at the beginning, I am not sure when a watercolor sketch crosses some type of delineation and becomes a small painting.  In this case, I am sure of two things …

… 1) This was excruciating and deliciously fun …

and …

… 2) I would rather know which one YOU think it is, a sketch or a small watercolor?

Please let me know!

 

 

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Going from study to “finished piece” … and back again!

January 9, 2014

Earlier this week I posted about a work (the working title was “Vixen”) that I finished a bit before the end of 2013.

Voxis Vulpis, mixed media on Mylar, 2013

Voxis Vulpis                                                            (the previous working title was “Vixen”)                                                         60×42, mixed media on Mylar, 2013

That piece is part of my on-going Natural-Family-History series; a group of large to installation sized mixed media draws that incorporate and align images from nature/natural history and from my family history as well.

Most of the time I work up the constituent parts of the drawing’s content pretty fully; If for no other reason, it becomes necessary to do so because of the size of these works. Most of the time though, I don’t plan the entire composition. It isn’t that I can’t. I certainly have worked that way in the past. I taught my students how and why it can be such a great practice.

Instead, I have been using a modified, jazz influenced praxis. Utilizing a hybrid hand-digital sketching process for the parts of the drawing, I can then create digital enlargements. Then I work up multiple sizes of the visual elements. With these and projections, I can experiment and improvise … sliding the pieces around as if in a collage.

Now, that has been the practice of late. But ever-so-often I do back track to a more traditional way of working and produce some  1/4 to 1/2 scale studies. In fact, the mylar drawing, Voxis Vulpis actually began as just such a study on paper. I thought it might be interesting to look at how I tried  to work up the image/idea. And how the study went so very badly … and made a come back … as a very different work!

view of studio wall with study, sketches and visual resources

View of studio wall with the 36×27 inch study on paper after I erased the fox image.                                          Notice the red pencil sketch of the seated fox looking leftward and also the visual resource photograph of a fox as well

early stages of a study for "Vixen" 36x27 mixed media on paper

early stages of a study for “Vixen”                                                             36×27. mixed media on paper

To the  left is a view of the studio with the study at an early stage of the process. Note the visual resource photo and the red sketch of a seated fox pinned to the wall. The messy, playful, nearly random staining underlayer is visible … as is basic drawing of the Hawthorn branches, leaves and thorns that had been begun for the top section.

detail of the study, using a raking light to reveal remnants of the erased head of the fox

detail of the study, using a raking light to reveal subtle remnants of the erased head of the fox

If you look carefully in the lower right hand area of the study, you can see remnants  of the drawing of the seated fox planned for this section of the of the composition. The B&W image to the right may help you see the erased head, snout, and nose of the fox just a bit better.

Upon reflection, I made a pretty massive change in the direction of the image. I thought the scale to be all wrong and I was also disenchanted with that pose. I even began to dislike the drooped head posture for this piece.

After erasing the head and body of the fox, I planned to add a different version of the fox. As I made that decision, I also began working up the additional design elements on the larger mylar piece this study was the preparation piece. As I worked on the larger work, I made the decision on the version of the fox I wanted to use; one that was in a standing position with the body oriented towards the viewer’s right … but the head still looking left.

I also altered the idea of the Hawthorn branches and thorns from being done in tonal dry media … into creating them with a rich black ink.

At this point I abandoned the study.

A bit later, as I was working on another large mylar piece, I looked across the studio and saw the unfinished study still up on a wall mounted drawing board. Whether by serendipity or some internal decision making process that I was not aware of, I decided to give that sheet of paper another go.

Since I was working on a 10 ft drawing that was going to need a bird known as a Tufted Titmouse, I figured I would try adding one of those to the composition. I had drawn some before … as studies for the larger work … but had not yet included one in a composition. So here was a chance to do so despite this piece being very different than the mylar one.

My First Encounter with the Wild 36x27, mixed media on paper, 2013

My First Encounter with the Wild 36×27, mixed media on paper, 2013 

Once I added the perched Tufted Titmouse work needed some more darks through the middle section. After working up the darks in the middle and some additional changes to the top register of the page, I backed off. I let a couple of days go by … looking from time to time while in the studio. After some small adjustments … I stopped  “tinkering” and decided it was done.

Now that it is complete, I realize that it isn’t really like either of the finished works it helped me prepare for anymore. That’s ok. The “study” went it’s own way and is now an independent work. I like it enough that I think that I’ll include it in my upcoming exhibit at Mary Baldwin College.

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Drawing Close and Being Transparent.

October 10, 2013

Studio View, with early stages of Vixen (left) and For/Scythian Suite 1 (rt.)

Studio View, with early stages of Vixen (left) and For/Scythian Suite #1 (right)

Years ago, an artist friend, colleague, teacher, and mentor of mine, Clarence Morgan, noted that I really get excited about drawing.

Today there is still real truth to that. The rush of emotions … joy, surprise, and elation at the sight of marks dancing across the page … just feels SO right, so rewarding. As I work through the stages of a drawing, when it is really going well, it almost seems that the image is forming itself. It is almost like “we” are intimate friends, even lovers, leaning in close, whispering … suggesting, teasing and coaxing each other where to go next.

At other times, it is really much more like a wrestling match, as if the drawing and I are locked in a struggle. In that analogy, we are very close again … but this time pushing, pulling … working against each other in an attempt to get the “other” out of the way, out of some unseen box, across some unknown finish line.  Frustration at the lack of understanding, cooperation, or completion. A contest of wills. You see, I tend to be the stubborn aesthetic arbiter; sometimes insisting on being in conscious control. Now that can be a problem … a big problem!

detail, For/Sythian Suite #1 Mixed Media on Mylar

detail, For/Sythian Suite #1 (unfinished)
Mixed Media on Mylar, approx. 84×40

This image is part of one of my large mylar drawings. It is one of several pieces from my Natural-Family-History series that are in the studio right now.  It has had moments of struggle as well as those quiet moments of intimate partnership. I hope it finds it’s way to a good, maybe even an ecstatic conclusion.

Every once in a while it makes me think (feel … might actually be a better word here) as though my job as the artist is to become transparent (just like the Mylar I am drawing on!) and let the drawing come to life all on its own.

Seeing may be a form of thinking (Arnheim). Even so, I know the physical act and the materiality of drawing isn’t thinking; but that doesn’t preclude that I want to understand something of the ideas, the wisdom, imbedded in the materials and the images themselves … wether they are my projections on them or something inherent within them. (Watch out there  … I seem to be channeling the shades of Santayana and Aquinas both with that statement!) Nor does it mean that I will be immediately satisfied by the wisdom presented to me, pushed into my grasp by the drawing process. I will trying to bend it, somehow, closer to my will, to my thought … to an outcome that I had expected, that I want/wanted to accept. I may or may not get it all the way there. I could lose the contest. Just as often though … having to give in, letting the work have it’s own way … I am enlightened by the image, by the process, and/or the materials. I am transformed by the work/working as much as I have created the art work.

Whether like lovers or wrestlers, in either case really exciting things can happen.

As I said, Clarence noticed that I really get excited about drawing … at times even above and beyond my deep attachment to/involvement with painting. So, YES, Clarence was right. It is the balance of intimacy and power in the acts of drawing, whether in the small scale sketches or the larger works, that I love.

Thanks for the insight old friend.

For-Scythian..., detail E2

PS: if you want to find some of Clarence’s newer work, you might start with …  http://www.clarence-morgan.com

Returning to Normal? Ready for NEW Challenges!

October 31, 2010

We are back from a really delightful time in Ohio. The opening at the Greer was quite nice … and I am truly pleased with how the show looked installed. I am now extremely excited about the next large pieces!  Two are firmly in my head and several more are floating about … a bit less resolved.

And I have already decided on the direction of the new watermedia on panels series, so I will be doing lots of visual research (sketches & photographs, designing & revising) on that front.  For that series, I also have some fresh ideas (as well as twists on some previous work) that I think will be fantastic to explore.

So it is now time to clean the studio a bit … the autumnal equivalent of spring cleaning I guess. Quickly too, so the dreaded post show lethargy doesn’t set in.

Watch for new pieces, finished or in progress, in the next few days and weeks!


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