I have learned something, sometimes many things, from every water media workshop I’ve ever participated in. Just finished one with Susan Webb Tregay which leaves me with Sue perched on my shoulder whispering one of her multitude of quotable quotes all great advice about color and composition strategies. Maybe my favorite is the most piercing -“things not worth painting are not worth painting well”.
All that being said, one of the approaches to watercolor and its paper that has most stuck with me, and continues to challenge me, is what Mark Mehaffey had us try during the Niagara Frontier Watercolor Society’s Spring 2013 Workshop. Paint with watercolor on gesso coated arches 140 lb paper. Two coats of gesso each side, dry in between. Paint in any set of colors you choose all over the paper, best if pretty intense but not required.
My first attempt, after the workshop was over and I had had a chance to mull over all that I had learned, turned into a “harmony of intensity” color strategy without any conscious direction from me. I call it “Loving Burchfield” because it reminded me of one or two of Charles Burchfield’s periods. Being a Buffalo resident, and a former docent at the Burchfield Penney Art Center, I have spent a lot of time studying Burchfield. He was a lover of light and nature, as am I.
My second attempt was not as successful, in my opinion, as the first, and I think it’s because of the rather intense color scheme. It could be relieved with some much lighter tones, and a little more cool areas of contrast to the warm. This is called, appropriately, “Heated Landscape” and is for sale at Art Loft just outside the entrance to the Chautauqua Institution. I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t like this painting – I do! It was really fun to work on. The paint has a mind of it’s own, and even so can be added and subtracted easily provided you don’t care about controlling everything that happens. It’s almost like painting on Yupo, but not quite as slippery.
This painting which I call “Bidwell Market Zinnias” after our summer Saturday farmers’ market, also for sale at Artloft, is among my favorites ever. I started out with a circular swirl of high intensity colors, red, yellow and blue, and moved the paint around, adding and subtracting to come up with a painting I really like.
Friends who know me well, and admire my paintings, have given me some good advice. They say, in one way or another, include some architecture, some neighborhood, in your paintings, even when you are experimenting. So, these two are very recent, and include architectural elements from my home city, Buffalo. The first, “City Sunset” is the view I have as I look out of my studio across the street, almost due West, at sunset. It was accepted into the Adirondacks National Exhibition of American Watercolors which opens August 8th in Old Forge, NY. Very excited to have been juried into this terrific show.
This last painting, called “Canalside” is a view from across the newly constructed memory of the Erie Canal at our Lake Erie Shore, is also a favorite. It will be included in the group show, “Art Exhibition – Seeing and Being: Making Art in WNY Neighborhoods” opening Monday, June 1 at 6 pm at Betty’s Restaurant, 370 Virginia St., Buffalo.
I love to try new ways to work with watercolor and all of the other water media. I am not a young person, though I am a young artist, having really started to get serious about this in the mid 2000’s. Architecture took all my work time and energy for 44 years. I don’t think I’ll be able to paint for the same amount of time….as I’d be painting at age 107, but maybe I’ll still be at it! I’m pretty young at heart!