Sunday, December 23

December Always Makes Me Paint This Way

Pecos Snow
Acrylic on canvas, copyright 2008
Well, it's that time of the year again. Christmas is almost here.

I am glad about that, and I won't miss the crowds that have clogged the freeways and shopping centers all month long.

I will tell you that when I paint in December I feel I should be painting something that looks like December, you know, snow, fir trees, poinsettias, things like that.

But I rarely do. I painted today's image back in 2008, and I think that was the last time I painted snow. I suppose I would never make it as a Christmas card artist.

I actually paint less in December than I do in other months. Strange. Maybe it's the waning light as the winter solstice arrives in the northern hemisphere that makes it more difficult for me to keep painting. It's just too dark to paint by daylight after 4:00 p.m. Of course, I could just turn on the light, but I don't.

There also seems to be less time to paint--there's the planning and the shopping and the decorating, and everything else that's going on.

Whatever the reason, December always makes me paint this way.

Monday, December 17

Why Painters Paint

I was thinking about why painters paint. What motivates them? What is the mechanism that makes painters pick up a brush or other implement? Why do they do it?

This is not, of course, a researched topic, only my humble opinion. But I have given it some thought.

The short, pat answer is because they have to, they have no other choice. As I said, that's the pat answer, but I think there's more to it.

The over-arching reason painters paint is to escape.

Escape from what? To escape from time, to escape from reality, to escape from themselves.

You're probably a painter or you wouldn't be reading this, so think about it. You paint to escape the bounds of the clock, a set number of hours, or a set number of days. Throw out the clock and painting will take up any amount of time allowed it.

Painting is an escape from reality. Paint is a two-dimensional illusion on paper, canvas, or other, that allows you an exit or respite from the here and the now. It takes you away from the cares of the day and the dreadful news cycle to another place.

Painting lets you escape from yourself--your hopes, your fears, your prejudices--or it should if you're doing it right.

In summary, painting allows you to express whatever it is you are with paint.

Tuesday, December 11

7 Tips for Painting Wet-In-Wet

A Recent Wet-In-Wet Watercolor
of Mine
If you read my last blog, Painting Wet-In-Wet, you may have surmised that I think painting wet-in-wet is extraordinarily difficult. And you would be partially correct. I do.

But it's not impossible; that is, it's not impossible if you can learn how to control the water and the paint better.

Here are a few tips, or maybe I should call them lessons learned, I have stumbled upon that make the process somewhat easier for me. Note, I did not use the word easy.

One. Select a type of paper on which you have achieved some success  with the way you want your paintings to look and stick with it exclusively until you have learned its every reaction and nuance to water, especially how long it takes the water to start to dry. You probably will have to try out at least five or perhaps many more, but I assure you, one will rise to the top of your list, and you will become the master of it.

Two. I have had success with two types of brushes: a squirrel mop (aka a quill) and rounds. I use a no. 12 squirrel mop/quill, a no. 14 Kolinsky sable round, and a no. 8 round. The mop holds lots of paint and water, and the rounds work best with spring-y points that keeps their shapes. I paint rather loose and large, so other sizes may better suit you.

Three. One large, single palette for mixing, such as an enamel butcher's tray, works best for me rather than a palette with several (or many) pans or dividers. I'm not sure why except a larger mixing area allows me to better see all the different colors mixed and their strengths, and I can dip my brush in just the right spot.

Four. Keep a spritzer within reach at all times. When I say spritzer I mean a sprayer that sprays a fine mist onto your paper rather than any old spray nozzle that squirts out water in uncontrollable streams or drops--terrible. The spritzer lets you re-wet the paper whenever it or the paint need it.

Five. Study the bead of water that is generated as you pass your brush horizontally over the paper. That is about the only way you will learn how, where, and when to apply the wet-in-wet paint. I think when people say a watercolor paints itself, they're talking about the bead.

 Six. I find that keeping my paper tilted at an angle of at least 5 degrees but no more than about 15 degrees works best for me. This allows the bead of water to move relatively slowly down the paper. I use a table-top easel adjusted almost all the way down horizontally to achieve this.

Seven. I use all types of watercolor: transparent, granulating, and the more opaque, including gouache. It gives me freedom and choice or at least I think it does.

And that's all there is to it. Ha.

Thursday, December 6

Painting Wet-In-Wet

My Wet-in-Wet at
a Recent Exhibit
One of the most difficult techniques for many, if not most, watercolor painters is painting wet-in-wet. It sure is for me.

Why is that? Well, it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway--all that water....

You probably already know of what I'm speaking, but just in case, wet-in-wet is that tricky technique in which you paint juicy paint onto an already moistened area of your paper.

If you've never tried it, you must. Then you'll know what all the hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing is about.

Of course, watercolor requires water. But, how much? That is the question and the secret.

Too much water on either your brush and/or the paper and your paint washes away in gushing rivulets that become blooms, cauliflowers, or whatever else you may call them. They are those ugly water stains that spoil your work and are a horror for most watercolorists.

Too little water is almost as bad because you tend to keep adding more and more, trying to gauge just the right amount, until you predictably get the above-mentioned blooms. Dang it.

There are several expert watercolorists who have mastered this technique--Joseph Zbukvic and Alvaro Castagnet, just to name two.

Here's the thing, there is no way of  teaching, telling, or showing anyone how to master this technique. Believe me.

You can attend workshops and you can watch DVDs, but you will only learn how to do it by doing it over and over and over again. Only you can learn how much water should be applied on the paper and on the brush for your particular application. You, all by yourself.

Now, what could be simpler? If nothing else, think of it as character-building.

Sunday, December 2

An Article About Clyfford Still & His Work

Photo Copyright 2011
Here's an interesting article in The Wall Street Journal by Jonathan Lopez about one of mid-century America's great painters with whom you may not be all that familiar.

It's about Clyfford Still, and I did not know he was called one of the "irascibles" along with Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.

The article highlights his work on display in a museum in Denver, Colorado, USA that carries his name and in a new book by Skira Rizzoli.

What I found most interesting in the article, and other painters may, too, is Still's insistance that his work, which is known for large canvases of color slabs, contrasting color, and hatched color, be shown all by itself and away from other works of art.

So much so that he rarely exhibited or sold his paintings according to the article. Now that is unusual for any artist and especially painters. Don't you think?

Here's the link to the article: