Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mid-week watercolor workshop update

Exhaustion, frustration, humility... just a few words to describe the way things are going for me so far. I have been trying to open myself up to a more disciplined and controlled use of watercolor and instead what I am experiencing is more of a disconnect in my paintings. The technical skills of any art medium are always key to success and once I reached my personal understanding with watercolor I was able to move into a more therapeutic, free flowing approach. This week has been the opposite end of the spectrum from what I am used to, and I am hopeful that in a day, or in a month, I will walk away with new skills that I didn't realize I learned this week.

We have been focusing on shadows, lights and darks, and drawing; Eyy Gads, drawing! I will admit that when we had a live model yesterday the quick sketches followed by quick watercolor washes were a ton of fun. Tomorrow we are spending the day outdoors, plein air landscape painting, something I enjoy, then Friday the model is back.

Day 1 - we had to work dry, and our focus was not on the details in the shapes but on the shadows.

After the first lesson, the next thing we did was paint abstractly using color, making sure there was no background distinction and at least one hard edge. I don't think I followed directions well for this one!

Day 2 - we had a live model in the morning and started with quick 40 second pencil sketches, then we were given a little more time to add wash colors.

After each lesson we hang work in the hallway and critique as a group.

Day 3 -  we were told to bring still life objects. I decided to bring in my dead bonsai, along with a bowl of fruit. I missed the opportunity to create an entire 'environment' with my still life arrangement when I decided to use the bonsai alone. I would have been able to concentrate on a wider variety of shadows if I had included more objects.

In the afternoon I used fruit in an 'up close and personal' kind of way. I had trouble understanding the light/dark relationships and reached a point where I didn't think about matching color in my shadows. Tonight I decided to add outline with a sharpie marker because I figured the worst thing I could do was ruin what I already considered a failure.

I am hoping tomorrow I can move back into my looser style of landscape painting and not feel as restricted in how I am using water and paint. Friday when the model returns I hope to get into more detailed figure studies. In the afternoon I think we are using our "reject" paintings to create a collage.

Throughout the week I have been asking myself what works for me, what doesn't, and I have reassured myself that it's OK if I don't want to change my style of watercolor painting. It's always good to see how other teachers make things click for their students. Maybe as a student my clicker isn't working as well as it used to.


  1. Well, I personally love everything you've done here! I do suspect you will take quite a bit away from this workshop too. You will surprise yourself in the end, I know.

  2. Often when we are out of our comfort zone we are not happy with the results, but nothing you create goes without reward. It will make a imprint on your right brain that will in some same way influence the work you love to do now. I smiled when I read, "my dead bonsai". Guess most of us have had one and hated to get rid of it because of the lovely sculptural look of the dead branches.

  3. You were both right, today was a much improved "breakthrough" kind of day. I will be posting about it after I have more time to process.

    and Eva, I have 3 dead bonsai trees in my garage! I don't have the heart to toss them and I do love their skeletal shapes. They all died when I was away this winter and never made a recovery.

  4. I just read another blog, Painting On, that said years may pass before you realize what you take away from a workshop. I have lots of dead plants--not just bonsais.

  5. Oooo, I like the line, "...I figured the worst thing I could do was ruin what I already considered a failure." Now that's what creating is all about, Sister!!!


  6. Hallie, I feel fortunate things clicked for me this week before the workshop ended, but I also know I will be clicking with other things in the weeks and months to come. Ha ha about the plants!

    Don, the failure painting actually taught me something even though it did not work for me as an end result, that is also what creating is all about for me.