How to become an artist

Well, I can stop blogging now. I have been dribbling my thoughts for the past seven years. Slowly coming to know all the things that were so eloquently stated in the convenience of one simple blog post! Mary Price has so eloquently described the fragile state of an artist. I am in my fourth decade and still find myself asking these very same questions. It’s a constant journey to know thyself and at the very same time, to OWN IT.

artistintheshed

For many of us, me included, attaching the ‘artist’ label to what we do is a sometimes uncomfortable step requiring a level of bravery. Who am I to write this article? – can I call myself an artist?

The imposter syndrome nags on, ‘What me? How can I say this about what I love to do? Am I good enough? Only famous people who sell every painting and make their living from their art are artists.’

This is, I believe, fundamentally untrue – unpainted paintings, uncarved sculptures, unpenned novels, unwritten songs, sonatas, operas, plays and so on would be the only result if we failed to have a measure of self belief before embarking on a creative journey as an artist.

We need to step back and reframe this belief and to understand that in order to call ourselves artists it is important to question aspects such as fame, notoriety…

View original post 1,706 more words

Advertisements

Peonies from My Garden

__2019-04-03 16.32

Peonies From My Garden  by Mary Ercoli Walsh -watercolor 16×20″ 140 lb cold press paper

I’m not sure which I enjoy more – putzing around outdoors gardening, cutting and arranging the flowers I’ve grown, photographing them or sitting down to paint them.  Hmm… I guess the answer is ALL.  I enjoy the entire process, every single minute of it.

Below is the progression of this painting.  Something to note is that I usual work one area at a time,  my paper is usually white except for each new addition.  With this painting I blocked out the lightest shades of all of the colors and then went back to darken each place that needed it. The technique is called watercolor glazing.

 

peonies

__2019-04-04 08.20.18__2019-04-05 08.35.41

I know the focus is the giant flower blooms, but my favorite part of the painting is the bananas and their shadows.  Funny, I debated even allowing them to stay in my composition, but I am glad I did. The shadows are just so fun and interesting.

Like a true child, as soon as I hit the half-way mark of a painting, I am already mentally thinking about what I want to paint next.  It’s almost like I am frustrated with how slow my hands can work because my mind is so much faster.  Luckily, I’m a grown-up and I’ve learned the importance of finishing what I’ve started and staying the course. However, the day a painting is finished I am so excited…it means I get to START all over again!!!

Pottery Update

__2019-04-03 08.33.22-1

For the last three weeks I have been teaching three days a week which has prevented me from getting into the pottery studio to throw. It hasn’t stopped me though.  I have been hand-building at home.

Here are pics of more of the shadow boxes I am working on.  My idea is to meld the strange found objects I find on my local beaches with pottery.  What I hope to come out with is quirky, folk-art looking small works of art.

Here is the beginning stages. Later the clay-works will get painted and glazed.  The cigar boxes will get painted and there will hopefully be a few more objects in each box from the sea. But this is a glimpse into the idea phase. I try to find a creative way to use the beach objects. So my ideas start there.

clayh

Also my cell-phone holders finally came to fruition. I find these so helpful with 4 cell-phones in the house!phoney

For all you hippies, I had this sweet platter come out.  Love me some Beatles.

__2019-04-03 08.40.042019-04-03 08.42.11

Perfectly said.

Teaching Watercolor – Painting Glass

2019-04-02-09.02.03.jpg

Painting the image of glass is something beginning painters avoid.

Why would you want to avoid painting glass? Hmm, let’s see. First you need to capture the background which is showing through the glass. Next, you have stems and leaves that show through. Third there is refraction going on, so the stems might appear bent or not where you expect them. Next you need to capture liquid. Is the glass half-full or empty? Finally, you need to paint the glass itself and the reflections that bounce off of it.

So yes.  There is quite a bit involved.

2019-03-26 16.18.47-1

I came to watercolor class with everything else painted and ready to go.  I also sketched in some very simple guide-lines.

vase

The two glass bottles in this painting were done using two different techniques.  why?  So I could show my class there are two ways to tackle the problem.  I wouldn’t normally do this in a painting, but it does help to show.  The left bottle was done with dry-glazing techniques. Meaning I used many layers of light watercolor wash.  You use very little water so as to have more control.   The bottle to the right was painted using the wet-on-wet technique.  I painted the entire bottle with clear water and then dropped paint into the water which makes it spread where ever there is water.  The glazing technique gives you a more precise look and the wet-on-wet is generally softer and more flowing.

Now I’ll tell you the secret to painting glass in watercolor no matter which technique you use.

glass

There is no white paint in watercolor.  You use the white of the paper.  So if you want a white area, don’t put any paint there.  However, there is another technique you can use to create white areas.  The technique is called lifting.  Lifting is when you take a clean paintbrush, dip it in water, take the access water off so it is damp and then you rub the paint away in a particular area.  Watercolor is not permanent.  You can’t dry it and it’s there forever.  In some ways that’s bad, but in some ways it’s good.  By simply wetting your painting you can pull up or “lift” the paint off the paper.  Now look at the photo above.  See all the different places where I am simulating reflection by creating light areas.  I rubbed, scrubbed and wet those areas until the paint lifted.

The rest is observation and practice, which for most of us takes a life-time.  With that said, there’s no time like the present.  Let’s get practicing!

Back to My Roots

2019-03-11 13.16.33b

From From My Garden,  16″x20″ watercolor 140 lb cold press paper

I just realized I have been posting the every-day-progression of this painting on Instagram, but never in my blog!

My blog is more like my journal or diary.  Maybe even my confessional? It is where I divulge my inner most thoughts, which many times can come off as self-deprecating  or even once in a while a bit witty and informative. I have all of those traits within me. I always think it’s best to be brutally honest because that is what is most sincere to others.  To see that we are all not perfect.  We all have struggles important to us even if they may not necessarily be important to others. We have ups, but we also have downs.

With that said, I have had an epiphany.  Did anyone else realize I have been working on abstracts in acrylic for over 6 years?  Personally, it’s been a really rough ride. I haven’t shown most of the paintings because I never felt like I could create the vision I had in my head.  Over and over again I would start a painting and feel defeated mid-way through. For six whole years. Day after day. I have probably 20 unfinished paintings in my basement.  It has left me truly wanting to quit art-making altogether.

But maybe it wasn’t that I needed to quit making art. Maybe it’s that I needed to change my art practice.

Before six years ago, I was a watercolor still-life painter.  That’s where I started. That’s what was intuitive to me.  I have traveled on a path of denying this. Trying everything else in my wake and de-valuing what came natural to me.  I blame this on being an experiential learner. Some of us won’t believe the stove is hot until we actually touch it. No matter who tells us otherwise.

I’ve had a six year stove-touching :)

I had to experience everything else I could do to know thyself.  Some think that’s why we are on this planet.  We didn’t come here to do what we already know, we came here to experience.

Well.  I am at the point that I am ready to value what comes natural to me.  I LOVE COLOR PERIOD and I really know my way around a watercolor box.

Since this awakening, which was about a month ago, I have been painting up a storm.  These watercolors are just flowing right through me. As soon as I’m done there isn’t ten minutes before I’m starting another. It feels great.  Like I’ve come home.

The painting in this blog is one of the first larger ones.  I’m working on another larger painting as we speak and then I’m also working on little 11×14 size paintings for more “fun/exploration”.  The little ones are my permission to not take myself so seriously.  That feels good too.

I am trying really hard not to look backwards and ask the question what do I have to show for the past several years?  I have to look forward and ask what will come out of me next? The answer I hope -amazingly bright colored pretty things :)

Now on to the ART-part of our programming.  I always think it’s fun to look at the progression of a painting. So here it goes:

__h20 bouquet2019-03-06 13.46.322019-03-03 11.26.042019-03-05 12.44.562019-03-13 13.45.46

 I have questioned myself. Why florals? Ugh, still lives? How boring. Neither nature nor still-lives will ever lead you to something unique. Maybe I’m supposed to do or be something else? Would something else make me better, more well-known, more deep and introspective? Happier? Well I’ve spent some time looking for the answer to these neurotic questions .

After six long years, this is what I’ve learned. I didn’t choose floral watercolors. They chose me. A soprano is never going to achieve singing like an alto. They are a soprano. Singing like a soprano will light up their world. Meaning : Honor your skill set. Honor your strengths.

Surrender.

I have surrendered. So now let’s see where it takes me…

Watercolor Techniques: Glazing

Glazing 101 (9)b

For weeks and weeks I have been drilling my students “More water! More water!  Drop the paint into the water and let it ooze, swirl and flow….”   

Well this project is the complete opposite of that.

 

glazing

In order to get those thin washes of color, you have to work very quickly and with very little water in order to not disturb the layer of paint below it.

So, I called this class the “STICK IT TO MARY CLASS”.  Because everyone would not have to hear my water nagging and they could possibly provide proof that you could create a watercolor painting not using the wet-on-wet painting method.  I so wanted to prove my class wrong!

Guess what?  Doing a painting fairly dry with quick layering strokes or glazing – works (however,  I am not admitting that to my students!).

So here is how I laid out this project:

glazing 101b

First you lay-out a very loose sketch. Pretty much, make shapes for where different colors or subject-matter will be.

Second is color-blocking. This very much reminds me of old fashioned paint-by-numbers.   You block your entire image with very simple, very light areas of color. For instance, the yellow flower has shadows in it, but for color-blocking purposes you would simply add a light shade of yellow.  All those details will be GLAZED in later. Another example of this is the splotch of light purple in the upper left quadrant. It is flat and light.  It marks the space where I will later add purple painted details.

Third, you begin to move around the painting adding quick layers of color.  For me, I like to move around and apply the darkest shadows.  The color-blocking step already established my lights.  So, if I then add the darkest darks, I can easily establish the medium tones later.  In the top right corner in the left-hand picture you can see a block of orange.  In the right-hand photo, you can see how I added the shadows between the flower petals to make that part of the image come alive. It went from orange splotch to orange flower petals.

Pretty much, you keep adding layer upon layer, detail upon detail, until you feel like the image is complete in your eyes.

Here’s another example:

glazing 101 c

Can you see how the left-side image looks flat, blocked and like a paint-by number? Do you see how much dimension you can create by adding more and more layers of color?

Here are some of my students. They are at the color-blocking paint-by-number-looking stage…

Glazing students

I can’t wait to see how their paintings come out.

I hate to admit this, but as soon as our classes were over, I rushed home to finish my demos.  I felt like a kid in a candy store.  I just couldn’t resist adding more and more layers.  I didn’t get up from my seat until I had finished both paintings.  Secretly, I found this glazing method extremely addicting :)

In a nutshell, this is not how I normally paint.  I like to use tons of water on my paper so that I get chemistry experiments of paint combining in strange watery ways.  However, I am TOTALLY going to incorporate more of this glazing into my work.  I think the quick movement provided me amazing opportunities to add way more colors than I ever would have, the normal way I paint.  I will definitely be chasing this freedom in future paintings.

In fact, I’ve just started another painting today :)

Understanding Grayscale in Painting

 

I have a student who complains that she never makes her darks dark enough in a painting. It’s a fair complaint. Without intense lights and darks, a painting can look very flat. With this in mind, I created this lesson.

Almost any art store will have a copy of this tool. An artist can place this gadget on top of their artwork and see if they have high contrast which is created by using colors at opposite sides of the value scale.

When we placed the grayscale/value finder on my students work, her work fell in the value 5,6,7,8. Pretty much there was no contrast.

This photo is perfect for studying value and grayscale. Do you notice the intense lights in the center of the image and the intense darks towards the edges? Do you notice that each leaf goes from light to dark but in different ranges?

Every leaf in this image provides a valuable lesson.

Doing this project in only black and white is a terrific way to understand the range of lights and darks in an image. The next level is to try to provide the same range of lights and darks using colors. Icey pink is going to present on the lighter range of the spectrum while eggplant purple will be on the dark. Greens with yellow in them will present lighter than a green with brown in it. It takes a bit of practice and observation, but like blacks and whites, artists need to consider the value of colors.

For this painting demo I created an under painting. If you look at the unfinished painting above, you can see what looks like a blended bulls-eye with yellows towards the center and purples towards the edges. Already, I am setting up my painting to incorporate lights and darks. In the same painting demo you can see particular leaves. Each leaf has darks toward the stem and lights toward the leaf’s edges. Because of the under-painting, the lights and darks of the outside of the painting will not be the same as the lights and darks of the center of the painting.

Towards the end of the class we started to play even more. Using warm colors like yellow, orange and red will make the area come forward while using cool colors like blues and purples will visually make that area of the image recede back. Ever so slightly we added a bit of warm colors to the center of the succulent and put the cool colors towards the outskirts.

Adding warm and cool colors to an image that you might not have attributed to the subject matter is great way to create visual interest.

Ah, there is so much to think about while painting. I hope I’ve shed a little light on the subject (and darks too! :)

Creating My Pottery Shadow Boxes

It’s been a long time since I reported on my pottery.

Since the new year, I have been working on more of the driftwood/cigar box assemblages I have created in the past. I have tons of little pottery pieces all over the place! In these images, the pottery has not been fired or glazed nor have I painted or included any of my beach finds yet.

Nevertheless, here are some photos to show the beginning stages…

I am obsessed with folk art. You can clearly see it’s influence.

I probably have 30 of these installations at various stages of completion. I will keep reporting on their progress. I like to work on things in quantity as opposed to starting one piece and finishing it before I move on. I can be more efficient this way even if it looks completely hectic :)

So there it goes. I’m plugging away at a ton of stuff. I am wheel-throwing a bunch of pitchers, mugs and bowls as well, but I forgot to take pictures of those :)

Nothing is complete. Everything needs something done to it. Some months are like that. Not days. Not weeks. Months!!!

Teaching Glazing Watercolor Techniques

Each week I try to find a particular concept to cover during my painting class that I teach. For this particular week I wanted to explore watercolor glazing. There are two different ways to apply watercolor paint. One way is to apply clean water from a brush onto the paper and then drop pigment into the water. The colors bleed and mix together creating unpredictable color patterns and combinations. This technique is called the wet-on-wet technique (wet paper and wet paint).

The other technique popular with watercolor painting is called glazing. Glazing is a fairly dry painting technique. It is a method of applying a coat of watercolor paint on top of an already dry layer of watercolor paint. Because the paper isn’t wet, the paint only goes exactly where you paint it. The beauty of this is that you can color mix the bottom and top layer. So if there was already yellow paint on the dry paper, a quick brush of red paint over it would create orange when the paper dried and a brush of blue would create a shade of green. You can transform an existing image quite quickly and easily.

The artist has to decide when to use each technique. The rooster photograph I provided to my students offers the perfect opportunity to use both techniques.

First,each student fills the entire rooster image with clean water and drops in watercolor in different places. Where the pigments meet, you get beautiful what I call “happy accidents”. It is unpredictable but it’s what makes watercolor so pretty. That’s the wet-on-wet technique.

Next, the students are going to add the detail. Think of all of the feathers and the head. The details are applied sparingly and with very little water. This is when you use the glazing technique.

Below is the Rhode Island Red rooster photo I provided and two paint demos I did during the class. See if you can pick out the two different painting application techniques.

The rooster image truly allows for so many variations of glazing. In total, I painted the chicken 3 times and each painting is completely different!

Here are some of the paintings from my students. You’d think we had 15 different chickens running around in the class!

 

By far, my favorite thing about art making

is that no matter what, each artist provides their own unique expression.

Little Paintings

In between larger works, I’ve been working on these smaller pieces. They are roughly between 8×10 – 11×14. They allow me to play without too much investment in time.

I am also currently working on large watercolors. I am slowly coming to the conclusion that my strengths seem to be better suited towards traditional watercolor still-lives (as opposed to acrylic abstracts).

What sort of stinks about this realization is that I have spent the last 6 years working tirelessly on abstract painting ! – and also constantly feeling frustrated.

Ahh…I am sure the knowledge and experience will be good for something… I just don’t know what that is yet.  Now, to be patient and present enough to let life unfold…

In the upcoming week or two, I will post my bigger more serious paintings.  And then you’ll get an idea of the direction I’m going…

Here’s to Life and Learning!