I LOVE this little cottage on Beach Avenue in Block Island.
It looks to be 8ft x 10ft if that!
I’d take it in a heart beat!
Last year at this time I would have already been feverishly painting for three hours. I’d wake up at 6:30am find a subject and get going on my 365 creativity challenge.
I have quite a few family members to thank for that experience. Because what the viewer didn’t hear was “Can we go now?”…”Are you almost done?” …”It’s almost noon, can we have breakfast?”… “Can we go to the beach before the sun sets???”
Yeah, it wasn’t just a challenge for me. It was a challenge for everyone around me.
With that said, I only packed a mini pocket-sized watercolor set and some postcard sized watercolor paper. This year I want to make sure I’m present to spend time with my best friends, my husband, my kids. Trips to the beach will be spent swimming and digging, not painting.
My other plan was to bring my baby, my Canon EOS Rebel, and photograph all of the island’s majestic beauty. I don’t know how I did it, but I actually forgot my camera bag. I am armed with a half dead smart phone.
That is how this year is going to go. It is going to be a week of rest. An actual vacation. A pause to catch my breath.
I have a few things to share this week. More mini paintings I painted for my final big art show ten days from now.
Enjoy your week and when you think of me, envision a 40-year-old lady asleep on the beach, drooling face-first into the sand!
Quick recap: For the past week I have been trying to flatten and simplify my artwork in an attempt to better understand the artist Milton Avery’s work. My sole purpose is to strengthen my own compositions by stripping my own work to its bare essentials, studying line, contemplating good design and then adding detail back in as I see fit.
This was way harder than I ever anticipated.
Here are the past few days paintings:
The first few days, you can see, I just couldn’t shake the texture and detail. When I finally got to the second to last painting, I had stripped my image of all depth and texture. I’m telling you, that painting is flat! But you know what, it was a little too flat for my own personal taste, so I tried it one more time.
Today’s version measures 18 x 24 inches and is a Gouache painting on 140 lb Cold Press paper.
I have to say, I’m not all that familiar with Gouache as a medium. I’ve only used it once or twice so far during this 365 challenge. I knew that the gouache paints would be opaque which I wanted, however, I thought I could layer this form of paint. Meaning, I could paint an area of the painting, let the paint dry and then add another layer over it. Oils and acrylics you can layer. watercolor paints become reactivated by the new paint and begin to move and blend on your paper. Gouache, when I went to add another top layer to an area, would reactivate into something similar to finger paint. Meaning, as I pulled my brush of new paint over dried paint, the bottom layer of paint would release and leave marks similar to running your finger through finger paint. It begins to look streaky and I could literally carve what ever I wanted into the newly activated wet paint. I mention this because I fought with this painting for like a day or so, continuously trying to add paint and instead, mostly removing the existing paint.
I slowly figured out to go with the flow. For instance, check out the top hillside. I have streaks of color running through the ochre colored hillside. The paints don’t blend easily, so I finally figured out to purposely not blend them.
However, I needed the water to be fully opaque to capture the stillness of the water, so for the water I struggled to paint as fast as I could to add some extra layers without disturbing the underlying paint.
Am I boring you with all this layer talk? Sorry about that!
I guess what I am trying to say, is I learned a lot this week. I kept failing and I’d try again, fail, try again…ect. Each time I’d let go a little more and I’d learn a little more.
I don’t think I will ever be as minimalist as Milton Avery, nor will I ever be a realist. I lie somewhere in that middle-grey area, a place where I will find my own niche. I’m still searching, still defining, still working that out.
I really like todays painting though, I feel like I captured the key elements of the image without going overboard. Not too much texture, not too much color, just tranquil, modern and old-fashioned all rolled into one.
A little bit of everything.
Do you think I flattened my image enough???
This goes back to the last weeks worth of posts. I’ve been trying to strip my work of all detail in attempt to create a fully minimalist painting (BTW excuse the grainy image. It has something to do with WordPress not my actual photo).
This is the absolutely gorgeous salt pond I am referencing. It’s a photo I took on Block Island.
The predominant feature of the image to me, is the dark shadows cast on the water. I thought of them as black lines. I love the bottom half of my painting. I think I captured the sky’s reflection in the water, the jagged shadows, the distance.
I wish I had made the top of the painting softer. In my head, I saw the grain fields in oranges, but the reds crept in and now it looks as if I deliberately created a rainbow painting! That was not my intent. I think I should have used yellows, golden rod and mustard.
I may even try this painting again tomorrow because I really love this image, especially the water. It is so still and calming.
All in all, I think today’s painting is actually too flat for my personal taste.
I preferred this one, yesterday’s painting, better.
I think I stripped down the subject matter about where I’d want to go, so now I know. I don’t really like completely flat, I like color variation and slight texture.
Here is the progression:
It reminds me of a 1960’s t-shirt or something.
Hmm, let’s see if I can pull it all together tomorrow!
My husband came home and I’m standing there with my canvas chanting “I did it! I did it! I made a minimalist painting!”
He smiled and said “That’s a nice painting, but it’s not fully minimalist…Maybe “Mary” Minimalist.”
That cracked me up.
What he meant is in my attempt to strip my work of all detail and capture the essence Milton Avery once captured, I again, kind of failed…
But from a crazy “Mary”, patterned, textured, colored perspective, I have gotten a little closer today.
I tend to use small brushstrokes, bold color and quite a bit of detail.
Now I’ve gotten quite a few emails & FB messages asking “Why are you trying to be something you are not?” or “Why can’t you be content with the fact that this may not be your style?” and I think they are missing the whole point of this exercise. First of all, I don’t really know what my “style” will eventually be and secondly, you try something, even if it doesn’t come easily, or even if you fail miserably, to gain insight. I am looking for that insight.
Now hubby made a pretty good point, I added in shading, a bit of dimension, some small details and color differentiation. Milton Avery went a few steps further.
Flat planes of color that eventually begin to appear to be patterns or color blocks and less the objects themselves. The bottom Avery painting above is titled, Black Sea.
This one is titled, Jagged Wave.
so simple, yet absolutely brilliant. The simple contour of the white against the black primordially communicates a wave crashing. You can feel or experience the wave crashing. It communicates. pure & simple.
Now maybe that is it. I’m picking traditional old subject matter and not so much spending the time thinking about what I want to “communicate”. That there, may be its brilliance.
Now I can only go so far in a Creative 365. I haven’t yet figured out when I might afford the time for deep thoughts. But I can work on the daily exercise of reducing my technique and then in the new year, I can take what I learned, and apply “deep thoughts” to it.
So, as I have said before, I will rest, sleep, wake up and try again. Flatter plains. More contrasting colors?
I’ve been working on 11×14 canvases this week, with classic tube acrylics. Neither are really my favorite thus far, so maybe tomorrow I will try a larger piece of paper, and liquid inks instead of traditional acrylics. Who knows or maybe I’ll stick with the canvases.
Either way, I do like todays painting. It is more simple to me. It reminds me of the windy paths by the sea, in one of my favorite places. Of the wind whipping the landscape all in one direction. Of the deep dark green-blue sea of the Atlantic. Of the place I live.
My happy place.
Yesterday, I started a series of paintings influenced by the artist Milton Avery.
Minimalism and omitting detail are a challenge for me. Even today on my second attempt, I still have way too much detail. It is really hard to figure out what to paint and what not to paint. I think moving on to a different subject matter might help. Although I tried very hard to come up with something different, I feel like today’s painting is way too similar to yesterday’s painting. Only the colors have changed.
Here is some of Milton Avery’s work:
Do you see how reduced his subject matter is? The flat planes of color, the careful attention to both positive and negative space? His balance and composition is perfect. They are awesome…meaning I’m awe struck.
Granted, trying to cram a masterpiece into 3-4 hours a day is ridiculous. I pretty much should call what I do studies. I don’t feel I have the time in a 365 challenge to contemplate, sketch, evaluate….I pretty much just have time to -do. But there is beauty in that as well. It is the physical aspect of just showing up to the canvas. Getting some water, brushes, paint…the whole ritual. Doing it daily provides me with more questions than answers, so many lessons, so many ideas for the next time…and the next time…and the next….
So here was the progression today:
My favorite is the second photo. My lines are at their crudest. Even a bit wavy. I just haven’t learned to stop while I’m ahead. To walk away. To put down the brush. But like the movie Ground Hog Day, I will wake up and try again, and again, and again…the light bulb will go off one of these days gosh darn it!
What’s that? Simple is as simple does… Forest Gump I believe?
I found these two wonderful books at my local library. Actually, they were special requests from another library. Meaning, I knew I wanted to learn more about the artist Milton Avery, so I did some research and found what I was looking for. They are both gems. The reproductions of his work are simply stunning.
I sought to learn more about Milton Avery because what I know about him, is that he was a colorist (color was his primary focus in his work) and he was a minimalist (reducing a subject to its barest essentials.) I think in 2013 we have seen so much minimalism, that we forget where it came from and why. Milton Avery was one of those artists who grew up in a time where the world’s preferential aesthetic was realism, religious art, with a heavy European influence. Creating work in unconventional colors as well as reducing them to their absolute barest essential, quite frankly upset the masses. It took many years for the general public to appreciate such unconventional interpretations.
Of course stripping something down to a few lines is so darn easy right? It looks so easy doesn’t it?
It’s way harder than it looks. I am genuinely interested in creating more minimalistic art. I don’t like realism personally. We have cameras for that. minimalizing one’s work to me, is more about design, balance and strong composition. If I could get there, I would be in nirvana.
Today, I dusted off my old box of Color-aid paper:
When I say dusted off, I hate to admit, I bought this box 17 years ago for a college class. It was $50 almost twenty years ago and being a broke college kid, I used it for a color theory class and then I was to afraid to ever use it again. Thinking in my head, I would never spend that much money ever again for a box of 6×9 inch paper!
Oh wow. I forgot how amazing and true each color appears in this box. Artists, like Josef Albers, have been using this tool as a go-to for color for a century.
I decided to use it today to help me create a color palette for my painting before I began.
I lay the papers on the floor and leaf through them. I wait for a color to “speak” to me, I pull it, and then I begin to pull other colors out that I feel work for certain reasons. At first I simply create a color palette, but then I begin to think about where and how I am going to use the colors in my painting.
I had a photo I had taken on Block Island and it seemed simple enough structurally to reduce into a minimalist painting.
With all that I just mentioned, I sort of failed my objective. There is still WAY TOO MUCH DETAIL. Believe it or not, there was even more detail under this painting. There are about three layers of paint, and with each layer, I began to make each area a block of color and less about individual shapes, but for this painting to get there, I’d probably need ten more layers!
I learned this about Milton Avery. His work had many, many layers. Each layer would have pigments from previous layers shining through.
So, as I had mentioned, I am on my own full-time with my kids this week. Out of the last 213 days, this has been the most challenging week for time thus far. It has left me a little disoriented and frankly exhausted, but I am simply going to do what I can and not take it personally. Trying something new and at least creating something is better than creating nothing. God knows I did the “nothing” part for way too long. So for the next few days, I am going to keep at it. I am going to keep trying to reduce…and reduce…and reduce my subject matter until I feel like I have brought it to its barest essentials. Again, not my strong point…but I’m going to keep plugging away at it… Who knows, 20 canvases from now, I may just be onto something!
This ferry painting is the third in a series on Block Island, Rhode Island.
I plan on painting most of the buildings in Old Harbor.
Here is the progression of the ferry over the last three days:
I wrote quite a bit on the ferry, so if you are interested, check the last three days of posts.
I was wondering if any of you wondered about the background I chose?
Were some of you thinking, why would somebody paint such an over-the-top sky? It’s almost ridiculous!
Well yeah, it probably does look ridiculous to some, but if you’ve been to Block Island, then you know what dusk looks like on the island. Here are some of my sunset photos spanning the last decade. All of them have the same thing in common,
Pink, blue, & purple.
What’s awesome, is this is a daily occurrence! A daily phenomena! A daily miracle!
It’s one of the first things I think of when I think of the island and that’s why I painted it that way.
So, call my backgrounds over-the-top, maybe even strange, but for those of us who have been there, who have seen the sunsets with our own eyes, it makes perfect sense.
Yesterday’s post was about sketching and transferring my pencil sketch to 140 LB Cold Press Paper.
Today is about my trusty SAKURA black ink pen. It is water proof which is what one needs for watercolors and delivers a nice clean line to a drawing.
I created a pen contour drawing and added in all the relevant background details. The ferry will be departing from Old Harbor, Block Island and will match the other buildings I am drawing/painting of the harbor.
Many, many days ago, actually 157 days ago, I did a quick sketch of the Block Island ferry departing from Narragansett. Post # 49 – OLD BLOCK ISLAND IS A CALLIN’
The gist of the post was that to many of us, the ferry represents excitement & anticipation. It is this magical vehicle that will take you from everyday life to an oasis, a paradise, a vacation!
On the flip side, when you are on the island, the ferry is the vehicle that will take you home. Boo Hoo.
We usually vacation with my friend Jesse’s family and they started a tradition in which, no matter what you are doing on the island, you must show up to the ferry to say farewell to whoever we know, that is departing.
Sometimes there are 15-20 of us on the island. Everyone has different departures. We all meet up, stand together and wave to the poor soul leaving before us. It’s a kind gesture to those leaving the party. My friend Jesse always makes sure he get’s the last ferry out. He wants to be the waver, not the one departing. He probably owns the most departure photographs. All of us waving our hearts out as the ferry blows its large smoke stack and heads out to sea. I may have witnessed a tear or two in my day.
So even though I must take Dramamine, otherwise I’d gag, the ferry does hold a very special place in my heart.
It’s a beautiful symbol. One I hold dearly.
Mission complete. I finished #2 in a series of paintings of the Victorian buildings in Old Harbor Block Island. I still have quite a few paintings to go!
The Star Department Store has been the official “tourist” shop for over 50 years. It’s where you find your baseball cap, hoodie and sandals for the summer. Let’s face it, humans crave tradition, so Star would be part of the Block Island tradition. To the right, is my kids favorite destination, Building Block Toy Store. We let them window shop all week and then at the end of the week they get to buy their “souvenir”. Which it never is, it’s generally a stuffed animal they just had to have. Which is now part of our BI tradition as well. I added Del’s Lemonade because it is SO Rhode Island. Del’s frozen Lemonade, coffee milk and cheese-less pizza are truly RI phenomena. Seaside Marketplace stores turn over too quickly, so I didn’t want to add them to my painting, but I did slip in B-Eye, which is a sunglass store. Mainly because I love their clever name. B-Eye instead of BI. Building “Block” as in Block Island but also kid wooden blocks….They get props for clever names in my book!
Next I will paint the Harborside Inn, The New Shoreham House, Mohegan Café, The National Hotel, The Surf Hotel and I have to do a full size Block Island Ferry at some point too. These paintings are going to make for a beautiful bathroom I tell you!
Here is the progression of this painting:
I am teaching kid art classes this week, so you will get a break from Block Island. I also want to finish my Newport Bridge painting as well. Pretty much, so I can get it out of my dining room!
It’s another scorcher here in RI. Time to get back into our bathing suits.
Have a good one!