Painting People

 

I don’t know about you, but I find painting images of people scary and intimidating.  One wrong stroke and whoever you were trying to represent is instead someone no one can recognize.  It could be the smirk in a smile.  An eye being 1/16″ of an inch off… you name it, it’s hard.

As an artist trying to sell work, here’s another dilemma.  No one wants pictures of your kids, aunts or even your dog!  They are highly personal.  I hate to say it, but with images of people who someone doesn’t know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  There’s a good chance you think you have the most beautiful grandchild in the world.  But that can’t be, because the woman right next to you has the most beautiful grandchild in the world.  You catch my drift?

So in my watercolor class I wanted to address adding people to a painting.  However, I wanted to add the “essence” of people without getting too specific.  Here in RI, we are also very familiar with the beach. So why not do an impressionistic painting of people on the beach?

Before each class, I scour the internet finding more than one way to do a painting technique.  I know how I would do it, but is there another way?  A better way?  I came across this tutorial and fell in love with the technique.  If you are at all interested in painting people, give this a view:

Here’s another thing.  If I have learned anything about painting, it’s that there are tricks to everything.  And I want to know what they are!  When you have 50 people in an image, it would take a month to draw each person to scale like in the diagram above.  The diagram above is how a masterpiece should be created, but a quick watercolor study?  There has to be an easier way…

I found this tutorial and I love its simple concept (click on the image above).

RECTANGLE CARROT

In an impressionistic image, you can create a human by first creating a rectangle for the torso and then making a carrot shape for the legs.  A head of course is round, but either way it works!

In my class, we sketched some quick human figures and then got to painting.  The video tutorial I included above teaches how to create human figures using blue watercolor paint that you drop human skin tones into. So you in essence start with a blue man.  We worked on all spectra of skin color, how to add clothing and how to allow the drops of pigment to bleed together giving you simply the “impression” of a person.  While all of this is happening, the blue paint that you begin with, gets pushed to the exterior of the figure.  Can you see the essence of blue as a halo around the figure?  It makes for a more colorful and in-depth image.

I’m not going to lie, painting people is just as difficult as I thought it would be.  But that’s all the more reason to push through the fear and give it a try.  I’m the teacher, and I learned a lot!  I am going to continue practicing.  and maybe next time, I won’t be so afraid to put a person in my painting (and maybe my pet in hope that no one is noticing ;)

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Teaching Atmospheric Perspective

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Did you know that mountains look grayish-purple in the far distance?  Do you know why? 

I always knew to paint the objects in the far distance lighter and more purple/gray, but I don’t know that I ever invested in finding out the why.  For my painting class, I scoured the internet and figured it out.

On a cloudy day, objects far away simply look lighter.  This is because of all of the natural gasses and pollution in the atmosphere. However, on a sunny day with blue skies, the objects far away do indeed have a purplish cast.  This is because the blue sky is actually reflected in the atmosphere and smog.  Who knew?

So as a painter, keep this in mind:  If your landscape is cloudy just make the distance lighter in value, but if there are blue skies in your landscape, make the scenery far away purplish and lighter.

Here’s the tutorials I dug up from the web to give to my students:

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Here are the two demos from the project we did in class:

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When working with watercolor, there is no white paint.  You simply do not paint where you want something white.  You use the white of the paper.  This image with the mountains lighter in the distance as well as fog rolling through the hills is a wonderful opportunity to figure out how to use the white of your paper.  The trick is a ton of water.  You apply to the paper clean water and then you ever so slightly add some pigment and let it bleed through the area.  If you put paint on one side of the water-soaked area it will be dark on that side, but on the opposite side, the plain water side, it will still be mostly white paper and water.  This creates an ombre effect.  A graduation from dark to light.  There are so many instances to use this in watercolor.  It’s agreat thing to know how to do.

When your out on the highway looking at a large expanse of land, check it out for yourself.  The rule should hold true!

Water Color Teacher

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Did I mention I have been teaching adult art classes?

This is new to me.  I have taught art to kids for over twenty years, but adults,  I always kind of shied away from.

The painting teacher at my local guild was retiring after twenty years and they needed someone to take over.  Now seemed like as good a time as any.

This past semester I taught a beginners watercolor class in the evening and an Intermediate all-media painting class Thursday mornings.

It was a bit scary because I had to fill someone else’s shoes. But I am slowly making my way and trying to figure out how to best serve this community.

In the next couple days I will share some of our class lessons.

The class sessions are only two hours.  This means we can’t spend the class drawing, because the point of the class is painting.  So I provide basic break-downs of the shapes of the images. This way we can get right down to it.

The flower shapes here, provide a great opportunity for practicing shadow and depth.  You really have to load the color in to create the illusion.

My lessons on watercolor focus on using tons of water to allow the pigments to bleed together (wet-on-wet technique).  The rest of the time you are lifting paint out to make things lighter and translucent while simultaneously adding more pigment to other areas to darken them.  It’s a dance between adding and removing paint.

Thus far, I have found a few differences between adult and kid students.  Kids just dive in with no concerns, while adults tend to be afraid of two things:  Using too much water and using too much paint.  The water is easy, it’s a fear of losing control.  As adults we cannot predict where that water will go and what it will do which is scary.  The paint on the other hand, is maybe a money thing?  Us adults pay for these expensive high quality paints.  Kids could care less how the paint got there and who paid for it.  I find a lot of adults afraid to really load up their brushes and use a lot of paint.   Where one would want to use a smudge of paint the size of a quarter, some will use the size of a popcorn kernel!  It cracks me up.  I can remember these similar sensations.  It’s hard to be an adult.  We work so hard to not screw up all day, that trying something new can be hard.  Failed experiments can simply feel like a fail, yet it’s the only way to learn.   So this will be my focus.  Loosening people up and helping them to see failed attempts as experiments, not failed works of art.  This will be good for me, because even though I have been painting longer than many. I too am super afraid of failure.  I think showing I am not perfect and am constantly still learning myself is a good thing to share.

I have been researching a different topic for each week.  That usually entails scouring books and web pages for theories.  Boy, there really are all different ways to reach the same conclusion.  I find my own practices have been different from other painters.  This has been great.  I am obtaining a tremendous amount of knowledge on painting simply for myself.  I can now say “here are three different ways of tackling this problem” as opposed to only having “this is what I would do”.  So I am trying new things myself.  New applications keep me young and fresh and excited to continue painting. I’ll pass on some of what I’ve learned in up coming posts.

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I do demos during the classes.  So I have been coming out with two paintings of the same subject.  I thought I’d share, because they never come out the same twice.  That’s the human aspect of art.  The best part.  Being human.

OK.  I have to run… this week we will be learning glazing techniques while painting images of roosters.

  I’ll let you know how it turns out!

#I SURVIVED – I Thought this Painting was Going to Kill Me!

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I think I may have overdone the amount of objects in my still life because this one seriously almost killed me!  It took me practically 4 weeks to finish.  I don’t even want to count how many hours that would be… (Don’t think… don’t think…don’t think about that!)

Here is a progression of photos depicting how I chose to tackle it.

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Fruits of My Gardenwatercolor 22×30

Here are some of my favorite areas of the painting.  In a way it’s like 4 different paintings in one.

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I think half the reason the painting took so long is because the paper was terrible.

It is totally my fault.  I went to the RISD store to buy some good paper and when I saw the beautiful pieces for $20-$50 each, I cheaped-out and bought the $5 sheets.  YES.  YES. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.  A good sheet of paper is like cotton.  You drip some watercolor onto it and it sucks it up and spreads like a plant drinking water.  A crap piece of paper is a whole ‘nother ballgame.  You puddle some water on it, add the paint and the paint goes – um… NOWHERE.  It just sits on the surface never becoming one with the paper.

Another horrible feature of this paper comes from the fact that a big part of water-coloring is the ability to lift, blot, rub and remove paint from the surface.  This is how you get the areas of reflection and sunlight.  When I rubbed the surface of the cheap paper, it literally crumbled and created holes.  A quality paper is tough like fabric.  It can take everything you throw at it. Look back at how many areas of sunlight there are in this painting and just consider how many battles I had with deteriorating paper. Oh yeah, I got what I paid for all right.  A complete and total nightmare! 

And I’m just too darn stubborn to walk away.  I did work with the crappy paper and I have a few more sheets of it too.   I’ll probably cheap out and use it “because I already paid for it” even though what I should really do is THROW IT IN MY CAMPFIRE!

What I really need to do is hand my credit card over to a trusted love one, have them enter the store without me, ask for the best paper in the joint, buy it and promise to never tell me how much it cost.  Hmm… I should take this advice! Mom? Husband?

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On the pottery front I just started making these jugs.  I will have to admit that most of my good ideas come from 100% selfish motives.   I hope these will be out in time to fill them with all the flowers about to burst in my garden. I’ll keep you posted on how they turn out.

OK. When I hit the publish button on this post, I will have officially earned my “clean slate”.  Now, to figure out what I want to do next…

woo-hoo.

Bowled Over

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I have quite a few good-sized bowls coming out. Thought I’d share.

I’m also plugging away at another big watercolor.  They take a ridiculous amount of time…I’m trying not to ask the question if they are quantifiably “worth it”.  If I were to be paid by the hour, these paintings would be incredibly expensive (like Trump might hang them up next to his golden toilet expensive).  Whether I get paid at all is the hard part of justifying why I do what I do -ever.

I just have to quiet my mind and say “don’t think… don’t quit… this was the gift God gave you.  God didn’t give you accounting skills, corporate feistiness or amazing memorization… All you can do is show up everyday and use what God gave you… have faith… have faith… Listen to your inner voice… there has to be a reason you intuitively know how to do all things artsy… don’t quit… don’t quit…

Yes. Yes I do.  I talk to myself all day.  You don’t?

I also tell myself to shut-up all day too…  What, you don’t?

Ha.  OK.  On with the show…

Here are some pieces that came out of the kiln this week.

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As I look at these, I am reminded I should make some more of my own stamps.  I like how soft and non-mechanized they look.  They make my work more personal. Note to self – make more stamps…

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Here is the new painting I am working on.  I challenged myself to quite a funky perspective.  I am looking down on the subject matter.  I hope I can pull it off… still so much to fill in/block off… boy that’s going to take A LOT of time…

It’s been cold and wet for well over a week.  I find it so hard to motivate myself. I am going to have  to revert back to talking to myself just to get myself out of this chair.

…Get up.  You don’t have that much time…If you don’t work on this thing you’ll never finish it…   No.  sitting on the couch wrapped up in a blanket bingeing Netflix is totally out of the question…You’re an adult right?  Adults do responsible things all day?  Go do something “responsible”…

What? Oh come on. You do talk to yourself too right?

I thought so. Totally normal ;)

Oh Happy Day

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I am so excited to be done with this painting!  I have no idea why it took so long, but it took the majority of three weeks.

I don’t know… is it bright enough? lol

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I LOVE working large.  Seeing all that color gives me a burst of energy.  I think my favorite part is the leaves, well, close second is the sunflower.

I just got my mulch delivered.  I get so psyched this time of year.  It’s like I get to move from paper and canvas to earth’s canvas.  All the flowers in this painting, I helped bring into this earth. I planted them from seed, weeded, watered, nurtured and then you get to watch their beauty unfold.

Painting and gardening are very much the same thing.  Nurturing something until you can bring its beauty out.

ok. I’m officially done…  I can’t wait to start again!

Out of Time

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Out of time I am.

I’ve been working on this watercolor this week and now the week is over.  Headed out on a much anticipated vacation next week, so I thought I’d check in before I disappear for a while.

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This watercolor is 22 x 30.  I love giant sheets of watercolor paper. I feel like painting everyday objects larger than real life opens them up to a bit of abstraction.  objects become color blocks.

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I’m wondering what you guys think of the drawing.  I went REALLY loose.  Dare I say to the point of considering it a contour drawing.  Objects wind up looking a little less realistic.  They tend to wiggle and move giving everything a little more personality.  I  think I like it.  The last painting I did was a little more calculated and measured.

Being alone all day painting, I wind up looking at things way too closely and for way too long.  Because of this I can’t be very objective.  So help me out, what do you think.  Drawings:  Go tight or keep it loose?

I’m looking forward to seeing this one done. Oh well, guess it’s going to have to wait :)

 

Living Room

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Living Room  18″ x 18″  watercolor

Now  can you see why I love watercolor?

It’s translucent.  I can create very light lights, very dark darks and very bright colors.  It’s been almost 3 years since I played with watercolor and now I’m remembering what I loved so much about it.

I’ll take you for a walk through the method of my madness:

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First I tackle what I see as easiest.  It calms my nerves because there are areas of a painting I have absolutely no idea how to tackle.  The couch and table are nice big blocks which define the space and allow me to avoid the bouquet which I am still really thinking about…

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Next, I go for the pillow and carpet in the back. There’s a lot of detail in these.  I will even go on to fix them later, but it still seems like tackling these are going to be a lot easier than tackling those flowers.

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Next, I tackle the houseplant.   Do you get the sense I might be avoiding something?  I lightly block out the vase and sketch the flowers in pencil more thoroughly because I know I’ve reached the point where I have to tackle the flowers whether I have a game plan or not.

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The thing I’m so freaked out about is how am I going to paint the green sedum plant? 

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Now, this might make sense only if you are a painter, but let me try to explain it to those of you who are not.

With acrylic and oil paints they are solid, opaque and you can paint many layers one a top of the other, building up your image.  So if I were using acrylics to paint sedum, first I would  paint a dark background of green, then I would add the medium tones of green as layers on top of that and finish with layers of a light green. The top layer would be composed of tons of tiny light green dots denoting seed heads.

However, with watercolor it is the complete opposite.  The whites and the lightest shades of the green would be created by the absence of paint.  Those areas of the painting are simply the whiteness of the paper, not white paint.  The entire time you are painting, you need to not paint where you want it white (i.e. the white pillow is mostly composed of leaving the paper free of paint.)  So, if I want really light green seed heads, I have to not paint there.  That now means I have to create dark areas and medium areas around every single seed head.  As you can surmise, that’s pretty difficult.  There are thousands of tiny seed heads!

This is what made me tackle the bouquet last.  The solution I came up with, was to simply tell the quivering little chicken in my brain to SHUT UP and dive in.  I didn’t have an answer, I’m not even sure how I did it, but I got the paint to closely resemble the green sedum plant the best I could.

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From there my anxiety quieted down.  The little chicken in my brain stopped screaming “the sky is falling!  The sky is falling!” and I was able to push on to the zinnias and vase.

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The final part for me, is going back through with a clean wet paint brush and “lifting” paint out of the areas I want the lightest. Lift means to pull up and remove the paint on your paper.  Take a look at the photo below.  Can you see how I create stronger contrast in the green houseplant and the pink flower petals? I lifted some of the paint out to make white reflections.

zinnias

With acrylic paints I would simply add some white paint to create highlights, but for water colors I removed the paint to reveal the white paper.

Totally,  different theories and applications.

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Painting can be like a large puzzle that hurts your brain to figure out.

But I have to say, that must be what keeps me coming back :)

Total Rip Off

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Have any of you painted a watercolor before?  

I have to say my absolute favorite part is removing the tape that holds down the paper while painting.  Crazy or am I right?

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Ya see, the entire time you’re painting you have this ugly tape wrapped around your image. Especially this one.  I have bright green and blue tape glaring at me.  Then you paint over it and it just looks messy.  Maybe you’ve painted a room in your house before?  It’s the same thing.  At the very end, when you’ve committed to being done, you get that chance. The chance to peel off the tape and glance at a clean white border (insert music depicting God shining through majestic clouds Ahhhh…)

It’s the small things you know. It always is.

Watercolors for some reason come pretty easy to me.  The use of color, pushing and pulling the water and creating transparent objects – Dare I say I actually find them fun and frustration-free. A couple of years ago I walked away from doing watercolor still-lives altogether.  I struggled to see the point.  Again, It was my never-ending saga of trying to figure out what I was communicating to the world.  That constant gnawing question or should I say mind-ramble: What does an observer learn, contemplate or experience through my art?  The answer couldn’t simply be beauty.  There has to be more to it,  right?  Existentially speaking, there has to be more to art-making.  Like what is my purpose on earth?  To be an artist?  How/what does an artist contribute to its society?  For those of us who want to live a life of service, what am I giving to the world?    I thought still lives were too basic. Too boring, obvious, and trite. This art-making must be harder and more complex than still-lives right?  And there I went yet again, down the rabbit-hole abandoning one thing in search of the thing not known…

This very question has left me wandering aimlessly for the past three years. And still, I have not found the answer.  I have in the mean time frustrated myself, pretty much made pennies on a dollar, suffered a pretty bad bout of depression and I’ve come out with fewer answers and direction than I came in with.

I’m tired.  I have no answers, but I do still LOVE to make art.

I’m in a state of surrender.  I can look back at this time and say I have been thinking my way through the answers.  Instead of feeling my way through or knowing.  Feeling and knowing are quiet practices.  The quiet place where intuition lies.  I don’t do quiet very well.  I don’t practice stillness very well.  Dare I say I have doubled-down on their opposites.

It’s welling up from within me though.  Not the answers that I am seeking, instead that I am going about it the wrong way.

Surrender. Get quiet. Be still.

I can no longer drown them out and hit acceleration.  I need peace.  I need reflection time.  Meanwhile, I shall continue to paint.  I guess watercolors are the most peaceful way for me.  At least for the moment.  They require a lot less thought and a lot more just-Do.  Like a practice.

Well, on that long-winded note, let me show you the painting I did last week:

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Peaches 16 x 24

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I left my feet in the photo to give you a reference of size and proportion.  I love creating everything larger than actual-life.  Mainly because it gives me great big spaces to swirl paint around.

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There were a few things I forgot since I last water-colored.  Instantly, I realized I had the wrong paper.  I used watercolor paper but it had a smooth-tooth to it.  The water and paint stayed on the surface instead of absorbing and bleeding which I prefer.  I suffered through this painting, but  went and bought new paper for future work.

The other mistake I made was buying a watercolor brush set on-line.  The brushes wound up being synthetic and could only hold a third of what a high-quality horse-hair brush can carry.  The brushes I started with were so bad, I literally put down the brush, picked up my keys, drove 40 minutes to the closest art store and hand-picked some real beauties.  Totally worth the drive and delay.

So I think I worked out the kinks. I now have the right paper and the proper brushes. I’m ready to dive in to some more complex subject matter and we’ll see what I come up with. All the while, I’ve turned off my radio.  No music. No news. No podcasts (my go-to distractions).

I’m sitting in silence and taking some much-needed deep breaths.

Back to baby-steps…

 

Back to the Drawing Board

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6 months since I picked up a paint brush! I definitly have some nerves to shake out. I spent a day or two doing these little 8×10 inch contour drawing water colors to loosen up. Water color always frees me up. I think it’s the swirling of water on the paper and watching the paint bleed in uncontrollable ways that gives me such a kick! I thought I’d do 6-8 little water colors until I felt safe in the habitat, but with my ADD Gemini Energy, I was done by the second painting and onto 6 foot acrylic canvases.

I can’t help it :) it’s how my natural energy works!

Before I close, let me share an amazing sight from my visit to Miami. Have you heard of Wynwood Walls? As soon as my hosts heard I was into art, they sent me on an amazing excursion. Click the above link to learn more, but in a nutshell, artists from around the world are commissioned to create graffiti all over this districts walls.

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Totally Rad to the Max!!!

So if you wind up in Miami, now you know a creative must. Blocks and blocks of amazing works of art!