Several of you have asked me to keep sharing my watercolor progress. As embarrassing as it is, its kind of liberating, too. I’ve been painting for years and not showing anyone, so daring to share the crap I’m still struggling with is kind of a “coming out” for me. It is with the greatest frustration that I look at what I churn out – I just WISH I could DRAW what I see in my mind’s eye! But the truth is, you don’t set a kid at a free throw line and say he has no talent when he misses his first shot. Like anything else, it takes practice. Fundamental skills and (l)earned knowledge – and hopefully, some innate skill. And if you’re lucky, you run into (and recognize) some good teachers, mentors and coaches along the way who can help you develop all of that as they teach you the tools and techniques of the craft they’ve acquired.
Well, as my close friends and family know, I’ve lucked out to discover a fantastic watercolor teacher, Deborah Swan McDonald, who I adore as a friend and human being and think is a great watercolorist in her own right but I have to admit, most important to me at the moment is that’s she’s a really amazing art teacher. I took her Beginning Watercolor Class twice ’til she kicked me out (and into her Advanced class). I clung with my fingernails to the shallow end, wishing there were an Intermediate class but now I’m surrounded by all her groupie veterans – almost nothing but other art teachers! (What an amazing environment to learn in!). The Rookie junkie on my fourth class with her, some of these other students have taken this exact same class 14 times! So clearly, I’ve stumbled upon some gold here.
Anyway, rather than show off my work (which is a decade shy of that nonsense! although I did sell a piece – thank you (and bless you!) Tony!) let me – instead – show off her teaching abilities – as you endure my slow and unsteady evolution and hopefully enjoy along with my mom, dad, aunt, cousins and other artist friends, some of her great exercises – and maybe try them, too? And we can share our refrigerator art on our FaceBook pages and blogs!
Okay, this may not look like much (I hesitated putting it up as all I see are its flaws but…) let me share with you this unique process – as I’m trying it again (work in progress down below).
You sketch (one of my many weaknesses) your drawing and then paint all the whites you want to save (or any area, really, that isn’t straight black – so a lot of coverage) with white tempra paint (the class keeps teasing me cause I keep calling it “Tempura” but apparently it’s a powder available at Michael’s).
Then, once that’s completely dried, you gently sponge on India Ink over the whole painting. Maybe you can see the reflection of the sketch of the sunflower underneath the dried India ink in the all black photo? Once that’s completely dry – twenty minutes? a week? – you gently wash all the excess India ink off and anywhere it landed on tempra, the tempra “resisted” thestubborn, “permanent” ink and protected the whites of the page underneath, so you end up with what looks like almost a woodblock print of your drawing. I forgot to take a picture of that stage of the process but I remembered that stage of my second attempt at this technique on a different painting. It almost felt at this stage like I was cheating, painting a coloring book, but it was my drawing, in ink instead of pencil or charcoal, and the new paint didn’t wash it away, so, that’s was a cool new experience. You can possibly see the salt I put in the center of the sunflower – trying to be tricky – which kind of back-fired junkie on me. No worries. I have more clean paper! 😉 I can do it again!
Probably my favorite thing to do in watercolor is to just let the paints blend and meld as they do far better on their own, being poured and dropped, dipped and spreading wildly into new colors in unique ways. It’s difficult – I’d say almost impossible – to achieve that same seamless effect with a brush. I almost hate to pick up my brush at my skill level ’cause I feel like I screw up what the paint naturally did so beautifully already! But I am trying to learn to PAINT complete pictures here – not just play (though that’s a HUGE part of why I do it!). Its a wonderful thing, when you’re watercoloring, you don’t think about bills or jerks or your weight or anything but how three eye dropped colors can dance into a rainbow before your very eyes with but the tilt of a piece of acrylic. Ahhh…
Anyway, here is an example of my coming in after a pour…the background is what’s so beautiful to me. That’s going to be a butterfly there soon and the flower was supposed to be one of those purple flowers that look like fireworks exploding (what’re they called?) but now it might end up being statice (didn’t know some had white flowers) – but I haven’t quite decided yet. And yes, I will fix those flower stems, probably continue them down so they drop out of frame – as if then popping in – and yes – they will get some sort of flower head – I’ll have to figure out what color won’t compete – or will pop – with the composition as it comes together. And teach Debi suggested some sort of bluish flower in the lower right hand corner – as huge framing foreground for depth and perspective – we’ll see if I can pull that off.
Being the customarily brazen, audacious painter that I am (who never does anything halfway) – and a typical Gemini (who can never make up her mind and wants it all) – I decided to try BOTH techniques in ONE painting! Eee gads! I’m such a problem student! LOL! So…dicey as it is, my typically more cautious and less wildly colorful teacher is watching with baited breath (more likely entertained humor) as I try to figure this out on my own.
So, here is what I’m starting with – this is that washing off the India ink phase of the ink resist (I forgot to snap a pic of above). Actually, Billy doesn’t want me to paint over this – he quite likes it (and he’s usually right – he always picks my best paintings – oh, for an objective eye to our own work!) It might not look like much here, but it’s pretty cool in person. You can see the masking fluid goop still on there protecting my highlights. But I’m going to – deep breath – try to do a pour on top of the ink resist – yes, that’s right folks! So I’ll have this amazing wild background to this very cool wood block print…and…well…we’ll see! Though there is a part of me that wants to do it all sepia tone from here…I’m torn…you can’t Xerox art to try it two different ways – and go back again – so I’m going to go for the pour! Yes, that’s my final answer! Commit! GULP!
I’ll post photos of both the works in progress shown herein (unless they end up as total messes then I’ll try to sneak past by you with the next exercise I learn! Or if I ever come up with one that’s frameable again!