The school year, such as it is, is drawing to a close and I’m rolling along with the painting.
I made two watercolor/mixed media paintings of a lavender bush in one of our flower gardens, finished an oil painting I started a few months ago and started right in on another oil painting.
The watercolor pieces are in keeping with the coreopsis paintings I did. Primarily done plein air and worked on in the studio as I felt necessary. None with any real plan and still drawn from life and emotional sensibilities.
These two oil paintings are composed of on-site sketches and photographs. I’m working on them exclusively in the studio. I have so many different ideas I want to explore that it’s nice to switch around from studio painting, plein air painting, and watercolor painting. Helps me avoid getting into a mental rut.
Summer break will start soon with school officially ending (the school year was over for all intents and purposes once we were sent home in March) and I’ll keep rolling on along. It’s always nice having the opportunity to give my painting greater attention over the summer. The only distraction is trying to get caught up with projects around the house.
Online learning for high school students has been… has been… well, it’s been something. I’m always within arms-length of the computer and so not venturing far from home. However, there is some flexibility that has allowed me to take advantage of the down-time and wonderful weather to step away from the computer just far enough to paint.
I have been working on the plein-air painting you see above. This is the street I live on and so much of the landscape and curve of the road has always appealed to me. So far I am four days into it, not including the preparatory sketch, and probably have one to two days left to finish it up.
Last week I got super busy making watercolor and mixed-media paintings of some coreopsis in a flower pot sitting on the deck of my home studio. It was great fun working on those paintings; something quite different than what my watercolors usually are. I didn’t have much of a plan to start with, just sketched something out and went right on building it up from there.
As if all this hasn’t been enough, I had the great fortune to be commissioned by a friend to do two small watercolor paintings that would become Mother’s Day gifts for his mother and his wife. He was such a wonderful, easy to work with client!
All in all, remotely teaching high school students has been… well, something, but having the flexibility to spend more of the daytime part of the day to make art has been the silver lining that has helped make the whole situation mentally manageable.
Over my Christmas break and over weekends up to the beginning March, I went out and made quite a few on-site sketches. On trips like these I will complete a variety of sketches on different types of paper. One sketchbook I take with me has a somewhat heavier paper and can handle wet and dry media – up to a point. I will also use another couple of sketchbooks for working out a variety of compositions that may or may not make it to a canvas as an oil painting.
During the first four weeks of the stay-at-home order I was able to get all caught up on adding watercolor washes to all the drawings I made over the winter months. For some I also used other media such as colored pencils and artist crayons. Some I feel are definitely finished while others I am unsure of but that will just have to sit for a while before I come back to work on them. If at all.
Now, on to some plein air oil painting in the yard and more drawing!
Process isn’t just about the steps that go into making a single piece of art. I find that process is also the steps one goes through ahead of making any one particular piece. The steps that are not obviously focused on that one painting.
No doubt we have all been disrupted lately, for me it has been waiting to find out and figuring out how the teaching is going to go that has had the greatest impact on my well being and my ability to make art.
All that is to say the work posted here is part of the process I will often go through to get to one particular finished piece of art, especially when there is a transition or disruption. In this case the finished piece is the watercolor. Typically it’s a lot of random sketching and doodling that leads to a more focused drawing and then to painting.
Sometimes just diving into the painting works but even then there’s some degree of activity to clear my mind beforehand.
I’m not really big on all the conceptual stuff of painting, not that it’s not there in my work and probably more apparent to others, it’s just not what I like to consciously focus on. However, since I have been painting and drawing intensely and in earnest for the past few years, I have come to this one idea I want to explore more.
Since my paintings are developed from photographs or from on-site sketches using a photograph for reference I spend a lot of time comparing drawing and painting to photographs. Mostly I just think about how a photograph, mine specifically, tends to flatten the view terribly. I have also been exploring this other line of thinking about how to capture a what I see in full, something more than just a panorama. Then add in my most successful forays into collage along with a technique of “stitching” together a picture with a combination of on-site sketches and photographs I have employed once or twice before and viola! Here I am!
What I like about this is combining multiple perspectives but from one stationary location. Changing the view multiple times so that the horizon, the foreground and points in between are simultaneously in focus. Then figuring out how to blur the parts that don’t need to be in so much focus but are still defined enough that they work peripherally. This is how I tend to take in a scene anyway – constantly scanning, focusing, re-scanning, and re-focusing.
It seems to work, at least I have gotten many favorable comments. I’ll keep at it and see where it takes me.
While I have managed to complete two paintings and start a another since the first of the year, so much of my work over the past month has been getting ready to paint. I finally finished building some stretchers, got the canvas stretched, gessoed them, and have bought more canvas to use in order to re-purpose an older stretcher. I also spent some time last week laying out some compositions for three new paintings based on site sketches and photographs from the past three months or so.
This time of year always gets very tough and it is always helpful to find some time to break away and re-energize myself. Rebecca and I headed up to Corolla, NC on the Outer Banks for a weekend get-away. I think it’s kind of hilarious and ironic that we leave a beach town to go spend time at the beach. Nowadays there just isn’t an off-season here. However, I digress… It was indeed a very refreshing weekend and I made several new sketches. While it may take quite a long time to get around to all of them, I have no shortage of ideas and notes for paintings.
We also made a stop on the way back home in a little town called Plymouth, NC. Rebecca wanted to see the replica Civil War ironclad on display there. It was a bit underwhelming but it afforded me some time to make a couple of relatively quick sketches of the Roanoke River one of which includes the paper mill there.
Thankful and happy that I had time to work in the studio today. Decided I would knock this out and get it off my plate. I would say it’s done since I reached that point where I believe if I work on it anymore I’ll just fuck it up. However, I started studying it just a bit too much…
Applied the underpainting for this one earlier in the week and took some time today to start working it up. It did not take long to decide that this one needs to be completed plein air. I think it would be almost criminal to do otherwise.
After a variety of distractions I had time in the studio today to get back to some oil painting. I have been missing it and it’s always such a pleasure. Got back to work on this little landscape of some ghost cypress, river marsh and highway overpass. This particular painting is all from a photographic reference.
The other painting there just laid out is from a sketch I made on site and will be completed from a photographic reference. Then who knows, it’s an easily accessible site and once started perhaps I’ll grab my field box and go out to finish it up. Crazy talk!