By circumstance I finished out the year doing some nighttime sketching. Not a bad way to greet the new year.
During Christmas break I was able to get into the studio and make up for some lost time. As I mentioned in my previous post I found myself wondering off on a series of large format mixed media drawings and I completed a few more of those. The drawings are 26-1/2” on the short side and 40” on the long side. It has been fun and refreshing making these drawings; I plan to make some more.
Finally, the large oil painting I was working was also completed over break, or indefinitely abandoned you might say, and that feels really great. There is another painting on the easel that didn’t make it though and another that has been cast off since February or March. However, the way I see it I am already primed for this year (not that I am ever short of ideas).
This past year certainly had way more than it’s share of shittiness but I must say there was also plenty of good fortune and for that I am truly thankful.
Since school started back I have been all discombobulated. As soon as I would find a rhythm there would be a disruption and then another and then another. Despite all of that turmoil I still made sure I took the time to draw or paint no matter how irregular it was.
Here is a update on all that I have managed to do in the face of a very frustrating school year.
These two oil paintings I started at the end of the summer are still on the easel. Over Thanksgiving break I went in to the studio and made a big push on the painting on the left. Almost forgot how much I love oil painting! At one point I was laying the paint on so thick I thought I might as well just start rolling around in it.
We have a fig tree that was doing poorly in the ground and we finally dug it up to put it in a pot. The fig tree is much happier now. I am very captivated by this tree and so I sat out to do a couple of watercolors of it which turned into this mass of drawings/watercolors you see here.
I have done a few other small watercolors which you can find on my Instagram feed.
While working on a commission (I have been very fortunate this fall to be commissioned to do several small watercolor paintings) I managed to distract myself with these drawings. They started out as warm-ups before working on the commission but I think they are turning into a project all their own.
Teachers will be reporting back in about two weeks and then the students a week after that. Right now we have a half-in/half-out plan for students to return but it looks like we may end up going fully remote. We’ll see.
On to better things – I have been fortunate to have a couple of commissions over the summer and am very thankful for that. Since March I have spent a lot of time with my watercolor paints, more than usual it seems, and have just this week put them down for a bit to get back to some oil painting. I managed to get one oil painting finished just before getting tied up with the commissions and just this week I have started two new oil paintings.
It is so refreshing to be painting in oil again and to be painting large format too! However, I know I’ll be picking the watercolor brushes back up soon. Can’t stay away from any of it for too long.
School is officially over for this year and that is quite a relief. Now I should be able to clear out that space in my head for time painting in and out of the studio.
I did the two Juliet tomato watercolor/mixed media pieces a few weeks ago and then this evening I got out after dinner and started one of some Nasturtiums. The gardening is my wife’s thing, I’m pretty much just the labor, but then I take care of the building projects too. At any rate, it’s been great having so much subject matter to choose from for paintings. I’m thinking we will build our own little Givrney here.
I have also returned to the studio a few times and made some progress on an oil painting I started a month or so ago. This one is giving me a fit with color mixing. For whatever reason I have decided it is important to pay close attention to my color choices and that can get a bit frustrating. However, I might be exaggerating about my frustrations with this painting a good little bit.
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.