Sunny Kiss 10×8 watercolor

We’ve been socked in with winter fog for days. This morning the glorious sun hit the hills outside our kitchen window. I’m trying to narrow down my view in a few small watercolors trying to catch one fleeting effect. An enjoyable hour with morning coffee at the kitchen table.

Snow on the Hills 8×10 watercolor

When I’m a bit lost I remind myself to get back to the basics. Composition is the foundation for all that sits on top of it. Value is where form is described and color is like the flavors that make up a good meal. Out of many tiny thumbnails a few will stand out and call for more exploration and refinement. It’s design at this stage, pushing the shapes around and easy to adjust anything at a small size, no more than a few inches. Then after many small idea sketches a few will stand out and hopefully one will be interesting enough to take into a painting. This is just one process of many, but a good one to remember.

Thumbnail notes to myself
Color -Value study 3.5 inches

In my little watercolor notebook I start working this out. I want the brightest glow from the sky to just hit a bit on the right wall and around the figure. Perhaps the left wall is still too light. And I have to do a couple real vanishing points so the walls read correctly. And then the water reflection shapes need to be worked out as I don’t have a real photo of this, just a snap from a TV image.

After being completely focused on the straw bale building project for eight months, I’m feeling a bit burned out. So my watercolors and notebooks showed up and I started to play with some little landscapes again. It feels good to put the brush in the paint. The curves and shadows of nature are endlessly inspiring.

Notebook color sketches

I’ve been working out this idea for a while and finally got the under painting pretty close. Then it started peeling off between the gesso and primer. I had to just take the whole thing off.

Peeling off between gesso and primer!

Redid the whole thing in about 2-3 days. Now to let it dry and start the next layers.

The redo of the underpaint

 

Karen, at Gard Vintners called me up the other day and said I could set up anytime. We hadn’t talked for 6 months at least and had never set a date for a show at their nice wine and music place in Ellensburg. I had two days to pull it together and hang a show of about 25 pieces. Looking through my older work, some enamel paintings and oil pastel drawings from the 1980s seemed to fit with some of the newer acrylics. They all had to be taken apart, cleaned up and reassembled. The glass and surfaces were really dirty, but with some cleaning the colors popped and I could see what I was going after almost 40 years ago. There is a continuity to these two eras, something that ties my work together that is only knowable after this many years.

Preparing for show

 

“Chelsea” 16 x 20 oil on panel 2019

I’ve been working on fine tuning my technique for figures and portraits. In this painting of my friend Chelsea, I used something similar to the Venetian Technique with a complete tonal underpainting in an earth red. In this case Terre Rosa and Venetian Red but with no white,

just the white ground showing through the scumbled drawing. In this way I had the time to really work on the drawing  without the complexity of the color. After that was completed and dry I could work over it keeping the shirt a looser more painterly style with solid strokes of opaque paint while tightening up on the face. This technique seems to suit my temperament right now, it can be as tight or loose as I want to go while getting the placement and tonal structure correct first to create the illusion that I’m after.

As the surface dries the particles of ink disperse, flow and deposit.

The website is coming together, but I’m having a little difficulty keeping track of all the pieces. It’s a balance of the diligent work of the technical and the looseness of the artistic. While this painting energy is here I’ll try to ride the wave and keep it going, doing a new painting just about everyday. The technique is settling in, it’s an event, a few key strokes that evolve into the image. They must stay a mystery, with a certain level of control and craft to get them to work along with a big dose of uncertainty and randomness.

I got out to the studio today, excited to paint. Yesterday, a few friends came out and I showed them what I was working on… and everything worked. The ink flowed the and as we watched it created an image that begged our interpretation. Not today. After the initial strokes came off the brush they just sat there, so of course I had to start fiddling with it. Several hours later, the mud was too much to bare and I just walked away.