"The painter should not paint only what he sees around him, but also what he sees in him. Should he, however, see nothing within himself, he should refrain from painting what he sees around him."
- Caspar David Friedrich
There is so much truth in this statement and I sure their is none of us who is not guilty of having embarked upon a desolate mission of trying to "make" a painting... when we are unmotivated... low in spirit or overburdened, as we often are... with daily responsibilities. Paintings of worth most always have their origin when our passion couples intuitively and willingly with our creative spirit.
Being open to the exciting possibilities around you... or showing a willingness to reach inside and release emotional responses to deeply felt thoughts can often lead to a break through... or at the very least, a few hours of satisfaction... meditation and solitude. All of these are cathartic outcomes that by and large outweigh the intrinsic monetary worth of the painting itself. All contribute to a feeling of inner wellness and peace.
Yesterday, my class consisted of just one student... but her enthusiasm...wonderful spirit and strong desire to learn made the one-on-one day together highly valuable for us both. Since the weather was "iffy'... thunderstorms in the forecast off and on for the entire day we decided to work indoors and on a floral still life at my suggestion.
I decided to throw out another challenge to Robin. I suggested that since she wished to achieve a looser quality to her watercolours that we... together... would embark on a day of "play... for the sake of play"... with no intent at the start to follow our regular pattern of tight planning and drawing and to let the result emerge as it would... no worry about or focus on the final outcome.
I opened our 10:00 am session by reading from a book which I own and treasure above all others. It is a book which has greatly shaped my own personal artistic and spiritual growth. It is , in itself...a full and rich curriculum of self-conducted study for any artist in any medium. It covers all of the bases... in plain, easy-to-understand language. The book is written by an American watercolour icon, Philip Jamison and is entitled; "Making Your Paintings Work." It is unfortunately out of print. However, in Googling Amazon Books I found that several copies are available for purchase in both new and used condition.
Here is the quote that served as my introduction to our "Play Day."
"Many artists are greatly enamoured with children's art and wish they could get some of the childlike glee back into their own adult art. Children are uninhibited and simply pour forth whatever comes to mind, at times producing delightful pictures. Adults, on the other hand, can accumulate so much knowledge through study and their association with others that they are hampered in their ability to be free and spontaneous. Thus, their art can become tight and laboured.
An artist must have moments of playfulness, away from serious work - time to be carefree and frivolous, and just enjoy the use of line and colour without any concern for the outcome. Time spent in this way may produce nothing, or it may produce a whole new world to explore. It is certainly not time wasted."
So... with these words as the engine of our effort on this day, we jumped fully into the floral still life that I had previously prepared for us to work with. I must confess at this point that the flowers used in that set up were far from random selection. August is the Sherman month of Birthdays. Today... my wonderful Dad would have celebrated his 100TH Birthday! In my wildest imagination... and even now, I can't get my head around his ever becoming that age? And yet... I never ever thought that "the Boy" would be 68... and "He" is! My sister Chris will be-- on the 19TH and my beloved Mom would have celebrated her 96Th on the 21ST. August was always... the "gathering of the clan"... a festive occasion for our family!
Back to the flowers! Black-eyed Susans, Field Daisies...any wild flower are family favourites... and thus the choice black-eyed susans, chicory, Queen Anne's Lace (Yarrow). Weeds to many... free flowers to our clan! Our cottage on the River dining table had a constantly changing clutch of these throughout the entire summer. As I mentioned in the beginning of this post... when one transplants something from "Within" into one's art... there is a stronger likelihood of commitment and pictorial strength in what is produced on the canvas.
We sketched only light geometric representations of floral shapes... paying absolutely no attention to details such as petals or leaves. We selected only flower shapes that strongly interested us and literally re-composed our own impression of the bouquet in front of us. I suggested that we crop the earthenware vase... using only the upper third. We added a few diagonal lines emanating from the centre of the floral shapes to represent the strong linear presence of the chicory stalks. Down with the HB pencils!... Enter the Brushes, water and paint!
We commenced the painting portion by laying in a light neutral ochre-like wash around the floral area and while it was still wet... dropped in some warmer drops here and there as we pleased of burnt sienna... yellow and cerulean blue... allowing them to mingle as they would without manipulation. I did add a touch of salt to one corner of mine... just to demonstrate its effects on the colour to Robin. Yes... it did give a grainier effect at first... but the excess water all but eliminated it in the final outcome.
We let the wet-in-wet dry down a bit and then selectively... then playfully added mixtures of darker greens to form somewhat of a mass where the leaves and stalks came together at the neck of the vase... but we were careful not to lose all of the white of the paper too soon. We then turned our full attention to loosely and transparently adding petals and buttons randomly to the susies. Just stating them was our goal - no detail or attempt to finish them.
We added some of the rigger lines to note stem positions and a few more distinct leaf shapes... topping the longest chicory stems with pale purplish-blue florets. We revisited the areas around the bouquet washing in new layers of wet colour which left harder edges than before. At this point, I introduced the concept and visual value of lost and found edges. We each applied this technique in our own fashion to create this effect, where we pleased... and as we wished. We decided to break for lunch.... a good opportunity chat... to review the process and to discuss where we each might proceed.
It was clear after lunch that some very wet areas still existed... so I offered the use of the hair dryer as a tool to speed up the drying enabling us to fill those final few minutes of working time adding a few touches and details, or perhaps glazing in stronger colour here and there. We even included acrylic titanium white in our arsenal to recapture a lost area or to strengthen a weak area opaquely. Though not a traditional watercolour tactic... even frowned upon by purists and juried shows... we owned the process and chose NOT to have rules!
I am posting the result of my day's effort here today as a birthday tribute to my Dad, Sis and Mom. I know that you would join "the Boy"at this "Play Day"... if you could. I have thrown in a card that was pinned on a cupboard door in my Dad's basement" "Inner Sanctum." He too... valued solitude and time for meditation. I carry on that ritual religiously... each and every morning. "I" implore each of you out there... to... "Keep Smiling!"
I love you ALWAYS sand FOREVER... Dad, Mom and Chris! Happy Birthday!!
Good Painting... to ALL!!!
PS Stay tuned for my posting of Robin's piece! She has purchased her own copy of Jamison's book! Better hurry for your own copy! Unbelievably low prices!