Saturday, September 1, 2012

Outside... Inside

Site selected for quick demo. Note the distinct large masses and vertical feel. The focus will be on the Black-eyed Susans

"Quick draw" demo results. Black-eyed Susans in minor detail. The remainder of the masses are indistinct and just washed in. The demo was complete at this point... to be reworked away from the subject later in the studio.

 The notion of middle ground tree development creeps steadily into my thinking... and into reality.

The basically  "New"structure for the painting has been accomplished... what do do with the foreground... if anything remains the final question to be resolved.

The final out come: "Summer... Dropping Away!" - mixed media / watercolour on paper 14x10 inches

"Failure is our friend" - Dale McKinney
-excerpted from "Making Your Paintings Work" by Philip Jamison


Here is the result of a "quick draw" lay in of the masses... the focus being the clump of colourful Black-eyed Susans. All of the other masses surrounding this interest comprise of subdued washes. Note the absence of any real attempt for detail at this point in the process.

I ended the demo and encouraged everyone back to their own subjects to lay in in a similar quick fashion, emphasizing the fact that neither medium lacked the ability to be corrected at different times along the way. The objective was to lay in quickly over the lightly drawn pencil mapping and then to build gradually upon that structure.


I brought the demo home and didn't get back to it until Friday afternoon. I began the process of creating a finished painting without any reference material. At this point , I assumed ownership of the final outcome... painting totally from the feelings and responses from within. In some cases that response was likely tempered by my memories of the experience outside... but for the most part, the final statement and direction of my painting came out of impulse and in "seeing" possibilities to be explored.

When one first looks at the initial demo result... one might feel discouraged... or even feel a sense of failure. It appears on the surface to be ill-conceived and at the best a "slap-dash" effort lacking punch. What to do with it is the question. While one can continue to pound away using the usual watercolour techniques to rescue this piece... and most likely fail... I would offer that one thinks and works "outside the box. Think in a different way. Paint in a different way. Use whatever means you wish to ... to simply "play." Let go of the notion of failure. It is merely one single piece of paper... in a succession of blank sheets on your journey to become a better painter.

I learned early in the game that the only rule in painting... is that there aren't any rules. Rules confine the mind... and greatly impede progress. Admittedly, there are "rules" that when used as general guides reduce dead ends. But keep in mind that every painting we make has its origin from an internal response. We first respond to an exterior stimulus within our mind... not the brush! That drives us to investigate further... in the case of the artist... with brush , paper/canvas and paint in hand.

The entire afternoon of painting lasted about two hours. During that time, I dropped in various washes of colour...removed paint using brushes loaded with water followed by dabbing with paper vowel and in some cases even removed set areas using a dampened sponge. In some cases... entire plots of some flower varieties completely disappeared because I saw and felt strongly that there was a "tree effect" in the background the begged to be introduced... and I responded!... I played freely!

In other places, I more carefully pushed and pulled at colour values... defining more carefully individual flowers in the central focus... the Black-eyed Susans and raising the darks underneath them. I added some splashes of other colours such as reds and blues to act as "colour surprises"... animating the painting with complementary colour. I even employed acrylic white as an opaque agent to "correct." Yes... I realize in so doing, that this painting will not be considered a "transparent" water colour... and would be shunned by purists or most juried watercolour shows. However... the whole purpose of this exercise is to feel the pure joy of painting... to stretch my imagination and thinking and  not to produce a water colour masterpiece. I long ago in my journey gave up any notion of becoming a "master" of any medium at the expense of enjoyment. Few of us are... or ever will become "masters"! Mastery infers power over. Isn't the whole purpose of painting to show freedom of spirit and medium?

My appreciation and enjoyment in my own work comes fully out of the joy it gives to me personally on each and every occasion. That joy is deepened... when I am granted the opportunity to share what I do and find along the way... with those who share my passion... humility and willingness to learn (from mistakes). Making art has provided me with much more than money... attention or a boosted ego. It has brought many new friends into my life... whom I cherish!

And "I"... have been deeply blessed!

Good Painting to ALL!!!


  1. Boy Bruce! What a beautiful piece you ended up with. Who cares about those juries? I am amazed at the amount of color you were able to go back in and lift too. I am never as successful with that.

  2. Good Morning Sherry!... Thanks for visiting and for the encouraging comment!

    Follow your heart... and the "yellow brick road"! Risk trying to lift... to play and to simply enjoy the act of creating... no focus on the product! You'll be surprised with what you can come up with!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  3. Hi Bruce, over the last three years I have been tutoring what started out as a beginner's watercolour painting class which later went on to embrass other mediums. I am one of the few hobby class tutors who has always been prepared to give a demo at the start of the class. I have always found that the short time allowed to do a demo always had me feeling rushed and not able to do my best work. I then would paint part of the painting often a background at home first before doing some more work on the demo piece in front of my students. This seemed to work well enough except that I have always felt that the demo work always looked poor in comparison to my own studio works, even the preparatory work at home looked better. Watercolour is tricky at the best of times and washes will tend to do their own thing. My students have been patient with me and I believe my failings have inspired them to 'have a go'and not to worry about their own end result. I have often used acrylic white to save a watercolour that has been done quickly. You can also use gouache white applied with a finger in areas to create interest within a watercolour painting it is more cream in colour than an acrylic white. Create and enjoy the experience is the way I am leading my students these days and I believe it makes them more able to develop their very own painting style. An old student dropped by last week to the class to show me her sketch book, it was a delight to see and she said she enjoyed working more that way than sitting down trying to master a perfect landscape. Thank you for sharing your painting adventure with your students it really is so interesting to read and it was good to hear your thoughts on simply enjoying the act of creating.

  4. Hi there Caroline!... Thank you for taking the time to stop by and to share your experiences and ideas!

    Your very valid thoughts underscore a basic truth which we share about the creation of art. There are no solid rules.They exist as but guidelines to encourage free thought and action.

    There is nothing ... wholly "New" in itself... about art. Ideas and techniques cycle about. Ideas come and go out of vogue. But within each one of us... there exists a unique individual... who only thinks like others... as a last resort. I believe that the real frontier in Art lies there!Free thought!

    Good Painting@!
    Warmest regards,

  5. Thank you. Memories from our childhood shape our lives still. Your florals are awesome and I enjoy seeing the work you do. Best wishes.
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  6. Thank you Conz!... Memories shape our lives because in essence... they are the proof of our having lived.

    I need no advice for superannuation because I am indeed... happily and productively SUPER... annuated!

    Best wishes!

  7. Thank you, Bruce for sharing this very well stated mini workshop!
    I myself pay more attention to goals, not rules.
    I really appreciate your thoughts on "color surprises". Very well said.
    And then developing a few Black-eyed Susans in the focal point...thereby making the entire bed read as flowers.
    And I love that you put more of yourself into the work by finishing it with your memories and skill.
    Have a great painting day,

  8. Hey there Dean!... We are TOTALLY on the same page artistically...and spiritually! In my mind and I believe, in yours as well... the two entities cannot function apart! Painting what you have a passion for and believe in... is a model for doing the same when you conduct your daily life!

    Rich blessings my Friend ... and Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,