Watercolor

Cartwheels

I recall, as a child, having no doubt that I could successfully perform a cartwheel. I didn’t analyze the chances or consider all possible scenarios. Nor did I fret about potential injuries. I just ran and did a cartwheel. When I landed, it took a moment for a tiny dizziness to pass; to get my bearings (oh, I said “bear”-ings). Thinking about it, I’m suddenly flooded with other memories about the cartwheel. I was with other people. Other children. We were all doing cartwheels and laughing. It was summer and the air smelled of fresh cut grass, made even more fragrant by the sunshine. I can almost hear all the birds watching from the branches of the maple tree down by the sidewalk, having a whole twittery kind of conversation about the craziness going on in the yard below. My sense of touch is remembering the feel of the blades of grass and the softness of clover, the dampness of the soil beneath, my sun-warmed hair, and the feel of a drop of sweat trickling down my face.

Its a good memory; a sweet memory.

The Usefulness of Color Swatches

Art Application

A tube of watercolor can last me for years. Even if the tube seems completely dried up or I can’t get the lid off…its still useful. I just cut open the tube and I can dump the chunks of paint onto a spot on my pallet. Dab it with some water and its as good as new. The paints on my pallet stay there for a long time and become hardened. Same thing though. Dab with water and good as new. If you’ve done watercolor, you know this. But if you’re thinking about doing watercolor, this is a pro. Paints are expensive, but they never need to be tossed out.

I’ve made a video about color swatches. When my instructors taught me to make them, I had no idea why I was doing it. Now I know. Watch and see.

Life Application

I honestly can’t come up with one. I do like seeing the papers with the swatches. I suppose I could frame them or have them laying somewhere. They look cheerful. I’ll have to give this some thought.

Potato Picker 1 – watercolor on Bainbridge Alpharag Board

I came across this painting tonight. Its in my leather portfolio case. It was framed and hung on my studio wall in a previous location. It hung there for years and years. The frame was a metal frame, the color of her apron. During all the many moves in my life, the frame got scratched. It was a custom size and would be expensive to replace. It wasn’t in inches. It was in centimeters. When we were stationed in Germany, I found the photo of two women, potato pickers, from right there in my village. I wrote to the photographer and got his permission to paint from the photo. I decided I would put each of the two women in their own painting.

The painting above is, by far, my favorite. I can’t part with it. It isn’t just a painting. Its an experience. The board I painted it on had a thin coat of something (sizing, I imagine) on it that caused the pigment to lay on the surface and dry, looking rich and alive. It was an experiment and something told me it would be amazing. I took photos of each step of the way. Painting it was almost a sensual experience. The brush laid the paint down as if it couldn’t help it; as if compelled to create a masterpiece. I’d say it was even as if the painting was already done and the board and brush and paint knew what it was to become and they performed a symphony of color, shadow, and light. Every brush stroke went down as if it was already there and the brush was just painting water over it to bring it to life. I’ve never experienced anything like it again. It was my only piece of board like that. I don’t know if its even made anymore.

mi teintes paper

I say all this because I have found an art board made by mi teintes. I have used papers by the same company. The example is one I did on a gray mi teintes paper. When I went to the store to purchase some black art board, I saw the white art board that is made to take watercolor. I’m excited to try it. One piece was approximately $6 and when the cashier handled it, I was so afraid she’d get oils from her fingers on it. She didn’t realize the significance of that. Do you?

I long to try it out. Not yet, however. I have three commissions to finish before Christmas. If I were to sit down and just get them done, it wouldn’t take long. They happen to be quite difficult. Three pieces, each containing numerous people. The pressure is on. I find myself working for a few minutes on the faces and needing to leap up from my chair and pace. I suddenly feel the urge to wash dishes or sweep the floor. Anything. I long to do anything at all, except work on that face.

Something to look forward to

When the three commissions are completed, I’ll get out the white watercolor board and see what I can come up with. Maybe by then I’ll have some idea what the subject needs to be. Is it like a carving, where the whole process is just releasing the thing trapped within the wood? Or like the painting of the the woman picking potatoes? I don’t know.

The Gift – a watercolor

I found the photograph of this woman in an out-of-print book while living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I wrote to the publisher, asking for permission to do a painting of the woman and received a letter from the photographer giving me permission to use any of his work I’d like. He closed his letter with “Keep your powder dry”. I looked that up and it means, as a photographer in the past, it was important that the powder used for a flash to be totally dry. Otherwise it wouldn’t make its flash.

Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

This particular photograph was taken of a woman in the small town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Maybe you’ve heard of a game show called Truth or Consequences. Quite a long while ago, the game show folks put out an offer to pay a town to change their name to Truth or Consequences.

Applying Masking Fluid / Frisket

I did this painting later on. The photograph in the book was an old-looking black and white image. I did a draft painting, making the woman’s scarf look rather like a wet on wet mish-mosh of blues and purples. Hated it! For my second attempt I found a piece of cloth in my sewing box of fabrics. I decided to pretend it was her scarf. I imagined her son giving her the beautiful scarf as a gift and decided right then to call it The Gift. The cloth has so many little flowers and curly stems that it was going to be a challenge. I remembered that I had some masking fluid (frisket). I drew out the flowers and stems lightly with a hard pencil and then dipped a toothpick into the masking fluid and drew over the faint lines again with this fluid. I did a nice bluish watercolor wash over the whole scarf. I had also drawn the hairs with the toothpick dipped in frisket.

Removing the masking fluid / frisket

Once the watercolor was dry, I gently rubbed the frisket with my index finger, lifting it off the paper. I didn’t want to damage the paper. Sometimes if you leave the frisket on too long before doing the paint, it will be impossible to lift off without taking some of the paper with it. This time I removed it right away and it came off easily. As I removed the first bits, I used those to rub on the frisket still on the paper to lift it off. Using a fine tipped brush, I added the colors of the pattern on the cloth.

The first piece I’d done of the woman was actually far more work. The pencil work needed to be done in tiny little circles so that there would be no tall-tale signs that it was shaded with pencil. The upside of pencil is that it can be erased. The downside of using watercolor is that it can’t.

Finishing Touches

When the woman was fully rendered, I did a quick wet on dry wash for the background to set off the white of her beautiful blouse. For the final touches, I used a toothbrush, dipping it into some Burnt Sienna, to stipple across the white background of the painting. I laid some torn pieces of paper over the white blouse to protect it from getting splatters from the stippling. Next, I held the brush in my left hand, pointed towards the painting. I raked a toothpick across the bristles gently to see how much splatter it would create. Where it was sparse, I added more.

What do you think the gift would be?

Once the painting was finished, I decided that the scarf wasn’t the gift. The woman’s smile was the gift…in my mind. I named the work The Gift, but intended for the viewer to decide what the gift was.