Friday, December 26, 2014

Exploring artists and techniques from the 2nd Biennial Watercolor Show, pt. 2

I found the paintings by Ewa amazing and fascinating, and she was easily my big discovery of the event.  I knew I liked Castagnet going in (and he did not disappoint!!), but Ewa was a painter I'd never even heard of before.  All her paintings were very large- 4’ x 3’ atleast.  All the images are also semi-abstract, but much like seeing the amazingly oversized Monet Waterlilly murals, as I backed up I began to see the image more and more clearly.  One is, to me, clearly a waterfall splashing on a rock, another a puddle with neon lights in it, another perhaps a turtle seen underwater, with reflections on it.  Go in close though, and its pure insanity!  Crazy stuff.

Here are some close ups.  Pardon the reflections from my amateur-hour photography...  ;)

My presumption, with these first closeups, is that a lot of wet into wet into wet work is occurring, where a wash is put down, let to dry just a little bit, and then a thin, clean, wet brush is used to stroke water into areas, and push the pigment out, to form these circles and strokes.

However, here we have a second set of closeups using a different technique-

With this second set of closeups, my presumption is that that incredible glowing affect is being created by following the patterns of the first set, but that she is then going back into it with a brush that is heavily charged with pigment instead.  Thus, instead of the white of water, we’re getting these glowing oranges and yellows abutting the darker blues and greens of the first wash.  I would be astounded if she was able to do this by progressively building the image wash by wash, and from what I saw of a demo video they were showing at the exhibit, it does seem like she’s doing an immense amount of wet into wet work, and that she’s doing it flat.  The video wasn’t for any of the paintings in the exhibit, but it gave a sense of her working process.

Eric Laurent-

This painting of Eric’s struck, in particular because I’ve long been interested in a more responsive, organic way of painting high valued, chromatic foliage against a darker background, without having to use masking fluid or to go through a super careful, very detailed process of preserving my highlights.  

I’m not sure what pigments he’s using, but it’s obviously very opaque.  Perhaps Cad Yellow?  He’s also got some opaque lime in there, so I think he must be mixing it with something.  I’ve yet to try it with Viridian, but it’s a relatively opaque green.  So maybe??

Muriel Buthier Chartrain-

I found this piece by Muriel at the end of the day, and loved it.   I wish there had been more than one, but that was actually pretty common with the exhibition.  I looked her up on line and couldn't find a website for her.  You can find other samples of her work though, if you google her name.  She's clearly putting her work into shows and what not in Europe..  However, I did find out that she has various videos you can watch of her on youtube.  Here's a link to her videos.

Here you can see the absolutely gorgeous texture she's getting in her work.  I'm assuming, much like Bjorn Bernstrom, she applying a pigment very very thickly, and then pushing water or a diluted pigment through it, or spritzing water on it/through it, to get that gorgeous, runny granulation. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Exploring artists and techniques from the 2nd Biennial International Watercolor Show, pt. 1

I had the privilege of going to 2nd Biennial International Watercolor Show this October while on vacation in Spain.  Narbonne, France is closer to Girona and Barcelona than I thought!  Thank goodness for high speed rail and the gift of birthday money!  Yay!  I couldn’t pass up the serendipitous opportunity.  So, I hopped on a train and got to look at the paintings for my birthday—a little side trip.  I wanted to share some of the pics I took, highlighting different artists I was particularly struck by.  
In addition, I took a series of upclose pics of the same paintings as well, as I hunted for clues into some of the “nuts and bolts” of the techniques these different artists were using.  It was very illuminating to have the opportunity to see some of these works __really__ up close, as in… within inches (not to worry, they were protected by glass!).  If you have the opportunity to go to a show like this in the future for some reason, my advice is--  It’s well worth going.  
So, I have 5 or 6 painters I wanted to highlight from what was easily 20-30 or more, and sort of take other on a "virtual tour" of the exhibit!  What was of particular pleasure was seeing some really big Alvaro Castagnet paintings upclose-- something I'd not done before.  I'll be sharing pics of his work in a later post.  Actually, as there’s a series of pics and thoughts on each artist, I’m going to break it up into a couple of shorter posts.   
Now, without further ado—

I was particularly struck by these two abstract paintings.  I had no previous knowledge of Michelle, but I found out later on that she lives in France and offers classes.  Her abstract work is fascinating, mostly because, to me, she treads that line of creating something almost organic in composition… as if it were a painting of a very small animal, like plankton, that I just hadn’t seen before.  In addition, the paintings really seem, well, “watery”.  There were some other abstracts there that didn’t strike me as much, partly because I felt like they were almost gauche or diluted acrylics.  Michelle’s paintings, however, always seemed to really take advantage of the medium in ways that appealed to me.

Also of interest to me was that her work was gallery wrapped and sealed in some way.  Satin varnish? Or wax?  I wasn’t sure.  She put some sort of additional "paper" or "tape" around the edge, as a trim.  I'd not seen a gallery wrap before, but had only read about it online.  Cool!
Of particular note technically was that she seemed to be using what I can only assume is hair in paintings.  In the up close shot above, you can see the actual shadows and highlights from some of the unremoved hair.  My presumption is that she set the hair into the paint while it was wet, and then brushed/ dusted it off after it was dry, to get these very delicate, organic “etchings” in the paintings.  I love the idea of using whatever material is available to make marks with, but I’d never thought of using hair before!
Frank Perrot-

This man did some beautiful mixed media figure paintings, where he was gently cross-hatching with pencil—darker pencil for certain edges and recessive areas, and a paler blue pencil for areas of highlight.  

In this closeup, you can see how he is using the texture of the paper to good effect.  Perhaps it’s conte or some sort of charcoal or chalk?

In these two next images, I was also struck by his method of merging the fore and background areas of the image by having his textured/abstracted background watercolor wash actually cross into the body of the figure.  Then, on one side, you could see he was carving out the form of the body with a judiciously placed pencil line or two on the back of the figure, and on the shadowed side he was modeling the form by using a new, darker blue watercolor wash. Using the two media in conjunction with each other was very intriguing to me, and really merged the fore and background elements of the painting into one.

Next time, I've got Ewa Karpinska and Eric Laurent.  I'm saving Castagnet for last, as I've got the most pics of his stuff....  :)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Mystic Owl series

I wasn't quite sure how to title this, but I did a series of paintings with an owl, and I really pushed the background to be loose, free, and... well... "mystical". I wanted that feeling I get from an owl to come across in the image.  If you're interested in the process of making a painting, then this post is for you.  I've got lots of in-process photos of various iterations, and some video!  Fun.  :)

The final image is a full sheet (22" x 30"), but I started with a smaller image, (15" x 22"), building the texture of the wings with a granular technique, using Raw Umber.  I then cut the shape with the background.  You can see the first two steps here.

I eventually layered the image up to this more complete stage--

I'd not gotten this granular technique to work before this owl, and so spent some time working on the backs of old sheets, etc., as I tried to get a handle on the process and make it repeatable.  It requires  A LOT of Raw Umber, daubed/ applied very thickly into a pre-existing wash.  Then I dribbled water/ watery pigment into it, tilt the board, and let the water paint for me, creating all those wonderful rivulets.  Here you can see some of my process--

I played with the image over the next week. I was not particularly satisfied with either attempt, although I liked bits and pieces of each.  However, my sister took a series of photos and videos of the process, which was fun  You can get a sense of how I'm doing the background in these.  I'm using a spritzer bottle a lot, to move the pigment, with lots of playing with gravity.  :)  The resolution of the video is small, so it doesn't blow up too well full screen, but it works well in the boxed videos.

Here you can see the two images I worked on.  This first one sort of reminds me of Totoro.  :P

In the end, this final one I'm sharing was the one I was happiest with.  Again, it was a full sheet, so pretty big by my standards.  Very exciting to work that big.  Haven't done that in a while.  I only remembered to take some step by step photos part way through, but I though I'd share what I've got, as it's focused primarily on the final stages, and sort of supplements the steps you've seen earlier, from the previous two iterations. 

And, the completed image! :)

Friday, December 5, 2014

Evolution of an Image- Winter Tree in a Mountain Valley

I did this series of paintings from a photo and wanted to share the process.

This small one came first.  It's basically a repainting/ reduction of the original image.  The photo is coming out a bit warm, but it gives the gist.  This is a small 1/8 sheet, 7.5" x 5".

I then cropped the image and and re-painted it vertically, focusing mostly on the tree.  This one was also a 1/8 sheet, 5.5 x 15".

I then blew it up and tried it big, on a 1/2 sheet.  I had forgotten how difficult it is to paint big-- logistical issues show up that I hadn't anticipated.  You have to manage the wetness of a very large area, and that can make things complicated.  Kat began to point out that the image doesn't necessarily work the same when its larger-- the viewer expects more detail in some locations, for instance, etc.

Anyways, it's not perfect, but there are some things to like in it.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Evolution of an Image- Mountain Valley Painting

I recently did a painting of a mountain valley, and I wanted to share it as well as some of the earlier failed attempts, as I figured out the composition and how I wanted to approach the image.

Nope. Definitely not. I just stopped and didn't even try to finish it.


Better, I suppose, but way too dark.  Not enough contrast. 

In this last one I pushed the feeling of light by simultaneously dropping stronger shadows across the valley and adding the white caps to the tips of the mountains.  Those mountain tops, in order to really pop, are basically the only pure white sections in the painting besides that sliver of road.  I even pre-washed the sky with a very pale wash of yellow, and did a pale grey wash over everything, after the clouds were formed and dried.  The combo knocked the clouds and sky back some.  The combo of the recessive sky and the pure white mountain tops got the affect I was looking for.