Thursday, September 30, 2010

Right Brain, Left Brain

watercolor on 140lb cp 9x12"

watercolor on Yupo  7x11"
I often switch between left brain and right brain ways when I plan and paint trying to find order as well as spontaneity. In that vein, I did a side by side comparison of watercolor on cold press and Yupo.  Layering paint is fun on cold press where as it is very difficult and slow process to layer on Yupo. The colors dry lighter on cold press and hues are pure and brilliant on yupo. It is very easy to take off paint from yupo since it is a non-absorbant surface. I washed the paints off three times before I settled on this Yupo version (half heartedly). On cold press, it is crucial to plan and save the whites early on.  The slick surface of Yupo requires different techniques than the regular watercolor paper. I discovered erasing on yupo paper makes it harder for the paint to adhere.  Another difference is yupo needs to be on a flat surface while painting since the paint moves freely-which also means that one can tilt the paper to get different mixes and effects. I have to use thick paint with little water to have definite detailed shapes on yupo and spraying with water mist gives it wonderful textures. For other kinds of texture I have also tried laying balled up plastic wrap or blotting paper towel on wet paint.  Removing or adding paint by using stencils, cheese cloth, gives beautiful shapes.  I can see myself continue my experiments and playing around with resists etc.  :)

Deconstructing and reconstructing art work is a preoccupation for me as I try to figure out the artistic and technical aspects to help me with creations. I happened upon this quirky TED video of Ursus Wehrli sharing his version of  cleaner, more organized 'tidier art' in a very funny unconventional way :) Enjoy a different take on creativity :) 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Each to Her Passion

Pandora Sphinx Moth digital photograph
A few mornings ago I found this beautiful moth on the our front porch wall when I went out to get the paper.  I had never seen anything like it before and watched it mesmerized. I then ran inside to grab my camera hoping it will still be there when I got back.  I loved the combination of olive green and the pink and the beautiful delicate markings.  Googling moths, I discovered its name and information. The adults feed on nectar and prefer flowers that open at night and are sometimes seen on petunias. That explained the moths presence - there was a basket of petunias by the door :).  Apparently the larvae feed on grape leaves and virginia creepers --and we do have virginia creepers in our yard. Their  coloration is  so much like camouflage military fatigues that I am sure its very easy to not 'see' these in the garden. In fact I think their shape resembles one of those military aircrafts too!  The scientific name is Eumorpha pandorus and  informed me  that 'eumorpha' in Greek means 'fair of form' and the species name pandorus means 'giving all' or 'given all.'  Apparently the larvae look like sphinx  -now I am really curious - I will have to look harder in the garden.  As artists, I think our obsessions, compulsions and how much time and energy we devote to art, seems to have something in common with the moths, as expressed by Helen Hunt Jackson:
Bee to blossom,
Moth to flame,
Each to his passion. 

Friday, September 24, 2010


Reflections color pencils 4x4"
I have been planning and sketching. I discovered those sketches don't show well in photographs.  Fortunately I still have a couple more finished pieces from way back when -except they are under glass, framed and sealed :( These wooden spoons and tin mugs with reflections caught my eye in Colonial Williamsburg 'market place' many years ago and I tried them out in color pencils on tinted paper. It is a small piece framed and under glass-too well sealed- which once again I had difficulty photographing.  I welcome any suggestions, tips and tricks from fellow artists - what are your experiences and solutions for photographing issues?

I came across a very interesting story in the blog  "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin.  She calls the story a Koan on creativity and credits it to Arthur Koestler's book  "the Art of Creativity' :  " An art dealer (this story is authentic) bought a canvas signed "Picasso" and traveled all the way to Cannes to discover whether it was genuine. Picasso was working in his studio. He cast a single look at the canvas and said:"its a fake." A few months later the dealer bought another canvas signed Picasso. Again he travelled to Cannes and again Picasso, after a single glance, grunted "Its a fake"   "But cher maitre" expostulated the dealer, "it so happens that I saw you with my own eyes working on this very picture several years ago"  Picasso shrugged: "I often paint fakes"

Gretchen's comments in that blog really resonated with me. She asks- "Do you know this feeling, feeling of painting your own fake?"  I always worry about painting pieces that don't quite feel authentic or that I did not perhaps give my best.  Now I know the perfect answer for those doubts :).  Of course, that question will be included in the ones I often ask as I evaluate my finished painting.  I am also eager to  read Koestler's book "the Art of Creativity"

Friday, September 17, 2010

Courage to Transform

Koi watercolor on Yupo 11"x14
I have been wanting to paint Koi for years.  I find myself watching them for hours whenever I see them in a pond and admire their shape and colors! I also have way too many photographs of them :)  It was a lot of fun to paint the koi because the Yupo paper easily duplicates their bright colors. Surprisingly this time, I found myself working hard to tone down some of the texture in water in the composition so it won't compete so much with  colorful koi yet would show movement.  I think I need to work on couple of paintings at a time when painting on yupo -that will give each piece time for the paint to dry before I put the next layer!  There is a shine to the paper, and I find the photographs do not do justice to bright colors! 

As I was researching information about Koi in between painting them I found myself torn between really keeping to a particular fish's colorations and markings or mix them up(-which is my usual way of painting). For Koi collectors and breeders the markings and color are extremely important.  The Koi carry a lot of significance for the Japanese and Chinese representing passionate love, courage, strength, friendship and wealth. According to  a legend of those countries, if a koi fish succeeded in climbing the falls at the point of Dragon Gate in the Yellow River  then they are transformed to dragons, signifying overcoming life's difficulties. According to Buddhists, the koi represent a person courageously swimming through 'ocean of suffering.' 

Its a bit too late too adhere to realism in markings and color but I love the symbolism behind the fish :) 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Amazing World

Sunset by the Pier digital photography
With the Labor Day behind us, summer is officially over. Luckily for us, hurricane Earl hurled by last week without causing much damage or rain. As I watched the scenes of fierce wind and rain battered Outer Banks of N. Carolina, I didn't mind one bit that we had spent a couple of days preparing for the onslaught that fortunately didn't materialize. Now, the temperatures are down with a slight chill in the air and color on leaves.  As  we walked past the pier one evening by the beach, I caught the setting sun at the end of the pilings, happy to see the calm sea. My photographs probably fall in the category what David Griffin, photo director for National Geographic calls 'nothing more than isn't it an amazing world.' In a TED talk, he shows how photo journalists for National Geographic strive to create a visual narrative and often tell a powerful story in photographs that connect us to the rest of the world, move the rest of us to take action, and not just marvel the underlying soul and spirit. I think we need both kinds and I will continue to add to my collection of the 'isn't it an amazing world' section :) 

After being somewhat slack in terms of sketching, painting and posting during the summer and I am eager to pick up the pace a bit in the next few months. Right now, I am pleased to  have my painting Mandala Meditation in the show "Portrait of the Artist: Self Portraits and Portraits by Hampton Roads Artists"  through oct 17 at The Charles Taylor Arts Center in Hampton, VA.  

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

To Simply Paint

Blue Crab Special  watercolor 24"x18"
This painting is from about fifteen years ago when I learned to paint wet on wet and also to bring abstraction to a painting. Jan Ledbetter whose class I was attending then, in preparation for a workshop 'Watermedia Encounter' by Doug Walton, gave us her version of a set of steps of his style of painting. Doug Walton was a student of the renowned watercolor painter Ed Whitney and  he passed on some of Whitney's wisdom. The one I remember the most: Any teacher can teach how to begin a painting but you have to be the one to finish it.  Some other things that stayed with me from that time are : to let go and not be afraid of drawing and painting instinctively, having dark darks and white whites in a painting,  touch a point optimally once and no more than 3 times,  paint shapes,  have big readable nouns and most importantly you don't have to paint or fix everything! 
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