Monday, September 12, 2011

Sunflower Study II--A Fun Experiment

What do you do when you're feeling frustrated with something that's happening in the midst of your painting?  The best suggestion I have, stop right there and step back. Leave the painting alone for a few hours or a few days. Work on a different painting, or do something entirely different, and come back to it when you and your eyes are fresh again, and see what you think.  
This crossroad has happened to me many times.  Sometimes I succeed in walking away, other times I don't.  What is happening in that moment of frustration, at least one possibility--we are too "close" to the work, literally and emotionally.  Our left brain, with its specialty in technical skills, may have become too engaged in what it thinks "should" be happening, and is failing to let the painting create its own unique possibilities.

Below, you see, Sunlit Afternoon, a painting that I almost tossed in a moment of frustration.  This painting has been one of my favorites since I painted it five years ago.  Now, I would paint the adult whooping crane differently, showing more plumage details and shading, but I still love the interaction the painting expresses and its overall affect.  
In order to finish this painting, I had to set it aside for several days and come back to it.  I was having trouble with the water's edge, thinking it was too dark, and in the moment of frustration, not satisfied with any change I made.  Later when I came back to it, I found myself saying, now what was it I disliked so much?
The sunflower painting you see in the top image began with a variegated wash of yellows with one of the pigments being yellow ochre (above left).  Some pigments have a grainy texture, and with the addition of salt, will create large patterns of moved pigment, depending upon the wetness of the area. Even though I love that feathered area created by the salt, as I was beginning to paint more detail in the sunflower, I decided the painting was much to busy. I concluded that the light salted area competed with the main subject, the sunflower and butterfly. Now, I'm not so sure. This would have been a good time to pause and wait.  But I didn't.  I continued, adding color in some areas and lifting color in others.

Below, is the part of the painting I like the most, largely because it's fresh and clean, and I like the colors.  Cropped a little differently, it could make a small painting on its own.
And below, you see the area I like the least, the area I couldn't leave alone.  My primary reason for disliking it, is that I was indecisive while working on it.  I added blue to the salted whites, changed purple shadows to blue, and then had some indecision about the colors used around the edges of the sunflower petals. If I tuck it away for a while, gain more distance from the experience, and look at it again later, my attitude toward it may change.
Sunflowers are fun to paint and there are any variety of ways to paint them.  Plus, they are abstract in shape, and reflect many different colors in those withering petals--purple, magenta, burnt sienna, brown, violet.  Because of these qualities, clear, dynamic colors and the sparkle of light are the elements that provide the most excitement.  I haven't tossed this painting, but I will try another one, hoping that all I learned from this one will coming tumbling out onto the paper in the next.

Not every painting we begin makes a great painting, but there is plenty to value in the experience of painting itself.  Every time I paint, I learn, gain confidence, get to know the pigments and how they interact with water and paper, and enjoy all the surprise discoveries that make watercolor such an exciting medium.

Links and Resources:
My first sunflower study can be found here:  Sunflower Study  
For more posts on practice and confidence visit:  The Illusive Nature of Confidence and Kindergarten Efforts.
For a discussion on scrubbing or lifting paint, visit:  Sketching a Limpkin

1 comment:

  1. love the sunflower images, and the soft colours used. Really enjoyed reading through your blog, especially as I am someone who loves sketching and painting nature myself!

    ReplyDelete

Welcome! I am glad to hear your comments, questions and feedback! Vickie

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