Saturday, October 31, 2015

Show me the easy way

 Night Watch - SOLD
5" x 7" oil on panel

“Skills aren’t enough on their own. Emotion has to come through. But when you’ve got the various skills sewn up, that’s one thing you don’t have to worry about.” (Zoe Benbow) 

There is a belief from some people who want to set off on their own art journey is that there are shortcuts to success.  I hate to burst bubbles, but the only way to acheive success is through good old fashioned hard work.

The process of repetition provides familiarity with using tools, making marks, judging proportion, mixing colour and creating values.  We all start out as horrible artists.  I know I did.  My first efforts were worthy only of destruction, though some kind people kept some of them.  And well they did, as they become a marker to show beginnings and measure progress.

Where did the concept of "easy" come from?  Experienced artists make drawing and painting look effortless, but that thought must be tempered with understanding just how many hours and years of work it took to instill those "effortless" skills into producing art.

Is the concept of easy a by-product of the society we live in, where everything is rushed, where busyness becomes a badge of importance, and time is limited to 3 or 5 minute snippets of attention before your brain/eyes/hands are sidetracked?

To draw or paint well takes discipline and alone time.  Robert Genn put it well in an interview saying something to the effect of a learning artist should be sent to their room - for six months or a year.  After concentrating completely on art for that period of time, then results will start to be seen.   Five minutes a day will help, but making time to dedicate to learning and practicing techniques is really the only way to become proficient.

Skills that are worth learning and that take time to learn are hard won.  Drawing, colour theory, composition, values and abstraction take time and practice to understand and become fluent with. There is a lot of unskilled art being made in the world. That can have its own appeal and provide joy to some, no doubt.  But not knowing and not taking the time to know the specifics of different mediums and how to apply them only ensures that after awhile all that art starts to look the same.

Knowing the rules is important before you can break the rules.

Monday, October 26, 2015


Siren  16" x 20" 
  As I rearrange my studio for what is hoped the last time (though I know it won't be), I came across a watercolour on Arches board of a big pink flower.  I don't know what the reference was, its too long ago to remember. There was also the challenge of some masking fluid still on the upper left petal and was near impossible to remove after being there for so long.  So I removed as  much as I could and worked with the resulting texture that was left.

Original painting

Being inbetween paintings I thought I'd play around with colour and see if I could liven it up a bit.  I kept adding washes of colour and dropping other colours into the wet wash, letting them mingle. I hadn't used watercolour on a larger scale for a long time and enjoyed remembering how the medium worked its magic.

Colour wash progress

Looking back at it now I know I added too many layers, desaturating the colours too much and losing the freshness of the medium.  The colours are not as pure or fresh as I'd like, but overall it works. I think I'll stick with oils and keep the watercolours for my sketches! It may never be saleable, but it will brighten up a corner of the studio.