Sunday, January 18, 2009

Painting Today - Watercolor Progressions

Here are three progressions, showing the changes made in this morning's painting session. All of these read from top to bottom, with the earlier versions on top. Click any of them to view them larger. The top image is where they started at 9:00 this morning.

The first is a small one, about 7 by 10. I have no idea where it's going, but I am laying on color.

The next (four shots) is one that I am using to build up the surface with watercolor, going for an effect like Emil Nolde achieved by putting more and more color on, always managing to avoid muddying the colors, and achieving a surface of rich depth and transparency. I'm seeing what happens.

And the last one is the latest version of Flight. I put the one from my last post on top, and today's results below it. MLight mentioned not liking the way the trees progressed upward, with confusing breaks in them, so they look like those optical illusions that split vertical bars from the bottom to the top... The more I looked at this, the more I didn't like the strangest of these, either, so I painted it out (acrylics) and fixed the trunk all the way up. It helps the entire composition, I think.

I also made the smallest bird dark, instead of light. the rest are minor adjustments here and there to improve shadow continuity, b;end the beams of light better, add visual interest, and create a series of rose elements from the cat up and to the right all the way to the top corner, to help unite that side with the rest of the painting. You can't see it in this photo, much, but the big crow in the bottom right is not more aqua than ultramarine.

I won't be on-line much the next four days - big set of meetings at work, with evening sessions, etc. - so little or no time for anything but work, eat, and sleep... See you Friday, maybe.


Stacy said...

I love seeing the progression in your work. So, you're letting each layer dry before beginning another? Very interesting, and I guess part of the process. I tend to work like this also, I find my ideas grow as I go for maybe several days on a piece....Beautiful work!


June Saville said...

Interesting post Steve. The ways of creativity are mysterious.
I have dabbled a little in watercolour and mud is the easiest result of all. Although a success is so exciting the effort is worth it.
And that's something else ... the tiniest change in art makes a big difference - such as your bird. That little bit of weight in the corner helps doesn't it.
Next question is always when to stop eh?

Genie Sea said...

Every time I see the newest painting I think it's beautifully complete, until I see the next one which is even better.

Love the process. Hope your week goes smoothly and quickly and you find some time for rest and play.

Steve Emery said...

Stacy - welcome! I don't always wait for it to dry - sometimes I push a wet area around a good bit before stopping. And sometimes I get the big moppy brush and I wet the entire previous version, or large parts of it, and let the water sink in and blur things some... then I start adding more... It depends on my mood, or what I'm trying to get the colors to do. With this pursuit of the richness and atmosphere of a Nolde watercolor, I'm doing a lot more wet on wet, or wet on dry that reactivates the dry.

June - Thanks so much for coming by. I have not yet read that first chapter, by the way - hasn't been a conjunction of the time and the right frame of mind to read that type of story.

How perceptive of you about that small bird. That whole corner niggled at me until I realized the bird's shape, position, and direction would all help solve the unspoken problem if it were more noticeable. At first I worked the background around the bird to bring it out - no luck - not enough. Tehn I darkened the bird. Too much. So I had to lift about half the pigment to arrive at this middle road, which seems better. We'll see how it looks to me after four days away from it.

And knowing when to stop... Lately I have been stopping too soon. So I plan to take a few of these too far, just to see where that is, and to maybe strike a stronger balance. Flight is not onw of those, though - it's too close to my desired outcome for me to push it deliberately for a learning experience.

Genie Sea - Thanks! And I think I have a similar veiw of my work - it always excites me when I finish a session and it feels finished! But then I look at it again several days later (I've learned not to take them off the board too soon) and it's not done, or somethign pops out at me that is weak, or needs something... So it starts all over again.

susan said...

It's always interesting for me to see how you work to get the fascinating effects you achieve. The time you spend painting is time well spent t the results are luminous and detailed without looking controlled.

Most of the paintings I've posted were done before I owned a digital camera. Maybe when I paint another I'll chart the process.

tammy vitale said...

well I actually liked all that fracturing of light...just goes to show ya.

so how do you keep from muddying it all up with layers - does drying in between keep the colors clear and bright? Inquiring minds (who always make mud with watercolors) want to know. =]

Lisa said...

I like how Flight turned out. You'll be missed among the blogosphere, but we'll see you when you get back.

Now I want to go see what Mlight is up to!

Genie Sea said...

I had to pop back in and thank you from the bottom of my heart for your incredibly generous, supportive and healing comment. I cannot express how much it means to me. Thank you. :)

linda said...

steve, there is so much here to comment on, I am having a problem keeping it straight, but I figured out a way. I also feel others reading this are going to wonder why I am not being nicer but anyway, I will proceed with my thoughts and let things fall where they may. You can explain.... please.

I like what you have done with Flight. I like the strong verticality in the yellow trunk and the rest seem stronger as well~I am not sure if you have added more color or the deeper yellow makes the rest pop. I really like that little dark green bird excepting he feels like he is about to get eaten. I looked for more rose but couldn't really make it out unfortunately. It looks to me that you lightened the red/orange bird and I liked him better before, as he was more colorful, popped out. He is blending into the forest colors on my screen, and I preferred him brighter. In fact, in studying these two paintings now for quite some time, I am wondering if the top is not the supposed to be on the bottom ...the color in the bottom seems more muted. I think I will wait for clarification before proceeding. did you lighten quite a lot in the bottom one?

the nolde work seems very interesting and right now, I am preferring the third one down because the fourth seems a bit muddy or dark. I wondered if you added charcoal? I love some of your colors here and the mixes are wonderful. then the bottom seems a bit muddy and that's where I am wondering about charcoal, as nolde used it. I can see how much you can lift on the hot press! after writing that, I wondered if it was on cold.

the top ones I really am liking and what makes my mouth water? that spot of lime green. :) then red and more lime above. I really am liking this one and it also looks like the most difficult to proceed with~I am interested to see if anything becomes of this one or if acrylics come into play. :)

I am missing you in the land of blog and looking forward to your return... hoping you will speak to me after reading my "critique" but YOU ASKED FOR IT! I am saying that as qualification for others... ah well... no hope... people will always like you better than me.

Steve Emery said...

Susan - Many thanks! I am enjoying revealing the process, since I have been helped by others when I've gotten a glimpse into theirs. I'd love to see how you progress through a painting!

Tammy Vitale - I avoid mud most of the time by not applying too much paint. In some of these I am deliberately pushing that a long way, applying too much paint, in order to then remove some or use water and yet more pigments to get other effects. But another way I avoid mud is to refrain from combining certain colors unless I'm looking for browns and grays. Opposites on the color wheel are more likely to create mud than colors which are next to each other...

Lisa - Thanks! I'm actually getting to do a little commenting... And I also have to go see what MLight has been up to.

Genie Sea - You are so welcome, and I meant every word. I'll be badgering the living daylights out of you to get painting. Really open it up and let's see what happens!

Linda - For everyone else reading, I'll say that you and I are in a mutual improvement relationship, pushing and inspiring each other's paintings. I'm getting some very useful ideas and critique from you (and from MLight) and my paintings are gettign stronger as a result.

So I absolutely DID ask for it, and I have NO problem with the detailed feedback - pro and con.

Let's see - the big thing is that the later version (lower image) photogaphed more lightly. So no, it isn't lightened, really. Though the top right now has more variety with the change of that largeg tree all the way up. I will have to rotate the painting and consider your thought about the top and bottom and balance... The bird directly in front of the cat is unchanged, really - he's more faded in the lower image due to the photo. The top image is more like the real painting (in terms of lighting, thte intensity of the blues, etc.) If anything the later painting is darker, in real life. The rose does indeed get bleached out of the photo - no trace of it in the large crow, or in several other places. My camera leans towards blue at the expense of red.

In my mind the cat gets close, but gets no bird this time. The small green bird in lower right is moving quite fast, and the cat hasn't even noticed it, as I imagine this.

The Nolde method I'm attempting to learn IS more muted and muddy than anything I've done so far - more opaque, certainly. I plan to add even more paint (no charcoal here - though I appreciate the tip that Nolde did that), and then I plan to let water and removal create the final image, where I will try to remove or push any mud out. But in the real work there isn't so much mud (the photo oversimplifies these images and the colors) as thickness and darkness. The darks almost all lean heavily to blue or purple, and there is little brown or grey, really. The surface is getting more complex, and difficult - and the camera misses that. I don't know where this is going, or if I can get it where I want. I suspect I will have some partial success in places, and learn a whole lot about things that work, and things that didn't (at least not this time). But I am getting some richness that reminds me of Nolde, and that's encouraging. And I wonder what will emerge from all this (what subject). It is indeed on hot press paper. Nolde worked mostly on china paper (whatever that is - very thin, I think).

The bright red, blue, and green painting is (perceptive of you) the hardest one for me. I REALLY don't know what I want to do with this one. That's been true since I started it, weeks ago. I feel good about the reds - it's a stronger use of them than I've made so far. Other than that... we'll see. I don't plan to get out the acrylics, as I hope to press this one, too, with more and more watercolor, seeing how far I can go. But who knows? I also really like that spot of lime green, and I deliberately added the green above to go with it. I can take some credit for that one.

And thank you very much for taking the time to write in such detail about these when I know you're not feeling well.

EWian said...

The "Flight" turned out grate!


Distributorcap said...

there is nothing nicer on a sunday morning to have a cup of coffee and see terrific art work......

susan said...

I do hope your family is well and that you're rested enough to get back to the happier aspects of life soon.